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BEACH GOURMET: Chandni Indian Vegetarian Restaurant: Moonlight from the East

Indian restaurants are popularly known for offering self serve lunch buffets so when I discovered that Chandni (meaning moonlight in Sanskrit) on Wilshire is a bona fide vegetarian restaurant I could not resist visiting in order to savor some selections of beast-free fare.

The dining room at Chandni is rather modest in size but boasts a number of lush and spacious booths as well as several tables smartly arranged that, in combination with two fully mirrored walls, creates a good sense of space.

The buffet lunch is available daily with dish rotations every day except Sunday when the selections are basmati rice, pakoras (mixed vegetable fritters), palak paneer (creamed spinach with Indian style cheese), lobhia dahl (black-eyed peas slow cooked with corn to the chef’s special recipe), alu matar (potatoes and peas cooked in tomato-based sauce with spices), raita (seasoned yogurt), nan bread and salad, plus a variety of condiments such as spicy mint sauce.

After being seated at one of the booths, I was attended to by an exceptionally polite and pleasant waiter who quickly brought me an Indian iced tea and invited me to help myself from the very clean and well-presented buffet.

The dishes here are delicately spiced, allowing you to add a touch of the spicy mint sauce should you have a penchant for a zestier dining experience. The basmati rice was fresh and fluffy, and the spinach was perfectly textured with an aromatic quality that I suspect was cumin-based, with the paneer (Indian cheese) melting in the mouth as so it should. There are vegan options as well.

I particularly liked the pakoras with the crispy outside protecting a delicious and delicate sponge-like center of potato, cauliflower and chickpea, pureed and then deep-fried.

The alu matar was well prepared, however my palate would have preferred it to be a little bolder in the spice department to offset the hint of sweetness delivered by the dahl. The dessert option (included) on a Sunday is kheer, a flavorful rice pudding dish that neutralizes the palate and has a delightful texture. For just $5.95 this buffet is a tasty bargain to be had.

I enjoyed my visit to Chandni and will relish the memory of eating vegetarian food, listening to sitar music and gazing at a large print of a Chagall. Only in L.A.!

Chandni, 1909 Wilshire Blvd., SM, 310.828.7060

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