As we've mentioned recently, one of the things we love about Los Angeles is that you don't always have to dig deep into your pockets to get a great meal. For every stuffy forty-dollar-a-la-carte-entree kinda place, there's at least a dozen taco shacks, pho shops and curry houses when you're just in the mood for something like, say -- a great bowl of Thai boat noodles -- and you'd like to get change back when paying with a ten. Bawarchi is exactly one of those places. Located in a strip mall in Culver City, it's great food that's easy, casual and, above all else, ridiculously cheap.
Bawarchi literally translate to 'the chef,' and no trip to Bawarchi is quite complete without a run-in with Grand Chef Amarpal Sabherwal, the bearded and occasionally surly master of the house. His inauspicious presence on the floor is only part of Bawarchi's odd charm. What he does in the kitchen is really what makes this place special.
Bawarchi is served buffet-style from a counter (below) not dissimiliar to Subway or Chipotle. Every option is vegetarian, and in many cases dishes are completely vegan. Vegetables are cooked in the Dum Pukht style - over a low flame, bringing out deep, complex flavors that make me forget I'm not eating meat.
Now here's the best part: for $8, you get three vegetable choices from the buffet. My friend opted for the Mirchi Ka Salan, a chili and peanut curry that Chef Sabherwal prepares specially with grilled jalapeno (below, top), the Makki Da Saag, which features corn and spinach (below, middle), and the tomato garlic fish, which is made with fake fish soy (below, bottom).
In addition to the three dishes, a handful of accompaniments are thrown in gratis. You're offered a garden salad, a selection of bread (garlic or plain naan, or a wheat tawa roti), a selection of rice (steamed saffron basmati or basmati pilau - below) crispy, cracker-like pappadum, and a bowl of creamy, white Shai Raita.
Perhaps my favorite dish I've tried there is the Malai Kofta (below, top) - a dish where paneer and potatoes swim in a rich, creamy cashew sauce. The Bombay Aloo (below, left) is a curry dish that Chef Sabherwal makes with sweet potatoes and onion. The jackfruit (below, right) must be a big hit with the vegetarians for its near poultry-like texture.
All this food definitely makes Bawarchi one of my value go-tos. I challenge anyone to find a better value in town. What are your value favorites in Los Angeles?