Strip malls come in all shapes and sizes; some can even be a little scary. That's certainly not the case at Crescent Heights Plaza, the West Hollywood strip mall that comes complete with its own valet. The space, which abuts the soon-to-be-open Connie & Ted's, is actually quite nice. There's lots of parking, and all of the attached restaurants have entrances that abut right onto the street. There are no hidden Mexican spots found tucked away, just some hip sushi, non-buffet Indian dining and one of L.A.'s most well-known Russian restaurants.
The Indian Kitchen:
Instead of the typical strip mall Indian food that we've profiled before, The Indian Kitchen has a pretty good reputation for serving up tasty tandoori meals. The first thing you'll notice from the two-year-old restaurant is the walls -- they're lined with pillows on hooks. Apparently comfort is a big deal here, and customers should not be forced to sit anywhere without a pile of fluffy, bedazzled pillows. It's also easy to recognize what's not there, namely a buffet steam table. Eschewing the more common Indian lunch buffet option, The Indian Kitchen instead provides an array of $10-ish lunch and happy hour specials. The most popular option is the Tandoori Thali, a large metal plate that arrives brimming with basmati rice, curried vegetables and wide swaths of naan bread. Chicken is served two ways -- tandoori and tikka -- and anchors opposite ends of the plate, complete with lightly sautéed onions for a bit of funk.
While never crowded and always pleasantly staffed, there's a constant flow of people in and out of The Indian Kitchen, which can also make for great people-watching. And with some of the best gulab jamun dessert you can find in this part of town, lingering after your meal (with a pillow, of course) seems like a perfectly thing to do. The Indian Kitchen is open from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for weekday lunch, and again from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner. Weekends run from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m., and they happily accept credit cards. 8165 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; 323-656-9000.
Omi Sushi is the sort of party-spot sushi place that you can easily spot around Los Angeles. Their happy hour times (4 to 10 p.m.) and cheap sake deals ($2.75 for a large bottle) are prominently displayed on the windows, underneath blazing signs that command you to drink more Asahi. There are a couple of TVs scattered around inside, but they're almost hard to notice amongst the dark red walls and thumping music.
You will, however, notice a wall full of wines, each waiting to be given a proper sendoff inside a wine glass at the bar. The rolls, for their part, average around $10 each, although it's possible to skate by on spicy tuna and California rolls alone. They're not a bad size, either, emerging sticky and full with reasonably fresh seafood. There's a full menu of noodles and soups and other Japanese fare, but stick to the order sheet -- and a cup or three of sake -- to really understand what Omi Sushi is all about. They accept credit cards and are open from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. or later from Monday to Saturday, and from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday. 8163 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; 323-654-1056.
Turn the page...
You've likely noticed Traktir if you've spent any time crawling down Santa Monica Boulevard. The dark red awning juts out into the sidewalk just west of Crescent Heights, showcasing an impressive patio that hides just how small the restaurant's interior really is. You'd be hard-pressed to pack any more stuff inside those four walls, especially if by "stuff" you mean matryoshka dolls. The little dolls-inside-of-dolls-inside-of-dolls line the interior on a runner that hugs the ceiling and is made to look like a roofline. Wooden pillars and a stone tile floor help to complete the look, while wide, heavy tables provide a sense of anchor to the room. The decor perfectly matches the food at Traktir, which can verge quickly into overwhelming.
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Butter is everywhere, along with a heavy rotation of grilled pork chops, steaks and sturgeon. There are thick plates of beef stroganoff to be had and mounds of vareniki, each with the heavyset pricetag to match. Traktir proudly serves the sort of fortifying foods that could get you through a Moscow winter -- but won't do you any favors squeezing between cars on your Vespa on the way home. They're open daily from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. or later, offer a full bar (White Russians, anyone?) and accept credit cards. 8151 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; 323-654-3030.
Check out previous Strip Mall Rat pieces.
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