Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tava Lounge, