First of all, since it opened up, the India Sweet and Spice on Los Feliz has been visited by me about 5 times.
What it is not: it is not the finest Indian food in SoCal. Far better south Indian foods can be had at Woodlands, far better dosas can be had at Woodlands, Udipi Palace, far better sambars and the like can be had at Jay Bharat, all in Artesia.
What it is, is the first really good, Indian tasting, satisfying Indian joint in this neck of the woods.
Masala dosa: excellent, crispy, satsifying dosa with a warming, hearty potato filling. Nowhere close to the delicacy or refinement of Woodlands or Udipi, but pretty goddamn satisfying. Especially for $3.
Mysoor dosa - filled with some spice dust. Intense. Cool. But don't expect it to make a meal.
Pani poori - tasty little pooris, with some tamarind/chickpea/potato mix to stuff them with, and cold mint water to fill them with. Far better than Ambhala's pani poori, which are frequently a bit stale. Satisfying.
Samosas - good tasting potato filling, though not as wonderful as the Venice Blvd. ISS's somosas. Decent.
Samosa channa - broken up samosa with channa masala (chickpeas in sauce) and tamarind and chutney and yogurt. Not the best ever, but goddamn satisfiny.
Idli sambar - surprisingly great idli's - lovely, fermented rice with a simple, round flavor. Great sambar on the side. My friend Sarah, who misses Banglor, pointed to it and said, "This is the taste of Banglor. Goddamn, it's been a while."
Uttapam, combo - rice (?) large thick crepe, more like a frittata. Nothing like the delicate creation of Woodland's, more a intense, tasty sour flavor with a good crunch.
In general, I've thought their north Indian snacks pretty good, but the South Indian stuff surprisingly tasty.
hot mix is definitely subpar to Jay Bharat's.
AND... I've seen all these complaints about not getting your food, about not getting served properly. I have to say... what do you think this is, Lucques' or something? It's a market with a counter where you get dinner for four bucks. They'll get it straightened out eventually, but until then... notice how almost all the folks get their food? Do what everybody else does. Hang out by the food counter. Whenever anybody comes and shouts out a dish you ordered, wave your ticket in their face. You'll get it, or they'll remember that you want it and get it to you eventually. I'll bet a lot of people who would be willing to fight it out for food at a shack on the road in India or Cambodia or whatever, and chalk it up to educational cultural experience, won't do the same in L.A. Step up and fight for your food, goddamit!
I am reminded of a moment when I took a very regal New England-raised Ivy League friend of mine to a dim sum joint. He emerged in shock from the noise, the confusion, the shouting, the fact that I had to jump up and sprint across the dining hall to get the last of the fresh har gow, rather than let some regular who had been given a seat right by the kitchen get it. I told him, "Half the joy of dim sum is the warfare."
The classier joints are phasing this out, but sometimes I miss the inter-client warfare.
ISS is sorta like that. If you're ready for it, and if you keep reminding yourself that you're getting the best dosas outside of Artesia for $3, you'll be fine. But if you wait at your table waiting for your number to be called, you'll be SOL.
Pretty soon, the good cooks will be hired away, the family will fight, the restaurant will split, and we'll all be reminiscing about how great the Los Feliz ISS was before it all went to shambles, and even though the service has gotten sorted out, the dosas just don't have that *snap* anymore. Right now, it's great - but you gotta brave the crowd and throw some elbows for it.
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