About half an hour away from Downtown Los Angeles, right off the Imperial Freeway in Artesia is an enclave of eateries, markets, and stores known as Little India. Pioneer Blvd. starts off the freeway as a street dominated by korean businesses, then just two blocks later it morphs into a predominately chinese/vietnamese locale where the allure of fried fish from 99 Ranch Market beckons and Sam Woo’s roast duck almost pulled me off course from coming to my intended destination. Before your eyes realize it, it will be your nose that will inform you that you’ve crossed into Little India. And from the smell of it, the community promises a good meal.
Jay Bharat Restaurant(18701 Pioneer Blvd., Artesia, CA 90701) is an Indian sweets and farsans shop, that also serves meals representing a southern Indian palate. The menu was nearly overwhelming, everything reading like a promise for a good time like that found on a high school bathroom wall. Fortunately there are two combinations platters, one offered only on weekends, that seem to include a good array of what their menu has to offer. The Gujarati Thali combo comes with basmati rice, dal (soup), pickled ginger in red pepper paste (which remarkably resembles a kimchee in both taste and appearance), two vegetable curries, kathor, two farsans, a plate of papdam (crisp breads), puri (fried bread), and raita. Emily got the Kathiyawadi Thali combination, which shared many of the same dishes as mine, but instead of the puri, it comes with eat-every-grain-good basmati rice and a couple pieces of unleavened whole wheat bread that has been slathered with the gastronomic glee maker, ghee (clarified butter). At $8.99 for a healthy portion of food, its a reasonably priced meal with an unreasonably delicious effect on your palate. If it wasn’t for the seducing allure of trying out a nearby dive specializing in spiced mutton next time (I could only liken the effect of the odours wafting outside the doors of this restaurant as how blood my smell like to a shark), I’d go back to Jay Bharat on my return visit.
But the eating didn’t stop there. Oh no…we just unbuckled our belts a few notches further and continued on down the boulevard to Bombay Sweets and Snacks where a colourful selection of indian sweets and fried pastries greeted us. Listening to the advice of a sweet, old gentleman who was in there grabbing lunch, we narrowed down our choices to five sweets. In a very froggy, deep accented voice, he recommended a couple of barfi (dense and dry cakes), a very rich and delicious pastry called habshi halwa (reputed to be good for a “man’s performance”), a saffron tart, and a tangle of fried dough coated in honey-sugar that was like a churro gone wild. We were only disappointed we could not stuff ourselves further, since there were milk-dough desserts amusingly called chum chum and gulab jamuns dipped in sweetened rose water that seemed to beg some porntastic mouth on dough action. Next time.
I am pleased to say that I did not have one unwelcome flavour touch my tongue that afternoon. Thanks Little India!