There is a reason people in tropical climates eat spicy food: The heat of the chiles actually cools them down. So there could hardly be a better time to sample Indian food than during these middle - of - the - summer months. The number of Indian restaurants in Los Angeles seems to be increasing so quickly that it is almost impossible to keep up, but here are a few that have been recently reviewed.
AASHIANA (11645 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 207-5522). Located on the second floor of an office building on Wilshire Boulevard, Aashiana makes up for its unalluring location with warmth, cordiality and soothing decor. (Its name translates as "the nest.") You can make ordering easy by selecting the complete dinners (meat or vegetarian-style), or fashion your own feast. Their samosas are well-proportioned and filled with potatoes and peas; the mulligatawny soup is a rich lamb-and-chicken broth, with the pleasant buzz of spicy heat; and the lobster (prepared at tableside) is enriched by a sauce that blends wine with a touch of Grand Marnier. For a meal proper, try the lamb pasanda (lamb slices cooked in cream, yogurt and spices); basmati , rice flavored with saffron, cooked with shrimp, garnished with nuts; or spicy okra sauteed with onions and tomatoes. Lunch, Mon.-Sun. 11:30--2:30 p.m.; dinner, Sun.-Thur., 5:30--10 p.m. and Fri.-Sat., 5:30--10:30 p.m. Reservations. All major credit cards. Full bar. Valet parking. Dinner for 2, $30-$50.
AFGHANISTAN CUISINE (2827 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 483-8475). This tiny, colorful restaurant is clearly not Indian, but if you like Indian food, you will probably like this. The cuisine is a sort of mixture of Middle Eastern and Indian with Asian touches. You'll find a plate called asrak , a wet flat noodle topped with ground beef and yogurt-garlic sauce; sabosa , an Afghan version of Arabic and Indian samosas and Turkish burek , using won-ton wrappers instead of filo pastry; and fine kebabs, like the Middle Eastern shami or lula kebab . Seasonings are also of Middle Eastern-Indian persuasion--turmeric, cumin, chiles, paprika, mint, dill and cardamom (a favorite spice to flavor tea--try it and see). Mon.-Thur., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.--Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Reservations. MasterCard and Visa. Underground and adjacent shopping-center parking. Dinner for 2, $12-$15.
AKBAR (17049 Ventura Blvd., Encino, (818) 905-5129; also at 590 Washington St., Marina del Rey, (213) 822-4116). All in all, this is probably the best and most varied Indian cuisine in California. The specialty here is Moghlai cuisine, based on the culinary traditions of India's Mogul Empire (1526-1803). The menu features a large selection of meat, fish and chicken dishes, and a variety of flatbreads plain and fancy cooked in the tandoor --a wood-burning clay oven. Their best: paper-thin chapatis, wheat-flour crepes whose dough is wrapped around beef or lamb kebabs; roasted Japanese eggplant stuffed with a pungent masala of mixed spices; a typical North Indian dish of corn-meal paratha bread with mustard greens in white butter; a pomfret , a sole-like fish extremely popular in India. Lunch, Mon.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner, Mon.-Sun., 5:30-10:30 p.m. Reservations. All major credit cards. Full bar. Parking in rear. Dinner for 2, $20-$40.
GAYLORD RESTAURANT (50 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, (213) 652-3838). Its dining room seems designed to relax, with a decor of mauve and pink cloth; the service is calm and efficient. Those seeking non-curry dishes won't be disappointed: the chicken chat and the tandoori chicken are tastily diverse offerings from the usual; samosas (crisp-skinned vegetable rolls) taste deliciously different with hot mango pickles, sweet chutney and crushed red peppers; and the tandoor -baked dishes like ground lamb and prawns are masterfully done. Most interesting, however, are the exotically spiced curried preparations like sag gosht , lamb drenched in a mossy sauce of dark green creamed spinach; Chicken Makhanwala , tender tandoori chicken cooked in a buttery tomato-based sauce; and the vegetarian navratan korma , with a uniquely nutty cream sauce. Lunch, Mon.-Fri., 11:30--2:30 p.m.; buffet, Sat.-Sun., noon-2:45 p.m.; dinner, Mon.-Sun., 5:30--10:45 p.m. Reservations. All major credit cards. Valet parking. Full bar. Dinner for 2, $36-$48.