Zam Zam Market

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Zam Zam Market
11028 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 841-2504

I would not be surprised if Zam Zam Market is a front for some Pakistani drug or weapon smuggling operation – the whole place reminds me of that scene in The Dark Knight where all the mob leaders congregated in the middle of the day to avoid Batman. In this case, it appears the “market” (hard to call it a market when there’s only one shelf of produce – the place is/was probably running under a market license if I had to guess) is trying to avoid any business outside of the mosque spillover from Fridays – it used to be open only Thurs-Sun, in the early afternoon (and even that is a generous description of their business hours). I’ve read glowing reports of the place from LA lunch expeditioner Midtown Lunch. But it wasn’t until the inclusion on the new LA Weekly 99 Essential Restaurants 2013 list, which also mentioned the newer “normal” hours of operation, that gave me the “push” I needed to make a transaction in this dispensary of a restaurant (get it? – okay that sucked).

As I pulled up to park in front of Zam Zam Market, it looked like the place was closed. There is minimal signage outside, one of the doors was locked, and the whole place looked like an abandoned storefront. There is also no menu displayed, and each to-go container was brought out from the back as if there was something to hide. The guys there are nice, but appear to be somewhat surprised at the presence of patrons, let alone non-Indian/Pakistani ones. Using Midtown Lunch’s post as reference, I ordered a mix plate ($10) and a chicken biryani ($7) to-go, the former to eat at work and the latter to take home for the roommates.

The mix plate was a behemoth of a lunch container – it’s basically the container size Bludso’s uses for their SAMPLER…and it was filled up (same with the biryani-only order, sans the compartments even)! There was enough chicken biryani to fill a large Chinese takeout box, they gave both the chicken tandoori and the beef kebab, you get to choose two more items from the steam table (I chose the lamb korma and the chicken karahi – I think that’s right), AND there’s an entire freshly baked naan on the side. I struggled to finish the entire container, but I did, and it was the most stuffed I’ve been from a $10 meal since my foolish college days when I attempted the Costco Challenge (ordering $10 from the food court and finishing everything).

Value aside (and this has to be one of the best cheap eats deal in LA), this is the best Pakistani food I’ve ever had. Not that I have much experience with the cuisine, if any, but I would not hesitate going back. The biryani was as good as advertised, full of flavor (although somewhat difficult to eat), as were the tandoori and kebab, both of which were excellent. I didn’t get a good look at the kitchen, which was open but covered, but it’s surprising to see such quality come out of a kitchen that wouldn’t look out of place in a high school cafeteria. It’s technically outside of the two-mile radius I set for myself re: lunch options, and the food does take some time despite the apparent lack of business, but trust that it’s fresh and legit.

Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
Indian, Pakistani Culver City $ B+

Zam Zam Market on Urbanspoon

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Mayura

Photo credit: Grub Street LA

My friend Alex Adams loves all things Indian, especially women. But Indian food comes second. And apparently he was craving it last month. I, of course, found this to be a good opportunity to knock off one restaurant from my to-try list, so I suggested the only Indian restaurant that was on said list. I find found out about the restaurant via J. Gold’s 99 Essential Restaurants list, as Mayura has been a list regular for years. I used to live a couple of blocks away, but never found myself trying the place.

Mayura specialize in Southern Indian cuisine, which is different from the typical Indian dishes that the average diner is familiar with (tandoori, tikki masala, etc. – Northern Indian cuisine). I let Alex take charge of ordering, sans requesting the appam with fish curry, since I had read about it. The appam has a spongy texture and tasted a bit sourdough-y, similar to Ethiopian injera. The fish, which was salmon I believe, was over though. Still a pretty solid dish. Most of what we ordered were like that – just solid, nothing spectacular.

The highlight of the meal was the paper dosa. It was thin and crispy, very crepe-like, and had a nice buttery taste. Mayura has a nice variety of dosas, and I am very intrigued by most of them. I saw a couple of tables with sizzling skillets of something as well, but I have no idea what the dish was. Overall, my first attempt at Southern Indian cuisine was rather…safe. It just wasn’t as in-your-face like some of the Indian food I’ve eaten in the past. I would like to visit again, and just order the dosas. But I’m in no hurry to do so.

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Bhel Puri ($3.95) – mix of fresh tomatoes, onions, boiled potatoes & tamarind chutney

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Kerala Sp Appam w/ Fish Curry ($11.95)

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Raita ($2.50) – yogurt w/ cucumber & onion

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Garlic Naan ($2.50)

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Paper Dosa ($6.95) – crispy paper thin rolled rice crepe

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Malai Kofta ($8.95) – vegetarian cheese balls in tomato sauce

Chris Hei grade: B-

Mayura
10406 Venice Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 559-9644

Mayura on Urbanspoon

NaanStop

10/11/11

NaanStop stopped by work a couple of weeks ago, although it was hard to believe that they stopped at all, given their name (get it?). Lame jokes aside, I wasn’t really looking forward to trying another potentially underwhelming food truck at work after my previous experiences. But I was peer-pressured into trying it by multiple coworkers. And I had heard decent things about it, so why not?

I ordered a samosa and chicken tandoori “naanwich”. The samosa was too oily, but tasted like an authentic samosa. The naanwich was a mess to eat, but tasted pretty good actually. A bit too heavy-handed with the spices, and the whole thing was somewhat soggy, but the flavors were decent. I also tried some of my coworker’s masala fries – tasted like an Indian version of chili cheese fries. Overall, this was a pretty good food truck, the second best one I’ve written about (behind Kogi).

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Samosa – a savory pastry filled with a mix of potatoes, onions, peas and Indian spices

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Tandoori Chicken Naanwich – chicken marinated in yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, and spices including cardamon, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and others

Chris Hei grade: B-

NaanStop

India’s Tandoori

Came here on Saturday night to celebrate my friend Jeannie’s birthday. She wanted something different while staying close to her place in Burbank, so this ended up being the choice. We came with a group of 12, and they were very accommodating. Again, I never let things like decor and service weigh into my grade, but the servers were very friendly and attentive (although a couple of the people in the party might not have appreciated their sense of humor – but I certainly did!). They even went as far as giving everyone gift certificates (more to the birthday girl of course), and went to a nearby Ralph’s to buy her a birthday cake because they didn’t have any comparable desserts for the celebration.

After much deliberation, the group decided to order a variety of dishes to share. I wish I remembered all the things we ordered, but I believe they included: vegetable and lamb samosas, chicken tikka masala, lamb tikka do piaza (or karahi), salmon tandoori, chicken curry, bengan bharta, chicken biryani, and garlic and garlic basil naan. Very straightforward menu, nothing too sexy. The dishes themselves were well-executed, but nothing that blew my mind. There wasn’t a single dish that made me say it’s a must-have, but the naan and the tikka masala were probably my favorites of the night. Only thing that wasn’t good was the rice pudding that they served as dessert along with the cake. Maybe it’s because I’m not an expert on Indian food, but I don’t think I would go out of my way back to Burbank just for this. Still, I was very satisfied, and it was nice to have Indian food again after a few months.

Chris Hei grade: B-


India’s Tandoori

142 N San Fernando Blvd
Burbank, CA 91502
(818) 848-0004