Food fact: the dairy-laden, meaty curries served in many US restaurants bear little resemblance to true Indian cuisine, which is bursting with healthy aromatic spices, veggies, fermented yogurts, and lentils.
Enter SĀMBĀR, the new Culver City hotspot of famed chef Akasha Richmond, that aims to give you a taste of authentic Indian flavors—with a farm-to-table focus on fresh, local ingredients. And a healthy twist that we’re starting to see more of on both coasts.
“Most Indian restaurants in America use cream in the sauces and curries, and we don’t use cream in anything. They don’t in India either!” says Richmond, whose green-leaning, new-American restaurant, Akasha, has been a fixture on the Los Angeles healthy-eating scene for half a decade (and is right next door).
“We try and source as much local produce as possible from farmer’s markets in California,” Richmond adds. “We also source products that are certified organic from India, like flour, spices, rice, and dal.”
The resulting menu is multi-regional and short on pretension, inspired by street food and dishes served in many Indian homes, but with a healthy direction. There’s uttapam—the small, fermented pancake—made with black quinoa, for example. Or Richmond’s lightened-up version of maki ki roti, the flat corn flour bread, made from organic flour and pressed with ginger to maximize tastiness.
The absence of cream means dishes like the delicious ora king salmon curry—made with coconut broth, mustard seeds, and ginger—are simultaneously warming and light. And the menu shines the spotlight on spices, like anti-inflammatory turmeric and saffron (a fixture in Ayurveda, used to treat everything from skin problems to anxiety).
That spice-centric approach extends to the bar menu, and “spice trade cocktails” that feature saffron bitters and darjeeling tea infused white whiskey. Or a Pimm’s Cup with a “muddled Indian herb bouquet,” and a gin and tonic where the gin’s been infused with—what else?—turmeric. It’s a melting pot approach at its very best. —Kara Griffin
SĀMBĀR, 9531 Culver Blvd, Culver City, sambarcc.com
(Photos: from top, SĀMBĀR; Isaac White; SĀMBĀR)