California

Curry Bowl [CLOSED]

By Joshua Lurie | November 14, 2005 3 comments
Curry Bowl [CLOSED]
Curry Bowl
19662 Ventura Boulevard
Tarzana, CA 91356
818 609 7683

Date of Visit: October 30, 2005


Over seven years ago, when I moved to Los Angeles, there was a Sri Lankan restaurant in Hollywood on Wilcox called Chamika, which was supposed to be amazing. Of course by the time I found out about it, that restaurant was closed, priced out of business by inflated rents from the neighborhood’s burgeoning bar scene. My friend’s brother, who frequented Chamika, said he heard another Sri Lankan restaurant had sprouted up in the west Valley burg of Tarzana. He couldn’t remember the name. Without much to go on, I exited the 101 at Balboa and drove west along Ventura Boulevard, scouring the storefronts for Sri Lankan clues. I spotted a promising mini-mall sign: “Sri Lankan Delight.” It was Sri Lankan alright, but it was a grocery that mainly stocked dry goods. I asked the proprietor if he knew of any Sri Lankan restaurants in the area. He said, “Right down the street. Curry Bowl.” Five minutes later, I was eating string hoppers.

Curry Bowl is owned by Rukshan Pillai, his wife Alishka, and her brother. They took over the small space three years ago from Sri Lankan Café, to capitalize on the built-in customer base. Sri Lankan restaurants are hard to come by. Rukshan said Curry Bowl is the only Sri Lankan restaurant in Southern California. The next closest restaurant of its kind is in Santa Cruz, approximately 350 miles north. Somehow I don’t think they’re taking each other’s business.

Just because there’s just one restaurant representing a particular cuisine in a given region isn’t reason enough to go there. The food also has to be good. Happily, after eating at Curry Bowl twice, I’m convinced the chefs know what they’re doing. The best time to go to Curry Bowl is for Sunday Brunch, when they offer most of their greatest hits in a countertop buffet. For $9.99 per person, there’s a staggering array of flavors on display.

Before my trips to Curry Bowl, my only Sri Lankan point of reference (other than the tsunami) was that one of my favorite new singers, M.I.A., grew up there. Aided by hours of post-meal Googling, I learned a lot about Sri Lanka, and filled in the cracks on what I ate. Here are my findings.

Sri Lanka is an island nation off the eastern shore of India, formerly known as Ceylon. Throughout history, Sri Lanka has been occupied by the Portuguese (1505-1658), Dutch (1640-1796) and British (1796-1948). Influenced by all three occupiers, plus nearby India, Sri Lanka has culinary flavors all its own.

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Curry Bowl’s buffet was lined with all sorts of unfamiliar but intriguing-looking dishes. I started by lining my plate with “string hoppers” – woven rice vermicelli…

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…Pittu, plastic-wrapped packets of rice flour blended with coconut…

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…and pot roti, thick coconut flatbreads similar to crumpets.

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Then I proceeded to pile on dishes from steaming metal bins: curry with yellow lentils; string hopper pillau; chicken biriyani; yellow curry with potatoes; mutton curry; seasoned potatoes; “fried chicken;” spicy chicken curry; and Kiri Hodi, coconut milk soup.

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I ladled various curries over my string hoppers. My favorite dishes included the “fried chicken,” which was coated liberally in a spice mixture and pan-fried, a little chewy but tasty. The pillau featured fluffy, spice-soaked string hopper shreds. The biriyani was crusty and good, loaded with chunks of chicken. The mutton featured tender chunks of adult lamb. The potatoes were delicious, tossed with an almost equal weight of dry spices. The flavors were new and interesting, and the level of heat kept building in my mouth with each extra bite.

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To the side of the bins were two crock pots, each filled with a different fiery sambol (Sri Lankan condiment), not that any of the dishes needed much added heat. “Pol sambol” incorporated coconut.

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The main ingredient in “Lunu Miris” was Maldive fish, made blazing hot with chilies.

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To douse the fire, there was a dispenser of fresh mango juice, pure and fresh, a lighter alternative to India’s yogurt-based mango lassi.

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For dessert, syrup-soaked jaggery cake, made with palm sugar and topped with crumbled cashews, was phenomenal

.It was well worth the effort to find Curry Bowl. I wonder how many other obscure cuisines are being served in out-of-the-way corners of Los Angeles County. I’m willing to keep hunting. Anybody know where to find a café that specializes in the foods of Swaziland, Herzegovina, or Suriname?

Comments

  1. Big T. says:

    Hi Joshua,

    Thanks for reading my post. I wish you a pleasant meal at Wadiya! I have never been to the USA, hopefully at some point in my life I will be able to spend a month in California and check out a lot of the eateries that you have mentioned at FoodGPS.

  2. Big T.,

    Thanks for the exciting news about Wadiya. Their menu looks interesting and I pretty much guarantee a drive to Anaheim to see how it compares to the Curry Bowl.

  3. Big T. says:

    Hi,

    There is another Sri Lankan restaurant in Southern California, called Wadiya it is based in Orange County. Maybe you would like to go there, I understand that it opened recently.

    Address – 949 S. Euclid St, Anaheim, CA 92802
    Website – http://www.wadiyausa.com

    FYI – I have no connection with the restaurant and regretfully cannot even go there for a meal since I live in England!

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