Culver City chef Akasha Richmond has always loved Indian food. In fact, from time to time she'd even play with the idea of opening an Indian-influenced restaurant, going so far as to draw up mock menus. Monday she's finally doing it for real.
Sambar, Richmond's new Culver City restaurant, is opening in the old Ford's Filling Station space. It's not an Indian restaurant per se, but it's influenced by the flavors and the sensibilities of Indian food.
"I've studied Indian cooking for a long time and I've always loved the spices and flavors and masalas," said Richmond, who helped get the Culver City dining scene started in 2008 with her first restaurant Akasha.
"I first wrote the menu for this restaurant 10 years ago, but of course it's completely changed since then, several times, in fact."
The menu will include some traditional dishes from the north and the south of the Indian subcontinent, but with twists. The sev puri chaat will be made with avocado instead of potato. She's serving an uttapam with sambar for dipping, but the pancake is made with black quinoa.
There's a selection of what she calls "new wave masala" -- Indian spins on familiar American dishes, such as burgers and chicken wings and even a pork dish that she says is like porchetta made with a vindaloo masala.
One thing Richmond won't have on the menu is chicken tikka masala -- the British invented dish of chicken in red curry sauce. "I'm not having it, I'm just not doing it," she said. "I think everyone can understand that."
But there will be a somewhat similar Goan dish called chicken xacuti -- braised in coconut milk and spiced with cinnamon, turmeric, cloves, poppy seeds and lots more. "It has so many ingredients, it' s just really unique," said Richmond. "I don't know how to describe it, but people really love it."
Popular Indian cooking teacher Ragavhan Iyer consulted on the menu.
The restaurant has had a major face-lift since the Ford's Filling Station days, making it lighter and brighter, but the room is still focused on the giant Beech oven imported from Australia that Richmond is using in place of a tandoor.
Several of the staff have come over from Ford’s as well. Chef de cuisine Kirk Plummer worked at Ford’s after starting at Akasha. “They stole him away from me, then he came back to me,” Richmond said, laughing. Plummer will be assisted by Adam Midkiff, who worked at
Gavin Lansdale, former chef de cuisine at Ford's will be running Akasha.
Sambar, 9531 Culver Blvd., Culver City, (310) 558-8800.