Indian Cuisine

Now Open: Indian Gastropub Badmaash in Downtown L.A.

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Thu, May 16, 2013 at 6:00 AM
click to enlarge Chicken tikka poutine at Badmaash - BADMAASH
  • Badmaash
  • Chicken tikka poutine at Badmaash

To get a sense of what new Indian gastropub Badmaash is all about, look no further than the three samosa options at the top of the menu -- each one encapsulating a characteristic of the restaurant. Owners and brothers Nakul and Arjun Mahendro, along with their father (and executive chef) Pawan, worked on a menu that would reflect a newer perspective on contemporary Indian cooking.

"Our goal with these layers is to have people realize that Indian food isn't intimidating," Nakul says.

This culinary sensibility is both cross-generational and multicultural. There is the traditional samosa, with masala potato and peas; a butter chicken version conceived by Arjun, based on a dish typically served with rice or naan bread; and a short rib filling with pineapple and cilantro. The rest of the menu is grouped by approach: street food, tandoori and "#foodporn #badmaashla." The latter is a nod to social media's impact on food.

The chicken tikka poutine, a favorite of their dad's, also is a nod to their Canadian roots. The platter of home-style Indian pickles and preserves came from the custom of having them as requisite meal accompaniments. The #HotSpicyIndianSausage is a skewered lamb sauasge with onion, mint, cilantro and mixed chilies, a literal take on a seekh kabaab.

The entire food menu is no longer than a page, purposefully edited according to their collective experience in the restaurant industry and to a greater extent their background as second-generation Canadians. Born in Toronto, the brothers grew up in a diverse community. Their dad, a professional chef trained in classic French and Italian techniques at Bombay Culinary College, has worked in a variety of restaurants around the world. The family moved to L.A. three years ago, which Nakul now considers home.

The restaurant's name has various roots as well. In Hindi, badmaash means roughly a rascally figure, committing various acts of bad-assery. Growing up, Nakul and Arjun's paternal grandfather would affectionately call them badmaash.

"Like a lot of foreign-language words, there's no real English word for it. The closest meaning would be badass," Nakul says. "We can almost imagine older generations looking at our menu and calling it badmaash."

Nakul says that many Indian restaurants have stayed fairly traditional in their approach to the cuisine. "You go to some Indian restaurants and there are 20 different options for lamb, 40 different vegetarian options and 10 rice options," he says, explaining how popular customer dishes often get lost in the midst of lengthy menus. "We've been doing this long enough to have a sense of what people like. At the same time, we're open to our customers telling us what they want."

The papri chaat, a popular street snack made of chickpeas, potatoes and flour crisps dressed with tamarind, mint chutney and yogurt, was added to the menu after a customer requested it.

To pair with the food, there are 14 to 16 beers. "They cover the spectrum of beer but they all go well with Indian food. We have two different pale ales, three IPAs, a rye beer and some saison," Nakul says. "It's surprising to me that no one has done an Indian gastropub, because Indian food goes so well with beer."

In addition to beer and wine, there are imported sodas from India, including a bitter lime drink called Limca and a cola-like beverage known as Thums Up -- both nostalgic favorites of the brothers.

Badmaash opened for dinner on Monday, May 13. On Wednesday, May 22, the restaurant will expand their hours with a lunch service that features combo plates. From Sunday through Wednesday, the restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., with the schedule extended to midnight from Thursday through Saturday.

And in related news:

- 5 Best Places to Eat in the Downtown Arts District

- Bar Ama Review: Josef Centeno Provides a Playful Mashup of Tex-Mex and Mexican

- Alma Review: This Downtown Restaurant May Be the One You've Been Waiting For

Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Follow the author on Twitter at @chrstnchiao.

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