By Jill Weinlein, 3/22/2012
Have you ever noticed that there are two types of Indian restaurants in Los Angeles? There are many casual, strip center restaurants that serve adequate cuisine and then a hand full of elegant restaurants. I recently found a fast, casual dining Indian restaurant in Hollywood, that may set a new trend for Indian dining.
Urban Masala’s décor is simple and minimalist with concrete floors, brushed metal stools and communal tables. We sat at the bar, which had two flat-screen televisions showing basketball games.
Since they didn’t have their liquor license when we dined, they offered a variety of sodas and beverages from India. There is Thums Up (best-selling soda in India) that tastes like a cola, Mirinda is a fruity orange drink, and Limca is lemon/lime flavored. They also make a sweet yogurt based, mango lassi using mango pulp from India. As soon as the restaurant receives their liquor license, they will serve local and Indian beer and wine.
This is a “Panda Express” style Indian Restaurant. Guests step up to a counter, separated by a glass partition, and place their order. The night we dined, Elizabeth and Aaron were very helpful in suggesting some of the specialty items.
Urban Masala has two tandoors in their front window. They are cylindrical clay ovens with tile accents, used for cooking tandoori style meats and baking naan. For those who have never tried naan, it’s an oven-baked flatbread that is served plain or with diced garlic. In India, instead of using utensils, diners use naan to scoop food to eat.
The naan wrap is an ideal take-away item. Fresh naan is taken from the tandoor and filled with Chicken Tikka Masala and raita, a yogurt and shredded cucumber dip that cools the flavors and enhances the wrap.
The menu is simple. One can order a Masala bowl for $5.95 that includes basmati rice and an entrée. Or, if you are really hungry, try the Bombay plate for $8.95 that includes two entrée items with basmati rice, salad and fresh naan bread.
Entrées range from Chicken Tikka Masala cooked in a rich and creamy tomato sauce or a curry. They offer chicken, lamb and beef curry. Also, on the entrees are many vegetarian items such as Tofu Tikka Masala, and the Saag Paneer with tofu instead of cubes of that delicious Indian cheese. The spiciness of the food is pretty mild to appeal to the general population. If you prefer slightly or really spicy Indian food, they will take the items you ordered into the back kitchen and jazz it up.
Be sure to ask for some of the sauces to spike each dish with additional flavors. The brown tamarind, peach-colored chutney and bright green mint sauces are terrific. I enjoyed the Chana Masala made of chickpeas that are cooked with onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and Indian spices with freshly made warm naan. The flavors are pleasing, and one can enjoy a quick Indian meal for less than $10.
Hollywood is the first location selected for Urban Marsala. “Since there aren’t any quick service Indian restaurants in Los Angeles, we changed our plans from a café to Urban Masala style dining,” said one of the partners, Madhur Mehra.
For dessert, our server suggested the Gulab Jamun, a milk dough-like donut soaked in a sweet syrup best served on top of Kheer-rice pudding.
As we walked outside, we noticed the Second City Comedy club is next door. The tickets were only $10 for a show. One could have dinner at Urban Masala and then see a show for under $20. Or get a snack after the show since the restaurant stays open until 3 a.m. on the weekends.
Urban Masala is a new inexpensive takeaway dining option for when you crave fresh Indian fare. $ Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sun. through Wed. and 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Thurs. to Sat. Parking available on the street or in nearby lots. 6554 Hollywood Blvd. (323)957-9999.