Sambar is a new Culver City restaurant that does Indian cuisine in a unique and modern way. Akasha, Chef and Creator of Sambar, calls the restaurant “New Wave Masala,” which represents a mix between traditional Indian and Western influences. There are so many bold and complex flavors that stand out in these dishes, no wonder Sambar has quickly become a hit between those who know Indian food well, and those who would not usually choose this type of cuisine…
The menu at Sambar can be intimidating for someone like myself who is not familiar with many Indian dishes. However, the servers are very helpful and I was pleased to find that almost everything on the menu is gluten-free. Sambar gets its name from a stew that they serve as an appetizer along with Uttapam, which are quinoa pancakes. These colorful, gluten-free, mini savory pancakes make a perfect addition to eat with the stew and sauces. Sambar has a gluten-free bread option that they call Makki Ki Roti, it is basically a thick house-made corn tortilla that they use in their bean taco dish and can be substituted where gluten-filled bread is usually served. For lunch, Sambar does a couple of variations of their “Kati Roll” which is similar to a burrito. It can be served on a gluten-free chapati tortilla, which is prepared with a layer of egg inside. I ordered the Toor Dal Fritter Kati roll which is a variation of a falafel wrap, but instead of chickpeas the fritters are made with lentils. The roll was accompanied by a hempseed and tomato chutney and their perfectly cooked and seasoned gunpowder potatoes. This dish is very filling and heavy so the sweet chutney was a perfect complement. My favorite dish was one of the more traditional options. The Thali plate is a sampler dish that has a variety of elements. It comes with basmati rice, a gluten free tortilla, a lentil based cracker, chutney, dal and various curries. I ordered “The Yogi,” the vegetarian thali plate that comes with cooked greens, a yellow lentil dal, and a zucchini kofta in a creamy and spicy cashew sauce (which was my favorite part!). There are so many flavors and aspects of this dish that tie in together. For dessert, you can’t miss the vegan coconut ice cream sundae. The creamy ice cream is accompanied by gluten-free cookie crumbles and chocolate sauce. Perfect for the gluten-free, dairy-free, or just any dessert lover!
Culver city is growing into a hub for interesting and impressive restaurants. Sambar is a great addition to the area, offering bold flavors and delicious dishes, and it is an absolute must for lunch. The atmosphere is sleek and modern, with an outdoor seating area and full bar. My favorite aspect of my experience at Sambar was that I tried dishes that I had never come across before and learned a lot about Indian cuisine. Sambar’s menu even features a glossary to help you familiarize yourself with the terms, dishes, and places that Akasha was inspired by when inventing the menu. It is aimed at surprising you and introducing you to food and flavors that may be outside of your culinary comfort zone!