When schlepping down to Little India, it's always hard to pass up WOODLANDS, a fave of la familia del rabo. However, this sweltering and steamy Sunday past, the four of us opt for something new.
Unceremoniously tucked into the blind corner of a small, Pioneer Blvd. strip mall, AMBALA DHABA is easy to miss. A tiny joint, where plastic rules the day (as in chairs, tables, and utensils). Mirror-lined walls and a couple of blinking neon signs create the air of a Punjabi pachinko parlor. Loud but groovy Indian techno thumps---mama rabo, arthritic pains be damned, shimmies and sways whilst perusing the menu.
You order and pay at the front counter. Despite past posts complaining about surly "service" (at least at the Westwood branch), both girls working the counter are sweet and all smiles.
1. LUDHIANA CHICKEN---no visit to Ambala would be complete without sampling this much-heralded dish. Four large pieces (2 bucks extra for white meat---we accept), the exterior of which are a patchwork of black char intertwined with small, viscous pools of creamy green (spices and yogurt?). Although a tad dry, this stuff is as advertised---amazingly tasty, like a buzzy, happening party in your mouth. Tandoori's off-color, much sexier twin sister.
2. ALOO METHI---potatoes and fenugreek leaves, not unlike sag aloo in appearance. A simple dish, slightly tart. Perhaps a bit of an acquired taste, and I think I acquired it.
3. EGGPLANT BHARTA---really good version, bursting with flavor. Strong but welcome notes of ginger.
4. DAL URAD---chosen by ms. rabo, who, if she wasn't tying the knot with me, would gladly marry a sack of lentils. This version is black, creamy, and quite spicy. Wonderful.
Two orders each of naan and rice. A side of cauliflower and carrots doused in some sort of red sauce. All this plus three mango lassis = $44. Chump change for quality eats.
My pleas to sample the kulfi for dessert, an Ambala specialty, are met with blank, food-coma stares. Next time, I guess.
(not to be confused with Ambala Sweets and Snacks, a few doors down)
18143 Pioneer Blvd
Artesia, CA 90701
Ambala Dhaba (the other branch)
1781 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90024