The other day I broke one of my most important rules of dining out when my husband and I went to Nawab of India in Santa Monica. Normally, I avoid restaurants with television commercials like the plague. I figure that word of mouth (or blog!) is the best way to learn about a restaurant. And, if the restaurant is forced to use cable advertising, then the word of mouth is probably not so great. Likewise for direct marketing, such as coupons (I have been burned before). However, my husband and I were hungry, craving Indian food, and on Wilshire heading East out of Santa Monica. So, we decided to go for it, and I am very glad that we did.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the place was busy - I guess the commercials worked. But, I figured a bad restaurant, even if they advertise, won’t necessarily be so busy in a city with so many options. Now, I am not going to go so far to say that this place was perfect. The service was very slow - we were sat in a room off to the side of the main dining room, with only one other party, and we were pretty sure we were forgotten about at first. But, soon enough we got our drinks. In addition, we got a crispy, cracker-y, wafer-y bread (not naan, unfortunately) with three sauces.
It’s kind of difficult to tell from the dark picture, but the two smaller dishes contain the two types of sauces I am used to getting at Indian restaurants (including at the Clay Pit). One is a sweet, brown sauce, and the other is a tangy cilantro sauce. But take a look at the bigger bowl - I wouldn’t even call it a sauce as much as a chunky, spicy, cold vegetable stew. And, do you see those large white globules? That is raw garlic. I would say these items marinate together all day long, until in the end you have a spicy, garlic-y, tomato-based dipping sauce that can definitely bring tears to your eyes. I loved it.
Next up were our entrees. I have to admit, the husband and I can get pretty boring, ordering the same items every time we go out to Indian. But, we just really like the items we like. Those are the items that we are craving when we decide to go out to Indian. And for us, those items are chicken tikka masala, saag paneer, vegetable curry, and basmati rice. Sure, I branch out now and then. Sometimes ordering cauliflower or lentils instead of the veggie curry. But, I just always end up missing the curry so much. That said, here is a picture of our dinner:
Oops, there’s that garlic sauce again! Anyway, about the food. All three of these dishes were wonderful. The saag paneer (creamy spinach with chunks of farmer’s cheese hidden inside) was savory and delicious. I always love the way the mild cheese tastes with the flavorful spinach. And, the chicken tikka masala had a great sauce, made with more yogurt than usual. The chicken itself was very tender and well spiced. And look at that veggie curry in the middle - do you see how red it is? Usually, curry is heavy on the tumeric, but this one was not. It was very spicy, but not necessarily very hot. The flavor of the sauce really was amazing. But, I just have one gripe, and it’s something that really frustrates me when restaurants do this. The vegetables were a frozen mix. Why?!?!?! Why ruin a perfect sauce with frozen vegetables? Listen, I get using frozen peas. I don’t expect to go pea-less most of the year, and then have your kitchen staff pluck three round peas from hundreds of pea pods each day. But carrots? How hard is it to cut some carrot chunks? And the taste difference is huge with carrots. Frozen, reheated carrots taste so spongy, especially after they have been simmering away in the curry sauce. I just don’t get it. And, it’s almost advertised when they use those fancy, star-cut variety of carrots that I think are made by Bird’s Eye. Why people? Why?
Other than that, this really was a great dinner. Obviously, they are masters at sauces. In fact, I don’t think I have ever written the word sauce this many times in one post. If you are in the area, I definitely suggest Nawab of India. It’s not the cheapest, but you can still feed two for under $50, including tax and tip, if you don’t drink.
Nawab of India is located in Santa Monica at 1621 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90403
Phone: (310) 829-1106