Namastey India satisfies the call for curry
What do you do when you've got a craving for fragrant, fast Indian food near Knott's Berry Farm or the Fullerton Airport?
Check out Namastey India, which offers fresh, tasty homemade fare from the back of a tiny Indian market. On any given day, you can find the tables in this modest joint occupied by locals who've discovered this hidden secret.
For the price of a greasy meal at one of the fast-food places lining Beach Boulevard, you can instead get freshly prepared curry, tikka masala or even goat meat drenched in the rich spices for which Columbus was searching when he bumped into America.
Youthful owner Tony Pals, 26, opened this market and restaurant in January 2011 after helping run his uncle's Indian store and restaurant in Culver City for years.
As a Sikh, he picked a location near a Sikh temple and a Jain temple, knowing that would ensure a critical mass of people looking for fresh Indian food. Originally from New Delhi, he specializes in the cuisine of Northern India.
This isn't haute cuisine: You're going to head to the back of the market, order at the counter and get your food served on a Styrofoam plate. The menu is written on poster board above the counter. Some of the items will come from a steam table. But that doesn't mean it's not delicious.
And before you wrinkle your nose at a steam table, consider these two words: instant gratification.
Our favorite: chicken tikka masala in rich tomato sauce. I can't really imagine coming here again without ordering it. The vegetable korma – a vegetarian mix in a cream base – is also delicious and cheap, at $5.99 for a veggie combo. We also loved the creamed spinach and cauliflower.
Allow me to spend a moment raving over the garlic naan, which is Indian flatbread. It was the size of a pizza, huge and crisp on the top, big enough for a meal on its own.
I enjoyed the spicy goat curry, which Pals said is especially popular with longtime immigrants who have trouble finding it elsewhere. Next time, I want to try the tandoori chicken from the clay oven.
You eat at simple cafeteria-style tables under the watchful eye of a guru whose portrait hangs overhead.
You can also get fresh lassis, chai and other Indian drinks here.
Prices are great: You can get a veggie combo with three entrees, rice, raita and bread for $5.99. Combos with one meat and two veggie entrees are $6.99; meat combos are $7.99. Add the incredible garlic naan for an extra 50 cents.
As we were leaving, we tried the prepared kulfi bars for sale in an ice cream freezer. I'd never eaten kulfi, which is a frozen Indian dessert. They were addictive, fruity, creamy and not too sweet. I'm now a fan.
Contact the writer: Mfisher@ocregister.com