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The Beach Gourmet: Agra Indian Kitchen: A Diamond In the Rough

The corner of Lincoln and Washington Boulevards is not, shall we say, the most salubrious of areas. It is peppered with “pre-owned,” or rather “used,” auto dealers, and the cacophony of traffic, including the roar of Harley-Davidson owners as they rumble their way to the flock of motorcycle shops just up the street.

But times, my friends, are a changin’ because just a block or so north of Washington a new addition to the Westside’s already impressive choice of restaurants has recently opened, offering clean, classic, and delicious Indian food in a tidy and economical environment.

I recently paid a lunch visit to Agra Indian Kitchen, accompanied by a fellow culinary adventurer, and we enjoyed a fresh, succulent, and authentic meal.

Although this eatery is small, its menu is large, with the lunch special options offering 21 combination-and single-dish choices, including Agra’s Royal Thali (salad, chicken curry, lamb curry, eggplant bhurta, mixed veggies, rice, and plain naan, $16.95 for two persons), Agra Vegetarian Thali (salad, mushroom mattar, chana saag, basmati rice, naan, and raita, $9.95), and eight individual vegetarian dishes, with such Indian staples as Saag Paneer (homemade cheese squares delicately spiced, cooked with fresh spinach, $6.95) and Dal Turka (a classic dish of lentils flavored with garlic and cumin, $6.95).

I chose the Chicken Biryani (chicken seasoned in herbs and spices, cooked with basmati rice with nuts and raisins, $7.95), and my friend opted for the hot and spicy Lamb Vindaloo Special (traditional Indian Gaon style of hot and aromatic curry, $8.95). We both shared a Saag Paneer and an irresistible paswari naan bread (naan bread stuffed with a coconut, almond, and raisin paste, baked in a clay oven, $3.50).

All of Agra’s special lunch dishes come with rice (except the biryani, as this is a rice-based dish itself) and a choice of salad or soup, that on this occasion was mulligatawny.

The mulligatawny soup was as close to perfect as one can imagine – full bodied, vibrant, and with a medium-thick constitution while the salad was very fresh.

The entrées looked and smelled wonderful. Generous lunch portions, colorful, and glistening with a wonderfully aromatic aura that simply suggested “delicious.” The Chicken Biryani contained succulent and juicy chunks of chicken in a saffron-tinted potpourri of herb-and spice-infused rice, raisins, and cashew nuts. It was deliciously satisfying, with the mildly spiced Saag Paneer the perfect compliment to this traditional plate.

The Vindaloo was good, hot, and spicy but not overpowering, allowing the flavors of the ingredients to shine through. The Saag Paneer complemented this dish as well.

I must give special mention to the paswari naan bread. Fresh and hot, it had that most unique, slightly sweet flavor that only a mixture of coconut, almond, and raisin baked in a traditional Indian oven can create. Very nice indeed.

Accompanied by the usual suspects of Indian condiments that included mint sauce and lime pickle, this was a top-notch and fresh Eastern lunch.

With excellent food, expect Agra Indian Kitchen to rapidly gain a reputation as a contender to be one of the Westside’s favorites very, very soon.

Agra Indian Kitchen, 2553 Lincoln Boulevard, Venice, 310.827.0050.

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