The Best Indian Restaurants in Los Angeles

Bombay Palace Beverly Hills Indian Dishes
Bombay Palace  |  Photo:  Joshua Lurie

India is a country with more than 1.25 billion people, which is approximately four times as many people as the U.S. squeezed into an area that’s about one-third as large. The world’s second most populous country squeezes a lot of citizens into 29 states and seven union territories, giving rise to regional culinary variation. Thankfully, some of that range extends to Indian-Americans in L.A. Discover 10 of the most interesting Indian restaurants scattered across L.A. County.

Bhanu's Indian Vegetarian Thali
Vegetarian thali at Bhanu Indian Grocery & Cuisine  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Casual: Bhanu's Indian Grocery & Cuisine

It’s a family affair at Bhanu's Indian Grocery & Cuisine, a grocery store and café that Bhanu Radadia and her family established in 2010 in a Rosemead strip mall. Shelves are lined with ingredients like prized Kesar mangoes, sumac, and cashew cookies. The family’s carved out a dining area with orange art-lined walls, speckled tables, and two flat screen TVs for Bollywood programs. A Periodic Table of Scoville Units hints at possible spice levels, including bhut jolokia ghost pepper, Trinidad scorpion, and Carolina reaper. Thankfully, you can dial the heat way down for dishes like eggplant curry, dal (lentils) with makhani (cream) and kadhi pakoda (gram flour cooked in yogurt based curry). Lunchtime thalis resemble TV dinners, but taste way better, with a choice of main and sides, rice, naan or roti, and yogurt. Options change daily.

Tandoori hot wings at Royal Curry Cafe | Photo: Joshua Lurie
Tandoori hot wings at Royal Curry Cafe | Photo: Joshua Lurie  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Casual: Royal Curry Café

Raj Ahmed, father Mahommed, and mother Farzana originally hail from Bangladesh. The family previously ran a sprawling restaurant called Golden Gate in Westwood Village and downsized in 2012 with Royal Curry Café. The small restaurant near Universal City features faux brick walls and seven glass-topped two-tops sporting burgundy cloths. Clearly, a trip to Royal Curry Café calls for…curry, whether it’s shrimp coconut curry, fiery lamb vindaloo chock full of potatoes, or chicken korma swimming in a curry crafted with ground almonds and cream. Tandoori hot wings are marinated with spices, cooked in the clay oven and tossed with a fire-red sauce that includes paprika, coriander, garlic, ginger, and signature secrets. Each order comes on a bed of caramelized onions and cilantro and needs carbs to quell the heat. Go with crispy, pull-apart garlic basil naan.

Chicken 65 at Kochi South Indian | Photo: Joshua Lurie
Chicken 65 at Kochi South Indian | Photo: Joshua Lurie  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Local Markets: Kochi South Indian

A neon Taj Mahal sign greets your arrival at Kochi, a stylish South Indian restaurant in Hermosa Beach with orange facade, textured purple and white walls, and elaborate peacock artwork. Chef Avinash Kapoor and his brother named Kochi for a city in India’s coastal state of Kerala. Rarely seen dishes include Fish Molly, tilapia fillets from the Indian Ocean bathed in coconut curry. Kappa lamb isn’t a dish geared toward sororities; it’s Kerala-style goat curry made with tapioca and served with smashed potatoes (kappa). Uthappam, savory rice flour and lentil pancakes, are available topped with different configurations of chilies, onions, and tomatoes. Other crowd pleasers include Malabar parotta, flaky layered flat bread; and Chicken 65, a popular dish from Chennai featuring heavily spiced, sinus clearing chunks of deep-fried white meat. If you wish to avoid too much pain, refer to Kochi’s Chilli Meter, which runs from 1 (mild) to 5 (hot).

Special at Rajdhani | Photo: Joshua Lurie
Special at Rajdhani  | Photo: Joshua Lurie  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Local Markets: Rajdhani

Little India in Artesia is not large, but still has a wide range of restaurants. Rajdhani is tantamount to a buffet with table service. Their AYCE thali costs $15.49 and includes a parade of bottomless small plates. There’s just one rule: no sharing. The menu at this casual second floor Gujarati restaurant is subject to change, but could include chhas, salty house-made buttermilk floating with green herbs. Puffy puri, ghee-brushed chapatti, spiced yellow yogurt (kadhi) and spiced lentil soup (dal) are all possibilities. So are potatoes with green beans and of course rice. They even throw in poppadum with pickled carrots, mint and tamarind chutneys. If you’re lucky, dessert will involve shrikhand, sweet strained yogurt.

Annapurna Paneer Pea Uthappam
Paneer & Peas Uthappam at Annapurna  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Vegetarian: Annapurna

Venice Plaza is the longtime setting for Annapurna, an Indian vegetarian restaurant with an owner from Andhra Pradesh, a southern state near Bangalore. The restaurant sports a palm tree logo and contains two-toned yellow walls. Bollywood videos play on a flat screen TV. Annapurna features a lunchtime vegetarian buffet, which is great for variety, though it’s tough to pass up their dosas, uttapam, and biryani. Spinach masala dosa features a thin, crispy crepe that cradles ground garlic, mint and spinach puree, and chunky potatoes. Paneer & Peas Uthappam is an airy rice flour pancake studded with marinated and chopped Indian cheese, peas, and cilantro. Still, channa batura might be their best bet. This puffy fried bread quickly deflates and comes with stewed chickpeas and raw vegetables.

