To highlight the delicious perks of her vegan lifestyle, Daily Bruin staffer Alejandra Reyes-Velarde showcases 10 diverse vegan restaurants in the West Los Angeles area. She will be joined by Daily Bruin staffer William Thorne to bring a meat-eating perspective to vegan cuisine. They will alternate reviewing a restaurant each week.
My first bite of Indian food was in the basement of a London building. My high school friends grimaced in disapproval of the overwhelming spices and flavors in the food, but I was thrilled by the new environment and unfamiliar curries.
I have since associated Indian food with that experience €“ distant and inimitable.
One year ago, nostalgic about adventures in a foreign city, I sought to taste the authenticity of Indian food again.
I came across Chandni, an Indian vegetarian restaurant, with a quick Google search for the best Indian restaurants near me. Chandni is situated on Wilshire Boulevard in an isolated and calm area, unlike the typical bustling or urban nature of Los Angeles. Out of place in a line of small businesses, the restaurant resembled a house, complete with small garden and homey windows on each side.
The buildings plain, white wooden door welcomed me as if it were my home.
My first time eating at Chandni, I walked in, slightly intimidated by the restaurants intimacy, as it was surprisingly empty for a weekend night. A few other customers sat in large booths with luxurious-looking seats, all below a glass chandelier dimly lighting the room.
Despite its luxurious appearance, Chandni is a humble eatery. It was evident the other customers were regulars and visited for casual dinners with family members, for business conversations or even for a night out alone.
The low murmurs of people talking about their weekend or casually discussing business plans filled the room to create a tranquil and warm environment.
But the restaurants emptiness was definitely not a comment on their dishes. On the contrary, the food was just what I craved from traditional Indian food. Chandnis menu listed variations of naan, dal, which are lentil- or bean-based dishes, and potato- and vegetable-based curries.
All dishes were delivered on large plates and placed in the center of the table. I ate spoonfuls of basmati rice, Bhara Mirch, stuffed peppers and a potato, and Alu Ghobhi, a potato and cauliflower dish. The food was plopped plainly onto white plates that reminded me of the kinds I had at home. Though the food presentation was not as aesthetically pleasing as that of other restaurants, the food was substantial and satisfying, like a home-cooked meal.
The waiter remembered my incessant €œIs this vegan?€ questions from the first time I visited. This time, he accommodated readily and clarified whether what I ordered was vegan or not. He suggested substituting coconut cream for non-vegan dishes, like the stuffed pepper with potato covered in a milk-based cream.
The taste of vegan replacements generally arent always the best, since dishes are crafted to have non-vegan ingredients. However, the red coconut cream, which had a thick and creamy consistency, melted well with the pepper in my mouth. The coconut gave the dish a sweetness, while the pepper left a subtle bitter aftertaste. The plate mastered the combination of contrasting flavors perfectly in one mouthful.
Chandni didnt lack signature Indian spiciness either. Another dish, the potatoes and cauliflower, was deceptively simple. Once I took a bite of the potatoes and cauliflower, my mouth felt overwhelmed with the spiciness. I had to decide between taking one more bite and drinking a glass of water to ease the burning sensation in my mouth.
It is difficult to top my first Indian cuisine experience in London, which is known for its authentic and abundant Indian eateries. In Los Angeles, Indian food seems sparsely available and vegan-friendly Indian food seems even more sparse, making Chandni invaluable for vegan Indian food lovers like myself.