The first thing that strikes me about this unassuming little Indian restaurant, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Studio City on Ventura Place, is its chic simplicity. Gorgeous and fragrant arrangements of white Casablanca lilies decorate the room and little sprays of freesias adorn every glass-topped white linen table.
Gangadin is a delightful neighborhood restaurant run by the genteel and hospitable Manmeet Sahni, and boy does he have some stories to tell. Serving traditional northern Indian fare, his restaurant has been a Studio City fixture for the past 22 years. Sahni reminisces, "We used to feed the cast and crew from the Remington Steele set when they were shooting nearby. Also the guys from Hill Street Blues." Sahni chuckles as he recalls the time a few guys in their cop costumes stopped by for lunch and sent two of his illegal Mexican kitchen hands running down the back alley in a panic.
We were in very good hands as Sahni composed a tasting menu especially for us. A modest note at the top of the menu informs us that all their dishes are cooked without MSG, butter, ghee, sugar or any animal fats. We started with a sample of their onion pakoras and vegetable samosas ($3.50). These standard appetizers came out piping hot and were served with an array of three fresh, house-made sauces of red sauce, mint sauce and a sweet and sour tamarind sauce. Though fried, these two delights were surprisingly absent of grease. Samosas are an Indian pastry filled with peas and delicately spiced steamed then mashed potatoes while the pakoras are basically onion rings dipped in spiced gram (chickpea) flour and fried. It certainly was a tasty way to kick off the evening.
Next came the pillowy garlic naan ($2.50), cooked in their tandoor oven, and some Peas Pullav which was basmati rice that was scattered with peas, saffron and tiny cumin seeds ($2.00). These were the essential accompaniments for the fabulously aromatic curries that followed. We got to sample their orange-daubed tandoori Chicken Tikka ($10.50) straight off the skewers and tossed with grilled onions as well as our all time favorite Chicken Tikka Masala ($9.95), which is the same barbecued chicken but served in a delectably seasoned tomato and cream sauce. One dish we have to try at every Indian place is their daal and at Gangadin the Daal Makhani ($5.00) is a fantastically complex lentil curry served in a slightly creamy sauce. When mopped up with either rice or naan, this is a healthy and filling dish.
Lamb Karhai Gosht ($9.95) was a new experience for us. This was a stew of tender and well-cooked chunks of lamb that had been stir fried in a wok with North Indian spices and onions. The result was an ever so slightly sweet and hearty meal.
All of this was washed down with one of the passable California house wines (approx $5.75). My companion opted for one of the four Indian beers on offer, including Golden Eagle, Dansberg and Karma.
Indian food offers many vegetarian options and at Gangadin you can select mild, medium or spicy heat. The weekends can get hectic and Sahni said they tend to steer their overflow to the Thai restaurant a few doors down, and vice versa.
If youre new to Indian cuisine and dont know where to start, right now they are offering a five item lunch special starting at $8.95.
So check out Gangadin. You wont be disappointed.
Gangadin Indian Cuisine
12067 Ventura Place
Studio City Ca 91604
Dine In, Take Out, Free Delivery, Catering
Lunch: Monday-Friday from 12:00 to 2 p.m.
Dinner: Monday-Sunday from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.