When I posted a video for my new favorite song by Mumford and Sons, Ally responded with a link to a blog on the making of the video and mentioned that "Goan people and food rock!" Ironically, a few days later I was driving down Venice Boulevard and saw a banner for a place called Lawrence of India, that advertised Goan food. I didn't stop, but made a mental note to try it soon.
Lassi, come home: Addi's Tandoor puts an uptown spin on Indian favorites like this cooling mango drink and tangy chicken samosas.
A couple of weeks went by before I decided after a particularly brutal day at work, that I deserved to go out to dinner. I couldn't wait to drive home to the Westside, so I googled "Goan food" and Addi's Tandoor in Redondo Beach popped up. So Dylan and I bundled into my new-ish Soupmobile (mine's a 2008, painted a fabulous dark blueberry!) and drove in the blustery March evening to the beach.
Addi's, which is located at the unassuming corner of an unassuming strip mall on Torrance Boulevard, belies the posh interior replete with fresh flowers and white tablecloths. Cultural elements of India made up the tasteful decor, with musical instruments, a display of ceremonial jewelry, and contemporary paintings of dancers. But the best representation of one of India's most culturally diverse states was Brian Barretto, the manager and our lead server.
Brian, our hospitable and knowledgeable tour guide to Goa. 450 years of colonization never looked so good.
If my geography and history lessons in grade school had been half as appealing, I probably would have resolved at an early age to eat my way around the world. Although the menu offered a lot of dishes that are standard in Indian restaurants, there was a definite twist to old favorites. For example, the gentle samosa that is typically filled with lightly spiced peas and potatoes was something else entirely, filled with tender chicken, made zestier with cilantro and mint. And the dal makhani was very flavorful and fresh, without the salty burn that usually obliterates the natural taste of the lentils.
As I have always believed, food reveals a lot about the history of a people. In the United States, except for the random chicken tikka masala, we tend to think of Indian food as predominantly vegetarian. Thanks to more than 450 years of European influence, Goan food includes every tasty quadruped you can think of, as well as a lot more seafood than northern Indian fare.
The best bread ever, bar naan.
Due to the absence of meat, northern Indian food is enhanced by the richness of dairy with butter or paneer. Brian said that Goan food is a lot lighter, and uses alternatives like coconut or the cashews in the navratan khorma to provide a creamy texture.
This subtle dish, which Dylan said seems to be made with frozen vegetables at most restaurants, was full of freshly chopped vegetables. The luxurious sauce was a welcome and slightly sweet counterpoint to the red! hot! blazing! lamb vindaloo, which was one of a number of items designated as a "specialty of Goa."
Sometimes, my antics at the table are the gastronomic version of bungee jumping. It's a point of pride to see how far I can go with heat before I say "uncle." Although my nose ran throughout the entire meal, it hurt so good. If I could establish a rating system for hot and spicy fare, this was definitely a four-hankie meal.
I thought of invoking the aid of Krishna to get through the lamb vindaloo - it was that hot!
Brian told us, to our surprise, that the citizens of Goa are about 85 percent Catholic. It was fortuitous that we were at Addi's on Fat Tuesday, with the austerity of Ash Wednesday looming ahead. Although it's been decades since I've given up anything for Lent, dinner at Addi's would have been a great send-off to (temporary) self-denial. I'm glad I don't have to wait 40 days until my next visit to Addi's.
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