Zam Zam Market
11028 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
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 $10 from the food court and finishing everything).
Value aside (and this has to be one of the best cheap eats deal in LA), this is the best Pakistani food I’ve ever had. Not that I have much experience with the cuisine, if any, but I would not hesitate going back. The biryani was as good as advertised, full of flavor (although somewhat difficult to eat), as were the tandoori and kebab, both of which were excellent. I didn’t get a good look at the kitchen, which was open but covered, but it’s surprising to see such quality come out of a kitchen that wouldn’t look out of place in a high school cafeteria. It’s technically outside of the two-mile radius I set for myself re: lunch options, and the food does take some time despite the apparent lack of business, but trust that it’s fresh and legit.
|Indian, Pakistani||Culver City||$||B+|