It's not that AmDhab is bad, it's just that it's so far from what's really good. I had dinner there two nights ago. The house dal with kidney beans and lentils had obviously been burned at some point; the fenugreek paratha appeared to be stuffed with parsley rather than fenugreek leaves; the saag makki di roti is the sort of gloppy north Indian food I've never cared for; the potato samosas were undistinguished though pretty (it's the ribbons of mint sauce that do it). I liked the aloo papadi chat, something one might call Indian nachos (I had it without the yogurt sauce).
Without AmDhab I'd never have had chole. This is the north Indian dal made from kala chana dal, ginger, chiles, tomato, turmeric, ground coriander, cayenne, paprika, amchoor, hing, garam masala and some wedges of lime. It's sublime. (The version I produced last night based on Yamuna Devi's "Lord Krishna's Cuisine" was significantly better than what I had at AmDhab some months back. Anyone who wants to get a sure grip on the basics of Indian vegetarian cuisine should consider buying Devi's book. It's intelligent and rich in deeply researched detail--her glossary is in many ways a model for what Alan Davidson's book might have been.)
When I compare AmDhab to Manhattan's Madras Cafe, I want to cry.
1781 Westwood Blvd (north of Santa Monica Blvd)
Los Angeles, CA 90024
The Madras Cafe
Authentic South Indian Cuisine, mostly from Karnataka
Vegetarian & kosher
79 Second Avenue (between Fourth and Fifth)
Monday-Saturday 1-11, Sunday 1-10