The smells of garlic and tomato often assault my nose when I walk past Pitfire Pizza downtown on 2nd St. But one recent night, change was in the air. The wind carried cumin, coriander, garam masala: the scents of India. India’s cooking, at least. They summoned me to Pitfire’s new neighbor, a restaurant called Badmaash.
On this Sunday night of Memorial Day Weekend – long past 10 p.m. – I expected a quiet scene. Not so: Up-tempo music bounced off the tall walls, accented by the chatter of 20- and 30-somethings who had claimed seats at nearly all the tables. They clinked wine glasses and clattered silverware over plates of samosas and chicken tikka, “Badmaash Burger” and “Crispy Tamarind Glazed Pork Belly.” Burgers and pork belly at an Indian restaurant? Make no mistake: This is a “hip” Indian restaurant. Badmaash bills itself as an “Indian gastropub;” it may be L.A.’s first. So let the music roar; let the beer flow.
A server escorted me up a steep and narrow stairway to a mezzanine. Perched at a counter overlooking the restaurant, I could eye the colorful Bollywood film projected against a white wall and spy on fellow diners, many of whom appeared Indian. (Was that Raj from Big Bang Theory?) Meanwhile, a row of Gandhi prints – Warhol-style images of India’s hero sporting Ray-Ban sunglasses — stared at my back.
As I munched a butter-chicken samosa and spread tandoor-smoked eggplant onto thick, hot, naan, the people kept trickling inside, as if they had saved for last the weekend’s best party. Servers dashed up and down the stairs with trays of food, managing not to trip or spill as if by magic. Said one: “Your eggplant will be here as fast as my legs can carry me.”
Outside, chicks in stilettos staggered out of The Edison; dudes in sweatpants padded after their retrievers. Would the spices summon them, too?