The one-mile stretch of Pioneer Boulevard between Artesia Boulevard and South Street has by far the widest selection of Indian restaurants, markets and boutiques in Southern California, but until June 2008, it never had a Mumbai-style snackery. That’s when Sailesh Shah and wife Shruti opened Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se in Little India strip mall. Miles Clements wrote about the café for the LA Times in December, and this turned out to be one of his better Finds.
The space is fairly simple looking. Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se hosts only 3 booths, 5 high top tables and six two-tops. A flat screen TV plays Bollywood movies. The walls are strung with Christmas lights, mirrors and wrought iron flower panels. The Shahs feature a couple stylish flourishes, but the focus is clearly on the food.
The menu is pretty hardcore, with 96 vegetarian options and hardly any printed explanation. Thankfully, Sailesh Shah is front and center and will happily explain any option in detail. With only two people, it was impossible to make much of a dent in the menu. To do Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se justice, it would take several trips or a large group, but we did what we could.
The menu is divided into Mumbai Snacks, Thalis & Combos, Drinks, Sweets, Punjabi Dishes (Coming Soon), South Indian Specials, Extras & Side Dishes and even Indo-Chinese Fusion. This might seem odd, but Sailesh Shah received a global culinary education at Pasadena City College.
Dahi Batata Puri ($4 for 6) featured crispy, delicate pastry shells that were shaped like sea urchins. They were filled with sprouted mung beans and combined a number of colors and flavors, including cooling, tangy yogurt, crispy noodle strands, sweet-tart tamarind-date sauce, green cilantro sauce and fresh-clipped cilantro.
Dabeli ($4.50 for 2) turned out to be addictive sliders with buttery rolls loaded with spiced mashed potatoes, peanuts crunchy raw onions, sweet raisins and green grapes. Since pomegranate isn’t currently in season, the Shahs substituted rich pomegranate molasses.
We ordered a Mango Lassi ($3) and it was certainly above average, but the top drink was undoubtedly Piyush ($3) a tangy yogurt-based lassi flavored with saffron and showered with crushed cardamom, pistachios and almonds.
Unfortunately, they were out of every Sweet but Shrikhand, a yogurt dessert, and I was ready for something dry at that point. That means dessert will have to wait at Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se. Not that I needed another excuse to return.