Tuesday, January 12, 2010
For the past several months, Asian-Mexican fusion dining has been all over town, from Kogi BBQ, a food truck to Red Hot Kitchen, a brick and mortar restaurant. The flavor profiles have been geared primarily towards Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese Cuisines; however, India is also a part of Asia, albeit South Asia and guess what? Right next door to the El Rey Theater is a restaurant called Cowboys and Turbans that features some Indian-Mexican fusion street food as well as Indian variations on a couple of American dishes on its menu. Lucky for me, Wasima, one of the Assistant Organizers from my dining group, set up a tasting menu where we got to sample a few items.
Our tasting menu started with a trio of 3 foods, but I would be remiss in not mentioning their quartet of sauces that when used, added more zings of flavor. The plate was served with their hot sauce and salsa verde which were delicious, but the spicy masala is also not to be missed and was my favorite.
The first thing I tried was their Curried Potato and Peas Samosa. I enjoyed the flaky crispness of the samosa and the generous filling made up of large, soft potatoes that could have erred on being extremely mushy, but didn't. The curry spices were pretty mild in flavor, which made this samosa perfect to dip in any of the various sauces that were on the plate.
Then I moved to the Tandoori Fish Taco, which I enjoyed at the time, but isn't very memorable now as I'm writing about it. It did have an interesting crunch component in the form of Sev, a crispy thin noodle that is an Indian snack.
On to the Tandoori Shrimp Quesadilla, which I absolutely loved. Full of cheesy goodness and shrimp that was seasoned well, what's there not to enjoy?
While waiting for our main entree course, we were served Masala Fries. I've read raves about these Masala Fries on Yelp, but I don't understand what the fuss was all about. Simply, it was a bowl of French fries with masala sauce poured over it and that was it. The sauce itself had a nice flavor to it, but it was quite thin. I actually enjoyed dipping the fries in the Spicy Masala more, partially because it had a thicker (ketchup-like) texture to it. The sauce clung appealingly to the French fries as I bit into them.
For our entree course, we had a choice from 3 dishes: Chicken Tikka Masala with Naan and Rice, Hyderabadi Biryani with Chicken and Chicken Naanwich. I went for the Chicken Naanwich; however, I did sample the Hyderabadi Biryani. I have to tell you that I wish I had ordered that Biryani instead. It had flavor components that was really pleasing to my palate. When I went online to see the types of spices that would be used in this dish, recipes called for turmeric, saffron, coriander, cumin, cloves and more. I'm not sure how Cowboys and Turbans prepared their version or if they used similar spices, but the couple of bites I had made me want more.
When it came to my Chicken Naanwich, it was basically the Chicken Tikka Masala and Rice on top of the Naan bread, which is why I didn't have to really get a taste of the other dish since both were basically the same thing. When it arrived, I actually wasn't sure how to eat it, so I ended up breaking up pieces of the naan and scooping rice and chicken meat with it before popping it in my mouth. Now that I think about it, I could have folded it and eaten it taco style. As for how it tasted, the chicken was moist and tender. It may have been nice to have the naan toasted, but that wasn't a deal breaker. As for the sauce, it tasted good, but I felt like it needed more depth of flavor plus it could be been less runny and a tad thicker.
Before dessert, we got to try the Masala Dog. It was topped with onions, carrots and of course, the masala sauce. Unfortunately, the hot dog itself was too salty and after a couple of bites, I didn't want to eat any more of it.
Our finale was an Apple Spice Samosa and Mango Gelato. What I liked about both desserts were that neither were too sweet. You tasted the apple and cinnamon from the samosa and the true fruitiness of the mango from the gelato without anything being too sugary. It was nice to end the meal on a couple of really high notes.
When it came to the Indian-Mexican fusion of this meal, it was more evident in the Tandoori Shrimp Quesadilla and the Tandoori Fish Taco than anything else we had that day and only because of the use of the tortillas and ingredients like lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. By the way, they also sell a Tandoori Burrito. Everything else was really more "traditional" or a twist on a more American dish like the fries and the hot dog.
For the most part, I liked the food at Cowboys and Turbans. Everything was prepared well and with fresh ingredients. Of course, I do have my quibble in regards to the masala sauce and that hot dog was definitely not to my liking, but it's nice to see some experimentation with Indian Cuisine. Now if only a restaurant or food truck could come around offering Lechon Tacos, I'd be one happy Pinay.
Cowboys and Turbans
5515 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036