Sāmbār – Indian Yumminess in Culver City
I like Indian food but after having dinner at Sāmbār Restaurant – the new upscale Indian restaurant in downtown Culver City, I can officially say that I love Indian food.
First of all, the location is in the pedestrian walking district of Culver Blvd, just two doors away from Akasha’s first restaurant aptly named Akasha. Sāmbār is the combined creation of the design building firm of Ruth Black, who specializes in ruins to renovation and acclaimed chef, Akasha, who has a whole new take on Indian cuisine. Akasha spent time in an ashram and traveling through India.
India is one of my favorite countries in the world. It’s not like traveling to another country, it’s like traveling to another world. It’s the seat of spirituality, a place where you can sip a cup of chai tea on a street corner and feel fine about just being here now. Between the intense wet heat that never lets up and the smell of India; the scent of Nag Champra incense, a combination of temples, mosques, fresh flowers, decay of the past, saffron, cows, cats, I was intoxicated. This smell still beckons me, even years later, begging me to return for another hit of life. Eating Akasha’s food on my birthday brought me back to that place in my soul, where India is part of me.
Speaking of another part of me, for all you Michael Jackson fans, you already know Akasha was Michael Jackson’s personal and concert (Victory, Bad and History tours) chef. Michael said the only restaurant he would drive to back in the 80’s was Akasha’s Golden Temple, the once popular vegetarian restaurant.
Upon entering there is an eye catching chandelier of blue, green, red, purple, yellow that Black designed and created. If you like details, like I do, have a look at her blog where she explains her design on the chandelier.
Not only is the food a feast for the senses, the space is too. Call me fussy if you like, but when I go out to eat, I love to feel inspired by not only the food but the space must stir as well. The combination of Black and Akasha achieves this. Ruth had the tables hand made while the leather was achieved by an expert in fabrics and textiles, at Holland & Sherry. Black choose cressula, a deep, sautéed green color plant that is drought tolerant, in planters to line the outdoor deck seating area.
Here’s the wooden ceiling:
It gets better. Here is the art project of stardust white wooden sticks on the wall next to the bar.
Now for the food. We started with this cheese plate:
Here are samosas, Sambar snack mix, Sev Puri Chat, Toor Daal Fritters, (In the back, my apologies for cutting off) and a Sacred Cow drink.
In the back is a Cheese Thai (Indian Cheese plate), with Papadoms and Turmeric Naan, Lemon Rice, Dal, Tandoori Roasted Vegetables with yogurt, Tandoori British half Raj chicken.
Tandoori Roasted Vegetables with Yogurt:
Here’s the Tandoori pistachio lamb kabob with Makki ki roti (gluten free).
Tandoori British Raj chicken:
A special banana dessert that three lifelong friends shared:
I’m looking forward to returning to try the lamb burger and try some of the drinks made by Clare Ward a mixologist who came on board from Akasha’s first restaurant. Some of her drinks include house-made bitters with turmeric and spiking Pimms cocktails with fresh curry leaves.
Ruth Black is a long time Kundalini yogi whose love for the practice brings a higher consciousness that permeates every area of her life. Here is her hand drawn designs in the restrooms. Just like Michael Jackson, Ruth understands the mantra of the Age of Aquarius that “You’re Just Another Part of Me.” Here we see Ruth’s handwriting, inspired by her mother, a calligraphy artist, who was in of all places, India at the time Ruth was building Sāmbār.
Last but not least, the hand painted logo at the entrance wall designed by Ruth’s talented mother, artist Barbara Graham.
“India was open. India was honest. And I liked that from the first day. My instinct wasn’t to criticize. My instinct, in the city I was learning to love, was to observe, and become involved, and enjoy.” Gregory David Roberts – Shantaram