Southern Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines and I have been going to Annapurna in Culver City ever since they opened, thrilled that I neednt go all the way to Artesia or Chatsworth for a dosa. But then I read on Chowhound about a new place in Westwood called Madras Masala and that is even closer to me that Culver City, so I had to go.
This is a limited report since for two people, we only ate one appetizer and two dosas. Not much of a sampling, really. The overall verdict is: this place bears some study, but somehow I dont expect it to last long.
We ordered a mixed vegetable pakora to start. These were more batter than vegetable. In some places, mixed veg. pakora means individual battered pieces of each vegetable; in some, it is a chopped up veggie mix dunked in a batter. Madras Masala has the latter sort, and they top each pakora with a squirt of tamarind chutney. I dont know if it was the chutney or the batter, but these were sweeter than I am used to. Not bad, but not a real draw either.
My GF ordered my usual dosa, the rava masala dosa, a lacy dosa made from rice flour and semolina. The dosa itself had been hit with several shots of ghee this made for a sort of minefield of extra rich, extra salty bits. The crepe also was more smooth tasting than any rava dosa Ive had I realize that isnt exactly the right word. It is as if you went to the beach on Oregons rocky coast your whole life and then one day you find yourself at Santa Monica beach facing miles of smooth sand. Not better, just different. The masala filling and the coconut chutney were similarly different, not better or worse, just different. I ordered the Mysore Masala Dosa and the experience was the same. I have had dosas in New York, Pittsburgh, the Bay Area, Seattle and all over southern India (yes, including many in Madras/Chennai and Mysore) and these were not like any I had had in the past.
The most different element of the meal was the sambar that accompanied both dosas. Instead of a thin soup-y mix with some hearty vegetable chunks, this could be best described as masala chili, chili as in Tex-Mex food. Thick and very hearty it seemed more suited to a Wisconsin winter than an LA summer.
The timing of the service was a bit screwy. One dosa came out at least five minutes before the other, for example. Also, we got there at about 9 and they close at 9:30and we were definitely feeling the rush job to get us out. Maybe it was because we were the only customers? Which also leads me to believe that this place needs to do some major advertising, increase the size and visibility of their non-descript outdoor signage or do something drastic, or else face a very short life. It is the next day and I cant really say whether I will crave going back, but it is nice to see that there are southern Indian options popping up on the Westside, especially given the generally lackluster Northern Indian food we have on this side of town.
Buffet from 11:30-3
Dinner from 5-9:30