“Naresh's is like an extension of my living room,” says Naresh Mehra, owner of the eponymous new restaurant-wine bar in Santa Monica. Mehra speaks figuratively, of course. Though, figuratively speaking, all of Main Street like an extension of his home. Or better, it's like an extension of his home which he built with his bare hands. Since moving to Venice in the late 1960s, Mehra has opened Dhaba, The Rose Cafe, and The Firehouse, all along this street. Naresh's is his fifth restaurant in the neighborhood, and his most personal.
Like a living room, Naresh's has no signage outside other than what was left by the previous tenant: a small neon “Restaurant and Bar” illuminated on the grey stucco facade, and inside there's a certain coziness that's rare in a new restaurant. A poster of the restaurant's motto, “Great Friendships Begin at Naresh's,” hangs just outside the kitchen, which is bridged to the dining room by a wood burning pizza oven; there's a bar, a few low modern tables with cushioned seats, and one wooden communal dining table which Mehra built himself.
Though he has no formal training, Mehra has a deep understanding of flavor, for which he credits his father who taught him how to eat when he was a child in India. He describes dipping into small bowls of spicy, creamy, and sweet mixtures in different combinations so that every bite full becomes different. “Indian food is about flavors in the mouth,” he explains, and although Naresh's doesn't serve categorically Indian cuisine, this concept of dining serves as the basic structure for every item on the menu.
Of course, there are Indian dishes on the menu (samosas, marinated tiger prawns with chat masala, and ras malai, a dessert made of balls of paneer soaked in clotted cream), as well as a variety of pizzas, which they make in their wood-burning oven; grilled marinated lamb chops; scallops; and bread pudding with whiskey sauce.
During happy hour, which last from 2 -7 :30 p.m. every day, Naresh's offers every item on their food menu for $6 each. Margaritas are discounted too, and certain wines are served by the glass. Nothing costs more than $12.