This is certainly true throughout Los Angeles, where there are dozens of wonderful and popular Indian restaurants. So many, in fact, that we narrowed our search to one very specific geographic area -- the west San Fernando Valley, which offers a diverse and inviting selection of Indian eateries. For our top 10 picks, turn the page:10. Dilli Express:
When we wandered into Dilli Express, we actually were looking for another restaurant. It turned out that the prior place had closed, and there's now a new name, owners and menu, described as fusion and Indian. While the décor is a work-in-progress, the food is ready for its close-up. You order at the counter, either from a large list on the wall (including unexpected dishes like chicken curry taco and spinach chole burrito) or from that day's buffet, which is the best bargain. For $8 you get an all-you-can eat combo of mostly North Indian specialties. There are even cheaper vegetarian combos, as well. We're not always fans of self-service buffets, but props to this buffet, where there's a shield of glass separating hungry folks from the food. The wait staff fills your plate, but don't let that discourage you from going back as many times as you want. 8406 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Canoga Park; (818)347-6900.9. Taste of India:
The first thing you'll notice upon entering this cozy restaurant located between Ralphs and Sprouts, is how dark the interior is, with such low lighting that at some tables it's hard to read the menu. Never mind. You can close your eyes and point to any page and find something to enjoy, especially if you're an adventurous eater who is not intimidated by dishes like pudhina mutton (goat meat cooked on a slow fire, with a ginger, garlic and mint gravy) or nargisi kofta (lamb meatballs.) There are many signature North Indian specialties, such as onion kulcha, a naan stuffed with onions and seasoned with a mild mint sauce. Desserts include mango ice cream and gulab jamun (savory, deep fried cheese balls with rose syrup.) The best bargains are the combination dinners for around $15, with two entrees, rice, naan and salad or raita. On weekends there's an all-you-can-eat Champagne buffet for $12.95. 21833 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills; (818) 999-0600.8. Streets of India Cafe:
This family run café in the heart of the Encino business district features homemade specialties from South India such as dosa (savory pancakes) and also from the north (tandoori dishes.) There are Indo-Chinese options, like chili chicken and other daily hybrid specials. Save room for the made-from-scratch desserts, including chikki, a candy with almonds and pistachios, and grajjar halwa, a lovely carrot pudding. You can order a variety of curries a la carte, but the best deal is the very popular weekday lunch buffet for $8.75 (on weekends and holidays it's $10.75.) There's also a dinner combo for $11.95. 16260 Ventura Blvd., Encino; (818) 325-2500.