The All-You-Can-Eat Chronicles: Finding Tandoori — India’s Tandoori

Note: Part of an occasional series on local A.Y.C.E. restaurants near campus.

If you want tandoori, you don’t have to leave El Camino for the first flight to India from LAX, as Hawthorne and neighboring Lawndale offer plenty of eateries.

Along Inglewood Avenue are Pakistani restaurants Al-Noor and Al-Watan, both of which have gotten into publications such as LA Weekly as LA’s top fare from that part of the subcontinent. Annapurna in Lawndale, just a short drive from the campus on Hawthorne Boulevard, is closer and offers a lunch buffet, but I find its Southern Indian fare a bit too hot for my tastes (and I went on a hot day where the air conditioner and ice machine in the place failed).

Go further north on Hawthorne Boulevard, about three miles from campus and around a 10-minute drive. Just before the El Segundo Boulevard intersection, on the right-hand side, is India’s Tandoori, which recently returned to the city after leaving its location on Rosecrans Avenue a few years ago for Manhattan Beach. The Hawthorne location is now the latest in a chain of five restaurants across Los Angeles and the South Bay.

And boy, has it made a comeback. I couldn’t hold myself from eating more and getting a case of the itis; that lethargic feeling you get after pigging out.

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The itis was worth it. Clockwise, from top: tandoori chicken thigh, aloo gobi (curry cauliflower), pullao rice, dal makni (lentils), karahi paneer (a spicy sauce with cheese), chana masala (chickpeas), salad and chicken samosa (ground chicken and vegetables in a fried pastry).

I prefer buffets when it comes to Indian restaurants; it allows one to sample a lot of different dishes and judge if the courses are just right one’s personal preferences — some restaurants can be a bit too spicy or too mild. It’s also a bit easier for those new to the cuisine.

India’s Tandoori’s $11.95 halal lunch buffet offers some great flavored tandoori chicken and other dishes. The tandoori chicken — roasted chicken with mild spices and a yogurt marinade that give it a unique red or orange hue — was just right; wasn’t too spicy, wasn’t too overcooked, wasn’t too dry. The coconut curry chicken was nice and sweet, while the lamb curry was tender and flavorful. Only the chicken tikka masala — meat in a spicy tomato sauce — was the letdown; a bit too mild for my tastes.

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Baa, baa, cluck, cluck for the second round of meat dishes. Clockwise from top, chicken tikka masala, tandoori chicken, coconut curry chicken and lamb curry.

But the real stars I found to be in the desserts and appetizers.

At its previous incarnation on Rosecrans, India’s Tandoori didn’t offer ice-cold gulab jamun — fried milk balls soaked in syrup; think really sweet donut holes — on its buffet table. After going through the various flavors of Northern Indian dishes, the cold, sugary gulab jamun brings calm to the taste buds.

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Mmmm … Donut holes of Indian cuisine. Ice-cold and syrupy sweet. By the way, has Apu brought Homer Simpson gulab jamun in an episode of “The Simpsons” yet?

Taste buds that probably got a show from the chicken samosa, with its spicy ground chicken and vegetables wrapped in fried chickpea batter.

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Orange slices and watermelon balance out the spicy flavors of the chicken samosa appetizers.

The only thing I regret is forgetting to tell the staff I wanted plain naan bread. They brought garlic naan instead, which probably gave my stomach more work that day.

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Man cannot live on garlic naan and water alone. Add some curry sauce or mint chutney on the bread.

One thing I plan to try on another trip while chilling to all the food and the Indian music videos in the background will be the lassi drinks; an Indian smoothie-style soft drink made with yogurt and fruits such as strawberry or mango.

India’s Tandoori is a solid recommendation for a lunch buffet trip that can cap an entire day’s meal. Just watch how much you eat, especially if you have to go back for a class. Zoning out from being stuffed isn’t great for tests.

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India’s Tandoori is located at 12866 Hawthorne Blvd., Hawthorne. The lunch buffet is offered Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; a Saturday champagne brunch is offered at the same time for $2 more. The restaurant is closed on Sundays. Website: http://www.tandoori90250.com.

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