Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tara's Himalayan of my top 3 this year!

10855 Venice Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Lunch Mon-Sat 11AM-3PM
Dinner Mon-Sun 5PM-10PM

In LA you'll find that there are many different options when it comes to eating great food. We have some of the best cuisine in the world, at least when it comes to per capita. Rare is it though, that you feel you get to find exceptional standout food that you know the proprietor should probably be charging more for. I'm not talking fine dining really cause in my most humble of opinions, those owners are seeking to make an inflated buck. I liken it to how much it costs when you go to the doctor for anything. I do want good service but I don't want to go broke over it. When I go out for food I feel like I should feel like I paid for a good meal. Not going and having the opinion of "well...let the punishment fit the crime".

Recently I have made one such discovery. A small hole in the wall place called Tara's Himalayan Cuisine has become one of me and Celeste's favorite finds for this year. Not only is this a great find but in all honesty it's officially one of our favorite restaurants this year period.

Me and Celeste were on our way home from work trying to find this one spot on our list of "to go" places but they were closed on Mondays and so we kept looking. This was one of the few times you'll ever hear me saying "thank you for the traffic on Venice Blvd". The traffic made it easy to spot lots of places that we weren't as familiar with and Tara's happened to be one of them. I immediately made a U-turn once I saw they were open and parked right out front. We stepped into a charming little dining area with an exposed kitchen on the right. It was cold outside that night and coming into the warm sweet place made things get better instantly.

Let me preface this by saying that in my life on this planet I have made many attempts to enjoy tea. I have thought to myself "so many people love tea...what in the world do they see in it"? To me, it's lots of smell with very little payoff. Smells great but to me tastes like hot water. I've tried many teas in an attempt to be proven wrong, all to sad disappointment. It's a bummer for me cause I feel there's this profound group of intellectuals sipping tea that I will never be a part in conversation. Until now. We sat down and the lady (whom I can only assume is the owner and possibly named Tara as she pointed out small personal tidbits about the place) was quick to offer us some tea when we mentioned how cold it was outside. The tea comes out just as shown above, with milk already in it. She told us it was Nepalese tea which was made up of black tea and a mixture of Himalayan spices ( I believe cardamom and cloves were involved somewhere in the mixture). I can not tell you how much I liked it! I had 4 or 5 cups of it. I wanted to know if I could purchase the mix from her to always have it available (no such luck). It had lots of flavor and had a bouquet that drew you in to each sip. I pass by this place and think about just stopping in for the tea alone!

But let's not get carried away about the tea only, this place is still about the food and let's get to that. We started off with a couple of appetizers. Above shown is an order of Samosas. Their's consisted of mixed potatoes, peas, carrots in a perfect flaky crust and came with their own special tamarind chutney. They were smooth in flavor and texture and pretty darn big to boot.

Our other appetizer was their chicken Momos which came with their own special tomato achar. For those of you that don't know about momos, think Indian versions of dumplings. These were steamed to perfection and packed with tender chicken and floral spices. Their achar sauce was a pleasant departure from traditional achar in that it tasted of, what can only assumed, cashews which made a lovely complimentary to the abundance of flavor.

Their Saag Paneer may very well be my favorite version of this dish. Smooth spinach with chunks of paneer but the real secret in their saag is that it has cinnamon in it. Our's came with a full stick resting inside. This along with some other secret spices added a subtle sweetness that sneaks up on you and makes this very standard plate super memorable.

Their Chicken chili had chicken that was battered in chick pea flour, and sauteed in ginger, garlic, onion, tomato and bell peppers. As you'll notice their "chili" is very far from conventional American chili which makes us think of this pot of stew with beans that has enough heat to it to melt the fillings in your mouth. Not so with this dish, but more of an abundance of earthy flavors caressing the moist chicken with just a touch of after burn.

Their Lamb sekuwa is a sizzling platter of small strips of lamb that were tandoori oven baked with ginger, garlic and a special blend of Himalayan spices with a hint of soy sauce. This plate rocked and was gone in no time flat. The lamb was super tender and very moist despite having been tandoori cooked and may I add that the pepper popped in flavor all over this stuff but wasn't overkill. The onions were tasty enough to eat on there own and overall this plate is winner in every aspect.

We finished up our meal and at this point we were elated with everything including the wonderful service. She asked us would we like some dessert and that she had just made her carrot pudding? She could have told us anything and we would have bought it we were that happy. But oddly enough carrots wasn't what I was expecting for dessert. Her Carrot pudding was crushed carrots cooked in milk, raisins, and cream. We were pleasantly surprised at how much we liked this. If you were take a bite without anyone telling you what this was you might not guess that it was made with carrots except by the color. It had a mild sweetness with a thick wheat texture. It was gobbled up.

We weren't really paying attention to prices and we knew what to expect from previous Indian types of meals. Not so with Tara's! Super affordable be thy name!

This is by far one of those places that has tremendous quality and service all at "I'm stealing from your children prices". They have the incredible combination of not your completely standard fare (but familiar enough), great prices, they DELIVER, have wonderful service, take card, and to boot are hidden enough as to not have the place be packed all the time and yet positioned as to attract the many who sit in traffic. Serendipity has blessed me again!

PS. Here's the menu...remember they deliver! And on another side note, Tara's only uses fresh, locally grown produce and spices direct from Nepal. They really "do" authentic!

Free Refills: Yes...get the tea and fall in love!
Entree Price Ranges: Lunch is $5 to $7.50 and dinner $6 to $11.50 (but most are $9 or less)

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Blogger teenage glutster said...

you left out one important unique Himalayan specialty.... ...YAK!!!

Have you tried it?

November 26, 2007 at 6:35 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Woowoo! Those samosas look too legit to quit! (Hope you guys had a great Thanksgiving!)

November 27, 2007 at 6:49 PM  
Blogger H. C. said...

Haha, second TG's comment - though I am not sure if Yak is economically available here in la-la-land.

And while I tend to like teas, I do have a special fondness for the milky spiced masala chais (Chado Tea Room have a few blends worth looking into, if you want some to brew at home.)

Finally, the carrot pudding sounds like something special - and I don't even like (raw) carrots!

November 28, 2007 at 3:34 PM  
Blogger Aubrey said...

No yak sadly. SO funny though...always reminds me of Ren and Stimpy with that random yak running around.

Oh and you'll be so shocked about the carrot pudding. What wonderful little treat!

November 28, 2007 at 5:00 PM  
Blogger Peggy said...

YEAH! Thank you so much for writing about Tara's. It is one of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles. According to the owner, they have parties with dancing on certain weekends! I can't wait to go back and boogie while sipping their delicious tea.

December 4, 2007 at 9:44 AM  

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