FLAVORFUL INDIAN DISHES COME TO CULVER CITY
Just so that there’s no confusion—as I was originally dumbfounded for a brief minute—there is a Banana Leaf in Culver City that offers extremely flavorful South Indian dishes, and then there’s a Banana Leaf at the Original Farmers Market that offers tasty Far East food from Singapore. Both serve certain dishes on banana leaves but the two are completely independent of one another. There is no relation. This is a spotlight on the Indian fare of Banana Leaf in Culver City.
Banana Leaf founder and owner Sridhar (Sri) Sambangi took over the Zafran Pot Indian Restaurant space from close friends (and current associates) Snehlata and Santosh Gumidelli. Sri is proudly carrying on their legacy and is offering the finest biryani (a popular rice dish from South Asia) around these parts.
Banana Leaf is housed in a tiny strip mall on Venice Boulevard among Indian Restaurant Row in Culver City. Offering dine in, to-go and delivery options, the fare is bold and flavorful with a menu that aptly finds balance between classic and progressive Indian cuisine.
Recently, we thoroughly relished an Indian feast of striking flavors and spices. This to-go bounty was outstanding, albeit on the spicy side.
According to the powers that be, Banana Leaf is the only restaurant offering Organic Chicken Tikka Masala—a favorite Indian staple of mine. Another popular dish is the Chicken 65 Biryani—offered dry-fried or in sauce. It’s actually pretty rare to find the dish offered in two styles as dry in standard. We had it dry. If you’re not familiar with Chicken 65, it’s a spicy, deep-fried chicken dish that was first made at the Hotel Buhari, Chennai, India in 1965.
Favorite dishes of ours included the Organic Chicken Biryani, which can be ordered on or off the bone (on the bone for more flavor) and the Boneless Fish Fry—a seafood item from Hyderabad (the capital of southern India's Telangana state). It’s a favorite of spicy food lovers as it is just chock-full of flavor. Both the chicken and the fish dishes had excellent flavor and paired perfectly with a bottle of red wine—another reason why you should order for pickup or delivery.
Other favorites of ours included the Organic Hyderabad Chicken (Halal) Dum Biryani, which is marinated in spices, yogurt, zafran and cooked on dum (air-cooked or baked) for maximum flavor. This technique allows for the meat, coated with fresh spices and herbs, to slow cook in its own juices, retaining moisture while losing none of its succulent flavor and nutrients.
Sukka is traditionally an Indian chicken dish native to the Mangalore and Udupi region. Pro-tip, opt for the Goat sukka to enjoy an item with real authentic South India flavor. The meat is halal and is very moist from being marinated. It is popular for its contrasting sweet and spicy blend of seasonings. The goat is a nice change of pace from yet another chicken dish.
Of course, the Banana Leaf menu features several non-meat items, including vegetarian curies. Non-meat selections include Aloo Gobi (sautéed cauliflower and potatoes with spices); Jackfruit Tikka Masala; Dal Fry (lentil soup topped with tadka); and Malai Kofta (silky smooth gravy filled with deep fried balls made of paneer, onions, carrots and potatoes).
And make sure you save room for dessert as there is the classic Gulab Jamun—the national dessert of Pakistan—but I was a big fan of the cakes, including Gulab Jamun Cake as well as Rasmalai Cake. The Rasmalai Cake is made with soft, melt in mouth flattened paneer balls soaked in a thickened sweetened milk flavored with cardamom, saffron, and garnished with nuts.
Get ready to be introduced to a world of delicious flavor at Banana Leaf, which offers free delivery within a five-mile radius. Also, it should be known that the restaurant serves five free meals every day to anyone in need and unable to pay. No walk-ins as these meals need to be booked online.
Banana Leaf is located at 10408 Venice Blvd, Suite B in Culver City. Closed on Wednesdays. Open for lunch from 11am to 3pm and dinner from 5pm to 9:30pm. Call (310) 838-2130.
Story By: Jose Martinez
Photography Courtesy Of: Banana Leaf