1896 Westwood Blvd, just south of Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Several months ago, the big battles in business were about...outsourcing. To be quite honest, I don’t even remember what the arguments were about sending work to less expensive labor overseas. Taking jobs away from Americans? Keeping bottom lines in check? Back and forth, the debate waged on. It still wages on with full force, but is overshadowed by more recent world events.
My company outsources a large proportion of technical work to India, and I have to be quite honest, from my standpoint, outsourcing to India is brilliant. Partnering with a large firm in India means that many Indian consultants come in and out of our office from month to month. And what does that mean? I get to eat Indian food and learn about the cuisine all the time, especially since there are quite a few Indian restaurants on the Westside, and in particular, Culver/Palms. Hey, what’s this? And not two minutes later, I can get a detailed dissertation on the finer points of biryani (basmati rice dish). Or a comparison study of thin and chewy vs. thick and fluffy naan. Or the detailed process behind making chutney, kachumber (cucumber pickle), and raita (cucumber yogurt dip).
A few weeks ago, several of us made a trip to try India’s Oven up in Westwood, a bit of a hike when places like Annapurna Vegetarian and Asian Kitchen are within walking distance of the office. I’ve been to a restaurant called India’s Oven over in my neighborhood on Wilshire, but had not heard of this one, and do not know if they are related.
India’s Oven on Westwood is tiny – about the size of a very large cubicle. There are maybe three tables in the middle of the room and three or fours booth-like tables pushed up against the walls on two sides. The interior is dim, with dark but colorful walls, and the room lit only by natural light and the heat lamps on the buffet during lunch hours.
The servers brings a basket of naan to the table. I wonder if two pieces will be enough for the five of us, but at least I’m happy that the naan is left whole instead of already cut. The naan is good, but India’s Oven will not be the end of my quest for fluffy naan. The servers refresh our basket of naan a few times throughout our lunch.
The buffet is small, so a little awkward for five of us in our group plus a few others in the restaurant to crowd around it. But we all eventually take our turn and return to the table with full plates.
It’s nothing unusual. There’s chicken curry, though I’m not exactly certain what kind. As orange and creamy as it was, I might guess chicken korma, especially since it didn’t have as much tangy heat as I would expect from say, vindaloo, and it wasn’t as red or tangy as tikka masala. I sure sound like I know what I’m talking about – LOL! ;) The chicken was very tender, the curry sauce was flavorful, but like I said, it just didn’t have the heat I was looking for. We asked for some hot sauce. You mean chutney?” Yes, but I’m the only lunatic that used it.
The other items on the buffet were good, but nothing made me stand up on a chair and declare my love. I only needed to taste the dal, curry-like yellow lentils, and chana masala, chickpeas in a mildly tangy yellowish curry, as I was more interested in making sure to get a taste of everything. Both legume dishes were just okay, but the vegetables were better. There was something like palak or saag paneer, but without the paneer, which was fine with me since I sometimes pick out the paneer anyway. Gobi aloo is a usual order of mine because I love cauliflower, so I was excited about the vegetables that also included green peas and carrots. They were cooked to tender without being mushy, and the flavor was satisfying. The best dish of the buffet were pakoras, sort of like little flattened mashed potato croquettes that I think had some sort of batter coating, and deep-fried. With a dollop of chutney, I was glowing.
India’s Oven also offered gulab jamun in the buffet, one of my favorite Indian sweets. I could have eaten a dozen of those tiny fried balls of cheese soaked in honey and rose water syrup, but I held back. Didn’t want to scare co-workers with my gluttony. Besides, I still had to go back to the office to work, and food coma is a dangerous side effect of overeating Indian food.
Overall, the food was good, and the space is clean and a little more modern-looking than the India’s Oven I had been to on Wilshire. However, the food doesn’t necessarily stand out from other Indian restaurants. It’s a longer drive from the office in Culver City than other Indian places that are just up the street on Venice or Washington Boulevards, and a longer drive than Wilshire or Santa Monica Boulevards from home. If I’m in Westwood, then India's Oven is a better bet than New India Grill (still have yet to try Ambala Dhaba on that strip, though), and of course, I’m still partial to All India Café.
Don't know what's next on our Indian restaurant project plan with our guests from overseas, but I can't wait. Someone needs to tell that Lou Dobbs about gulab jamun the next time he goes on a rant about outsourcing. :)