Pav bhaji at Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se | Photo: Joshua Lurie
Pav bhaji at Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se | Photo: Joshua Lurie  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Vegetarian: Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se

Sailesh Shah and his wife have run this Mumbai style street food café in a Little India strip mall since 2008. The space is only big enough to hold a few handfuls of tables, wrought iron flower panels, and a flat screen TV to show Bollywood programming. Dahi batata puri involves crispy shells dressed with sprouted mung beans, yogurt, cilantro sauce, tamarind-date sauce, crispy noodle strands, and cilantro. Pav bhaji might not look like much, but vegetables join tomato sauce and the Indian equivalent to garlic bread. Dabeli amounts to sliders with well-spiced potatoes, raw onion, raisins and either pomegranate molasses or fresh pomegranate arils, depending on what’s in season. To drink, piyush is an aromatic lassi constructed with saffron, cardamom, pistachio and almonds.

Amar Desh Chicken Roast Naan
"Chicken roast" with naan at Amar Desh  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Halal: Amar Desh

The name Amar Desh translates to English as “my country.” In the case of Alam Khan, he’s referring to Bangladesh. His Halal restaurant resides in a tiny, high volume strip mall. Canary yellow walls sport Indian designs and a painting of the Taj Mahal. Six wood tables face a flat screen TV. Highlights include “chicken roast” - chicken legs and thighs treated to a yogurt-based East Indian marinade. The fire-red bird comes blanketed with a chunky sauce that incorporates turmeric, coriander, cumin, and chilies. More chef’s specials include bhuna, a rich tomato, bell pepper, and curry sauce that graces either eggs or tilapia fillets. Tandoor-cooked proteins also get a lot of play, which is no surprise, as does tofu, a fact that’s far more unusual. To soak up Amar Desh’s saucy cuisine, consider their signature naan topped with a garlicky mix of chicken tikka and beef keema flecks, cheese and vegetables. Their yellow lentil and mixed vegetable soup is also comforting.

Badmaash Punjabi Fish and Chips
Punjabi fish and chips at Badmaash  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Group Friendly: Badmaash

Freewheeling restaurateurs Nakul Mahendro, brother Arjun, and chef/father Pawan opened Badmaash’s in downtown L.A.’s historic core in 2013. Their modern Indian features marble counters, bright wall and banquettes, and an upstairs mezzanine with a mural of “hipster Gandhi” and framed Bollywood art. Their menu is similarly progressive, touting local, organic, and sustainable ingredients. Even the pickles are colorful and market-driven, including cauliflower, mushrooms, onion, jicama, and carrot. Punjabi fish and chips featuring catfish may make you forget the British standard. The Mahendros also stray from tradition with dishes like a spiced lamb burger, chili cheese naan, and chicken tikka poutine, inspired by “drunken spring breaks in Montreal.” Classic items include butter chicken starring tandoori chicken in tomato fenugreek cream curry.

Bombay Palace Beverly Hills Indian Dishes
Bombay Palace  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Group Friendly: Bombay Palace

Bombay Palace has been a Beverly Hills institution since 1985 and remains relevant thanks to Deep Sethi, who took over for his brother and has been with the restaurant since day one. Son Hargun is in school at UNLV and now helps to run the palatial space with wall cutouts holding golden statuettes of Indian deities, a marble bar, and burgundy banquettes. Longtime chef Harnam Singh presides over a vaunted charcoal tandoor, which skillfully prepares dishes like Sikandari Raan. They marinate an entire leg of lamb overnight in a blend of spices and Old Monk Indian rum. Large prawns and assorted flatbreads receive similar attention. Bombay Palace also has nice touch with vegetable dishes, including well-spiced mushrooms tossed with cashews and garden peas. For dessert, consider carrot halwa, a flourless cake served with coconut pineapple ice cream and sprinkled with crushed pistachios. Yes, Bombay Palace’s food leans pricey. Then again, you are dining in a Beverly Hills.

Flash grilled sea bass at Spice Affair | Photo: Joshua Lurie
Flash grilled sea bass at Spice Affair | Photo: Joshua Lurie  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Group Friendly: Spice Affair

Our city's fanciest Indian restaurant might belong to Dr. Puneet Chandak and wife Sonia Batra, who debuted Spice Affair in late 2014 on Beverly Hills’ Restaurant Row. The space features a fountain and flashy bar up front, and a dining room with plush brown booths framed with wall hangings that resemble lily pads and brown curtains with copper streaks. Even poppadum - lentil and rice flour crackers - are surprisingly colorful. Artichoke hearts are marinated in a blend of yogurt and spices like chilies, cumin, and garam masala, and barbecued in the tandoor. Chickpea & crackling caramelized walnut kebab is actually a soft, spice-laden patty (tikki) with satisfyingly crunchy bits. Flash grilled sea bass fillets are marinated with yogurt, fresh herbs, turmeric and burnished to red in the tandoor. Dum chicken biryani may be the main event, boneless dark meat chicken, basmati rice, broiled saffron strands, bay leaves and plenty of warm, aromatic spices, blanketed in flaky pastry like a pot pie and served with tangy raita.