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Agra Indian Kitchen review (long)


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Agra Indian Kitchen review (long)

Lee by the Sea | Jul 28, 2007 10:55 AM

It's been two weeks since a door hanger inauspiciously announced the arrival of a new Indian restaurant. But since wife and I have been hooked on Indian food for thirty-some years, there we were the next evening.

Agra Indian Kitchen is on the west side of Lincoln Blvd between Venice and Washington Blvd, a few doors down from a Hertz Local Edition and a used car place. You won't see its sign if you are in your car. It's a small room, with six booths and two tables, not fancy but clean. But this is a find, folks.

We ordered our usual check-this-restaurant-out choices of Chicken Saag and Lamb Vindaloo plus a vegetable dish, this time Malai Kofta (spelled Kupta on the menu), and being hungry added Vegetable Samosas. Papadums, rice, and salad are included with each item. The Samosas had a nice crispy crust and a plain potato filling with a few peas; they worked well with the accompanying tamarind and mint chutneys. No flaws, but nothing exceptional.

But, oh, the main courses!! I knew we were in for something special when the Lamb Vindaloo arrived without a trace of tomato in it. That's how this Goanese dish is supposed to be, fiery hot, vinegary, and impossibly complex in spicing, but not red. The only restaurant in Southern California at which I'd had it that way was Addi's Tandoor in the South Bay, because Addi is from Goa. Agra's Lamb Vindaloo was superb, one of those dishes where each bite tastes a little different and the spices bloom in your mouth.

Chicken Saag is chunks of chicken in a spinach-based sauce. In other restaurants the spinach may be sandpaper-coarse, or pureed like the contents of a Gerber's jar, or buttery smooth because it is half butter. The Agra version was smooth without having been pureed and was surprisingly light, almost as if made without butter. The chicken was all good-quality breast meat. Gentle spicing underlaid the spinach. This was among the best versions we have had of this dish.

The Malai Kofta was also a standout. A decadently-rich cream sauce with moderately-sharp spicing enveloped round fritters (the Koftas) that were packed with a variety of vegetables. Agra's fritters could have been a bit more moist, but the cream sauce was so good that we didn't want to leave a milligram of it in the pan. We were spooning it over the amply-provided rice long after the Koftas were memories.

Our beverages were Mango Lassi and Spiced Hot Tea (often called Masala Chai). Both were well-made, fresh, and pleasant. Somehow we found room for a good shared dessert of Mango Kulfi, the Indian ice cream. (There's always room for ice cream.)

This feast would normally have set us back about $44 with tip, but the door hanger gave us 20 percent off.

Intervening travel kept us away till ten days later. This time we ordered Lamb Pasanda, Chicken Madras, and a Mixed Vegetable Curry. The Lamb Pasanda had complex and deep spicing and was thoroughly satisfying. Chicken Madras was hot, with somewhat less spice complexity but pleasant tomatoeyness. The Mixed Vegetable Curry was simple, probably the only dish from the two meals which I would not order again.

All in all, this little place is serving up a remarkable level of Indian food. If you should visit, one word of caution: Park on the west side of Lincoln or its side streets. Don't even think about wading across the unending high-speed sea of traffic on Lincoln.

Agra Indian Kitchen
2553 Lincoln Blvd.
Venice-LA-Marina del Rey 90291
Dinner 7 days, 5 pm - 10:30 pm
Call re lunch hours (no buffet)

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