A little bit east of the 405, Venice Blvd. splits Culver City to the south and Palms to the north. Despite what Rob Eshman wants you to believe, this stretch is an oasis of engaging eating that is bound to pop up again in this feature. Thai, Vietnamese, Brazilian, Cuban, Peruvian, Salvadoran eateries, and even a costly Caribbean Latin restaurant that looks like a Thai one, all crowd the sidewalk vying for your dollars. So where are you going to eat? Here are three suggestions that will fill you full of lamb, yak meat, and pizza like you’ve never seen it.
There are not a lot of places in L.A. to get Himalayan food, let alone a plate piled with yak meat. Tara’s does both with a lot of heart. While not the most refined cooking on earth, owner Tara Gurung Black and her team have a swelling group of followers who come and greet her like long lost children before sitting down to much on dishes that won’t be unfamiliar to fans of Indian food, with unmistakable touches of Chinese cooking balanced in the mix. We say skip the momo, basically gyoza with the thick, wet skin of pelmeni, and go straight for one of the rich lamb curries like behda ko tarkari. Other wonders include the tandoori shrimp, sherpa stew, popping tandoori chicken sekuwa with mountain spices, and yak chili, a spicy preparation of lean red meat just a grade or two softer than jerky, bearing a sticky sweet chili sauce and yak meat sourced from a family member in Colorado. And like many an Indian restaurant, it’s hard to go wrong with the vegetarian dishes like aloo bodi tama, black-eyed peas on top of bamboo shoots, all with a massive flat of stunningly gorgeous garlic naan and maybe a Lhasa beer that won’t replace your IPA anytime soon. Best of all, few items go over the ten-dollar mark.
Tara’s Himalayan, 10855 Venice Blvd. Palms. 310-836-9696.
There’s better pizza and better Brazilian food in the surrounding streets, but Bella Vista stands apart with an incredible, indulgent concept. All-you-can-eat Brazilian pizza for $12.99! You’ll probably want to stop after your sixth slice, but they’ll keep bringing out strange creations like ham with green peas and egg, Calabreza smoked sausage with hearts of palm, mozzarella, tuna fish pizza, and even a beef stroganoff pie that you just have to give a shot. The setting is upbeat in an open courtyard, with families eating to the swaying strum of a Brazilian guitar player, while dessert pizza of acai and banana, chocolate and condensed milk, or guava paste and mozzarella are quite delectable.
Bella Vista, 10826 Venice Blvd, Culver City. 310-558-2374.
Shawarma on a spit, kofte, doner wraps, and kabab sandwiches using beef, lamb, and chicken are all on-hand and up-to-snuff at this Turkish counter, which also rents hookahs to puff on their enclosed front patio. An overeager sales-dude calling you “bro” a lot might guide you to the sultan kebab plate, but we suggest going straight to the lamb kabab sandwich, cooked over an open-flame while you eye the selection of baklava and kadayif hovering in front of you, waiting to find a home with the Turkish coffee or ayran. Ground beef kofte and lamb doner are also surefire bets, while falafel and spinach borek are tempting vegetarian nibbles when you’ve overdone your share of lamb, if there is such a phenomenon. An attached halal market at this extension of its departed Westside Pavillion predecessor can help you do it all at home and offers great browsing while you wait for your lunch.
Sofra Kabab Express, 10821 Venice Blvd. 310-838-8833.
Earlier: Strip Search: Pico-Union [Grub Street]
Strip Search: West L.A. Mexican Part I [Grub Street]
Strip Search: Highland Park’s York Blvd. [Grub Street]
Strip Search: Washington Blvd. To Washington Place [Grub Street]