While my friends and I wait for a booth at Tanzore on La Cienega's restaurant row, we're highly entertained. The new modern Indian restaurant is equipped with all the trappings of a trendy restaurant. The lounge is almost as large as the dining room, with low sofas and divans in the bright, saturated colors of an Indian bazaar. Two huge projection screens show models wiggling down the runway in Indian couture on one side; MTV-style videos, some of them hilarious, populate another. A third wall displays lavish Bollywood dance numbers on a flat-screen monitor. You just don't know where to look.
Sat Garg of AkarStudios in Santa Monica is the designer behind this new restaurant from Nikki Sood (daughter of Sudesh Sood, owner of Gaylord Indian Restaurant, which occupied the space for two decades). Garg also designed Tantra in Silver Lake, but his Tanzore budget was clearly bigger, making the overall effect -- sleek contemporary punctuated with sizzling color and fabrics -- much grander.
African daisies float in the knee-high pool that divides the dining room into two parts. Of course, any high-end trendy restaurant has to have a few regal high-backed booths and a long banquette perfect for accommodating big groups, like the dozen or so young actors and their handlers playing with their phones. "Wazzup?" coos one ingénue into her phone, activated the minute she sat down.
In the lounge, another group meets for drinks, ordering up exotic cocktails. There's an impressive wine list as well, and a good international selection of wines by the glass and half bottle. The wines are stored in a glass wall behind the maitre d' station.
Executive chef Gautam Chaudhry refers to his menu as Indian modern, the waiter tells us. It's lighter than the usual heavy Indian fare, he says, and when he mentions that the spiciness is toned down, I worry.
But a few tastes of the food and I stop. The very astute cooking might be less scorching hot than, say, a Goan vindaloo, but it is not lacking in flavor. And most of the dishes are much better than the menu descriptions imply. One difference from traditional Indian restaurants is that nothing is served family style, so if you want to have a taste of this and that, you'll have to trade plates.
The house chutneys are dynamite, including a vibrant mint and snappy, sour tamarind. Appetizers come on strong with Goan crab "tikki," delicate, beautifully fried crab cakes accompanied by yogurt mixed with more crab meat and black sesame seeds. Tandoori prawns are fabulous -- three meaty prawns in a very light saffron sauce. This may be the first time ever I've had something from the tandoor oven that wasn't overcooked.
Entrees include a killer Kashmiri lamb curry, a classic chicken tikka, tandoori lamb chops and Maine lobster in moilee sauce. At least at this first meal, it's all beautifully presented on Villeroy & Boch china and the food is a cut above every other Indian restaurant in town. Chaudhry and his team are using top-notch ingredients, and charging accordingly. The bread bill alone could be substantial: an order of plain naan -- and they are much smaller than usual -- is $5.
I'm looking forward to going back and seeing the latest Indian runway shows, and delving deeper into Tanzore's sophisticated Indian menu. Surely this town can support at least one high-end Indian restaurant.
Where: 50 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills
When: Open Monday to Friday for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5:30 p.m to 10:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Lounge is open daily from 5:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Full bar. Valet parking.
Cost: Appetizers, $10 to $25; entrees, $17 to $30; sides, $5 to $8; bread, $5 to $8.
Info: (310) 652-3894