If you want to try out Cardamom, the new upscale, pan-regional Indian restaurant in Fairfax from consulting executive chef Manju Choudhury, you could go for dinner and order jumbo prawns and lamb from the charcoal tandoor or maybe fresh lobster in a creamy mushroom tomato sauce. Given that most entrees are well under $20 (the lobster is an exception at $24.95), Cardamom serves relatively affordable elegant food, packed with spices and bursting with clean flavors, in a restaurant with white tablecloths and attentive service.
But for the most heat for your buck, there’s the $14.95 two-course lunch special, served seven days a week. This isn’t anything like, say, the all-you-can-eat buffet at Mayura, but it’s a good value. The meal starts with papadum and chutney plus an appetizer of two delicate onion fritters. Then diners get their choice of 12 entrees, which come with the vegetable of the day (okra when we visited), naan, saffron rice, and raita. There are chicken, beef, lamb, mixed seafood, and vegetable options, with the Gosht Madhurai chili lamb dish racking up the most Scoville units. The Gosht Madhurai is more potent than most vindaloos, but those who are used to eating Indian food will taste lamb and tomatoes as much as chiles. You can also cut the heat with the yogurt sauce on the table.
Tamer options include the Gosht Pasanda, with lamb filets marinated in yogurt and spices and then cooked in a sweet-and-sour sauce; Chetinad Murgh, a boneless chicken curry with coconut milk; and Saag Paneer, the famous vegetarian dish with cottage cheese, cream, and baby spinach.
If you want a lunch special with a different entree (perhaps lamb saag, cooked with fresh spinach rather than the creamed mess you get at other Indian places) than the dozen listed, ask and the kitchen might be happy to comply if it’s in the same price point on the regular menu. Or go with a group and order some lunch specials and some other entrees–getting two lunch specials means having enough rice and bread for three or more people to share. Family-style feasting made easy. That’s hot.
Cardamom, 7233 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-936-1000