I just went there tonight for a cheap dinner. MAN IT WAS GOOD. I had been wanting to go for a while since I live within walking distance from this place. But comments/reviews on Chowhound as well as other websites weren't specific enough for me to figure out what was going on there, and I was so often confused between this location at 20916 Hawthorne Blvd (next door to the i-Naba Japanese restaurant) and some other place with a very similar name that is located, supposedly, on Sepulveda Blvd., also in Torrance.
I love the taste of Indian food but I barely know or remember the names of any. So please forgive me for not knowing what to call the things I ate.
I walked in there today. I was STARVING. I had no idea what anything tasted like according to their names on the overhead menu, so I just ordered the combo #2, which comes with the vegetable of the day, dal, rice, raita, pickle and onion, samosa, and pakora -- all for $3.99.
I thought I'd just pay and dig in, but the man brought out a styrofoam tray that had white rice and raita in it. He hovered over the whatever you call those things -- steam trays? -- and looked at me, asking which 3 I wanted. Oh boy. I didn't realize I had to (was allowed to) choose. They all looked promising. I had no clue! And when I asked him what each one was, I couldn't really understand -- partly because I'm clueless regarding Indian food/ingredients terminology, partly because he was behind the glass and less audible, and partly because his accent was a little thick.
So I just pointed to three differently colored saucey trays, and he poured them in the remaining compartments as well as over the rice. He brought it around the counter, over to the tables, and said I pay at the end.
I dug in. Oh man it was so unbelievably delicious. The raita was so fresh, so yogurty, homemade-tasting. It just didn't taste like raitas I've had in other restaurants that were just one-note sour. This one tasted like actual yogurt and was distinctly fresh.
The saucey entrees (sorry again that I'm an idiot) were friggin delish. And one was spicier than the rest, which was great, because I love hot-spicy foods. But none of them tasted the same, which was also really nice. (I feel like in other places I've gone to that have served a tray of different saucey things, they all kind of taste bland or the same. Not the case here.)
Then the guy brought out the pakora and samosa, with a little puddle of a red fruity chutney and a generous scoop of a really light, grassy, fresh cilantro thingy (sorry). I didn't dig into those until I was halfway done with my tray, so they weren't hot when I tried them. But they were still really good.
The garlic naan came to me last and oh my god it was so perfect. Naan is one Indian food name I do know. And I love bread in general. I've had cold, crappy naan and I've had warm, soft, thick naan. This was crispy on the outside, bubbling and cracking on the surface, and soft and warm on the inside. The garlic was perfect. It wasn't burned, so it didn't taste bitter, which is something I've had in the past. This garlic naan was a thing of beauty. And it was the perfect amount -- four GIANT pieces. I distinctly remember always feeling disappointed upon seeing naan servings in many other restaurants. It never, ever seemed to be enough. But maybe that was because I had always dined with other people. Tonight I was alone, and thus could hog the entire serving.
Plus, the naan was piping hot and clearly made to order. Unbelievable. I wanted to bury my head in this plate of naan, it made me so happy.
The naan was extra, by the way -- not part of the combo. According to the paper menu I took home with me, a serving of garlic naan is $1.59.
In the end, the whole thing was less than $6. I'm a big eater. I can eat an entire package (1 pound) of pasta in one sitting, with sauce. Plus, I was hungry-to-near-fainting beforehand. So please believe me when I say that this was a very filling meal, quantity-wise, if not simply fulfilling, quality-wise.
The man offered a dessert sample. I don't remember what he said they were called, but they were deep fried spiraly things that were flat (kind of like miniature, glossy, funnel cakes). These were reddish-orange, and at first I thought they were candied sliced tomatoes! Haha, I'm lame. I even asked him at first, "are those tomatoes?" He gave me one, on the house, and I gave him the only cash I had in my wallet (I paid by credit card) -- $2 -- as a tip in the tip jar.
*later added: I just googled it, and found out the dessert I got is called jalebi.
Man, what a great meal. I don't know half of what I ate, but I can tell you it was tasty, hot, fresh, and exciting. I walked out of there grinning like a fool. I felt so good.
Summary of my sit-in dinner tonight:
#2 combo (dal, rice, raita, pickle & onion, 3 curries of your choice)
+ 1 serving of hot fresh garlic naan
+ 1 free jalebi cookie
+ nice man
= $5.50 on my MasterCard.
(I also put $2 in the tip jar.)
All Indian Sweets and Snacks
20916 Hawthorne Blvd
Torrance, CA 90503