y4pcT1JaIwGptQJPO6l_mZmgv34 tiffin unboxed: Popping Up at The Un-Curry Table

Popping Up at The Un-Curry Table

People often ask me for recommendations for good Indian restaurants, which stumps me. So few L.A. restaurants capture the depth of flavor found in Indian food. Chef Kaumudi Marathe's response to that frequent question is "come to my house". With The Un-Curry Table, L.A.'s first Indian Pop Up Restaurant, she has managed to bring a home cooked dinner party feeling to the lucky attendees.

Chef Kaumudi was born in the state of Maharashtra on India's west coast and also lived in the U.K. and North America. Her cooking is what she describes as California Indian, combining her culinary traditions with local ingredients. She aptly describes her food as organic, locavore, made-from-scratch regional Indian cuisine.

For the Pleasure Palate dining group, I hosted a private session of her Spices 101 class about 1 year ago and was thoroughly impressed. Her knowledge of Indian regional cooking coupled with her passion for food, which she prepares with the highest quality ingredients, really sets her apart from the usual Indian restaurant buffet with which many people are accustomed.

The Un-Curry Table menu told the story of her life in food, including her favorite dishes freshened up with her own twists.

California-Indian - Click on photo to enlarge it

The California-Indian amuse bouche kicked off the meal as a small bite containing a big flavor explosion that was a synopsis of her style and what was to come. It contaned a blend of avocados, mustard seed, chilies, lemon juice, minced onion, garlic, cilantro and cumin seed powder. The mixture rested on a soup spoon and was topped with even more seasonings including ghee (clarified butter), curry leaves, salt and a pinch of sugar. The menu, also shown in the above picture, introduced a very creative and modern logo for The Un-Curry Table.

kitchen prep for the appetizer course

khandvi, kolambi kothimbir ghalun, carrot slaw

A plate of appetizers came next, including khandvi a Gujarati snack of tart mini, spiced chickpea flour crepes coiled into tight rolls, filled with fresh coconut, mustard seeds and topped with a cilantro dipping sauce. Renowned food critic, Jonathan Gold, wrote about his love of khandvi, describing them as 'slender jelly rolls'. The second item on the plate was kolambi kothimbir ghalun, a tender and perfectly cooked cilantro pesto shrimp. Paneer (fresh cheese) was offered in place of the shrimp for vegetarian meals. The plate was rounded off with a fresh and crunchy carrot slaw, tossed in a savory vinegar.

santosh: tomato-coconut soup

santosh soup course: our table of empty bowls (within 5 minutes)

The high point of the meal for me and all diners at my table was a rich, comforting soup called santosh. One of my dinner companions is a tomato lover like myself, and as we took a bite at the same time both our eyes widened and locked gazes. She described it as the best tomato soup she's ever had. This fragrant soup revealed scents of tomato, coconut, ghee (clarified butter), cumin and coriander. A mound of short grain rice was dropped at the center of the bowl. It was also Chef Kaumudi's favorite dish growing up, as prepared by her grandmother.

entree: beef biriyani, brussels sprouts, ambyacha loncha

Most of our table wanted to ask for seconds of the soup, but then the main course arrived. Our entree consisted of meat biryani. Originally mutton (lamb) biriyani was listed on the menu, but due to popular requestl it was substituted for beef. The dish consists of layers of basmati rice and beef, mint, cilantro, carmelized onions, cooked low and slow under a lid until all the flavors mesh. It is then stirred and served. There were some fresh onions on top, adding freshness and crunch once again.

The vegetarian menu offered sabzi biryani of layered basmati rice, paneer (fresh farmer's cheese), fall vegetables and carmelized onion. A fellow diner at the table gave me a taste of her sabzi biryani and it was tasty and perfect for the fall. 

This dish fell more on the California vs. Indian end of the spectrum. Having grown up eating biriyani with bone-in, fall off the bone lamb or goat, I was missing that famiiar and slightly more gamey taste. The beef was cut into large cubes and in my opinion, competed with the rice a bit. Most of the other diners, however, were fond of the dish and enjoyed it.

The side dishes, served on the same plate, were brussels sprouts cooked in a large wok with turmeric and other spices. They definitely retained their bite and freshness despite the spices. The menu originally listed Chef Kaumudi's mother's dish of bharli bhendi which is tender okra stuffed with spices, tamarind, onion and coconut. We were told the market's okra supply was low, Thus the menu substituion. Ambyacha loncha was also served on the plate. It is a fresh mango pickle with finely chopped chunks of mango including the thick mango skin with turmeric, asafetida (pungent Persian spice used in Indian food) and  jaggery (unrefined, brown cane sugar).

boorani: mint and garlic yogurt side dish

Served alongside the entree, in a separate family style bowl, was boorani, a mint-garlic yogurt. Yogurt is often served as an accompaniment to Indian food. This boorani was a perfect counterpoint to the meaty entree and helped cool off the palate. By this time I grabbed and bit into a chili pepper from the table centerpiece, so the boorani really served its purpose!

