What to Order: Badmaash Indian Gastropub
It's taken a while, but I finally had a chance to sit down and sample a lot of the menu at Badmaash, a self-declared "Indian Gastropub" in Downtown LA near City Hall and the LA Times bldg. I put gastropub in quotes because the vibe isn't really pubby--more a converted post-mod loft space, more cafe-casual than late night grunge. But no matter, the food is the focus here, and it's definitely worth focusing on.
Badmaash is a bit of a Trojan horse: it doesn't look like the food is going to be treated more importantly than downtown office and trendy types would expect, and the menu's cross-cultural playfulness could even seem like a warning sign to a serious foodie. The background to the cafe, however, tells you to ignore all that: Nakul and Arjun Mahendro planned Badmaash to be a lighthearted local project when their father Pawan planned to "retire" to Southern California from Toronto. However, once things got going, Pawan--formerly owner-chef of the awarded Jaipur Grill, couldn't leave enough alone, and more or less cancelled his retirement to run the kitchen here.
That means Badmaash produces traditional Indian dishes (velvety rich Chicken Tikka Masala, as well as wonderfully spiced pumpkin and smoked eggplant); "Bombay Street Cart" bites like white fish fried in chickpea batter, carom seed and mango dust or heartwarming pink lentil soup; Tandoori oven dishes, Punjabi samosas and (here's where it gets gastropubby) a menu section called "#Foodporn" offering entrees like Punjabi Pork Confit (flavored with turmeric, cumin, tomato onion and cilantro), Slow Braised Beef Short Rib (dry rubbed with cinnamon, red chili, turmeric, cumin) and even (gulp) Chicken Tikka Poutine.
The last is perhaps the most daring--Poutine being one of those street grub foods that's been remade too many times by too many chefs who have no business touching it. The Mahendros, however, are from Toronto, and know exactly what poutine should be like, before it gets twisted, so these are perfectly floppy french fries, covered in bisto-style gravy, real cheese curds and then augmented with creamy-spicy Tikka. It's one of my favorites.
Another from the pub category was my least favorite, though: the lamb burger, which is touted as a specialty, was a bit dry and less flavorful than I wanted it to be.
But that's really in contrast to everything else, which was generally excellent--the Tikka Masala, Pork Confit and Short Rib particularly strong. As well as the vegetable dishes. Not to forget...okay, basically everything.
Order freely here. Dishes look small portioned but are so flavorful you won't feel unsatisfied.