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NEIGHBORHOOD EATERY

Palatial Treasures

August 04, 1994|MICHAEL KRIKORIAN

Some people are lucky at business and unlucky in love. With Inderjit Singh, for a long time it was the other way around. Five minutes after he met his future wife, Manjit, near the English town of Stratford-on-Avon, they were planning their marriage. But it took many years of struggle, and long apprenticeship at some well-known Indian restaurants, before they could open their own restaurant: The India Palace.

Inderjit first went to San Francisco, where a cousin helped him get a job at the well-known Indian restaurant Gaylord. There he learned to cook in the barrel-shaped clay oven called tandoor . Then he moved to Santa Monica and honed his skills at Nawab of India. In 1991, when a coffee shop attached to a Torrance motel went out of business, the Singhs leased the Pacific Coast Highway location and The India Palace was born.

The restaurant's decor has been changed little since its coffee shop days, apart from the addition of some Indian art to the walls. But in place of ketchup and mustard, the tables are now set with two chutneys--one a chunky mix of mint, cilantro and green chile, the other a sweet-and-sour blend of tamarind, sugar, salt and raisins.

To begin, consider the onion baji ($4): onions dipped in garbanzo flour, zapped with red chile powder and fried. Vegetable samosas ($2.50) are filled with potatoes and peas seasoned with cumin and chile powder. The South Indian soup mulligatawny ($3) is a hearty chicken stock with lentils, chicken, curry and rice.

Indian cuisine's reputation for spiciness is borne out by the chicken vindaloo ($9), a scorchingly hot stew of boneless, skinLess chicken dosed with lots of red chile powder and vinegar. Less daring palates might try the chicken tikka masala ($9), tandoor- roasted chicken breast served with a mild tomato sauce thickened with a touch of cream.

Another highlight is the lamb saag wala ($9.50), leg of lamb sauteed with spinach, coriander, cumin, garlic, onions and ginger.

The India Palace is at 4111 Pacific Coast Highway, Torrance. Open daily 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m., (310) 378-7089.

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