Chef Kaumudi piping out the shrikhand dessert

The meal ended with a splash, not to be outdone by the spices of the previous courses. The dessert shrikhand, also prepared for Chef Kaumudi by her grandmother, was a slowly strained yogurt which thickens to a consistency thicker than Greek yogurt. It's mixed in with saffron and nutmeg. This dessert was part of the Spices 101 class and it's one I made many times since then using her recipe. It never fails to impress my guests.

Most Indian dishes are served in a rustic style. Chef Kaumudi elevated this already outstanding dessert by piping out the shrikhand with a pastry bag, then serving with a mango-vanilla bean coulis and topped with a cardamom-rosewater shortbread cookie. I loved the play of tart yogurt with tart mango, tempered with the subtle sweetness of the other seasonings. The cookie also provided a crunchy textural component.

badshahi chai

Dessert was accompanied with a cup of badshahi chai,black tea spiced with milk, sugar, nutmeg and cinammon. The chai was authentic and served as a very appropriate fall beverage.

Bottles and glasses of sparkling wine, red and white wine, beer as well as bottled sparkling and flat water were also available at the event. The drink list was curated by wine consultant Gregg Greenbaum. Specifically, the following drinks were available for purchase:

  • nv luis pato espumante bruto - bieras, portugal
  • 2009 trajarinho vinho verde - trajarinho, portugal
  • 2009 los bermejos malvasia seco - lanzarote, canary islands
  • 2009 senorio de p. pecina rioja joven - rioja, spain
  • 2009 terres dorees beaujolais l'ancien vielles vignes - beaujolais, france
  • 2009 edmunds st. john porphyry gamay noir barsotti ranch - el dorado county, california
  • mission street india pale ale
  • hoegaarden white beer
  • san pellegrino - sparkling water
  • fiji - still water

The Un-Curry team also consists of attorney Irene Borromeo and Melissa Hanson, who handled legal and operations as well as friendly and efficient kitchen and service members, who clearly enjoy working together. The staff, despite having 'day' jobs, quickly came together and made it to opening night in just 2 months.

the Un-Curry Table team

The multi-course dinners were served on November 6th and 13th at Surfa's Test Kitchen in Culver City (the location was disclosed shortly prior to the event to diners who pre-purchased their seats). The 50 or so attendees in the dining room were an eclectic mix of friends, students and diners searching for good Indian food. I went along with a group of Pleasure Palate foodies who filled up two tables. It was an interesting location because of the ability to sit with a backdrop of kitchen supplies and an instructional mirror to view the kitchen prep work.

plating the entree course

Chef Kaumudi and her staff were working hard in the open kitchen, but she stopped many times to greet people with a smile, answer questions and make guests feel welcome. Her ability to be so focused on her cooking while keeping an eye on the whole room revealed a great talent. She says she loves to entertain and one really feels well taken care of at The Un-Curry Table.

Chef Kaumudi Marathe

The food contains very fresh and clean flavors with more subtle yet aromatic seasoning and I find it very soulful. If you'd like to experience this food, the upcoming events include a festive food and wine pairing on December 3rd and 4th.  Other themed events will also be offered, including street food, seafood, regional food and more wine pairings. For more information, visit the Un-Curry site and sign up for the mailing list, or book your holiday dinner.

6 Responses to “Popping Up at The Un-Curry Table”:

  1. Wasima, thank you SO much for the lovely review & wonderfully written post! I am glad you and the other Pleasure Palate members had a pleasant and filling evening! Hope to have you at our table again very soon!

    Kaumudi Marathe

  2. It was our pleasure, Chef. Another Pleasure Palate group led by Robert will be attending your holiday pairing dinner.

  3. Irena says:

    I've said this before and I'll say it again: reading about it on your blog after having shared in eating this meal made me re-live the entire exquisitely tasty dinner--your descriptions were so spot on! Now all I have to do when I have a craving for Kaumudi's amazing food is re-read this post,and just fantasize about it...mmmmmm!!!

  4. Irena, and I can read this post to feel like I'm dining with you again! Thanks...

  5. Anonymous says:

    Il semble que vous soyez un expert dans ce domaine, vos remarques sont tres interessantes, merci.

    - Daniel

  6. Daniel, Merci beaucoup pour vos aimables commentaires. La gastronomie fran├žaise est une grande inspiration pour moi aussi. Merci pour la lecture!

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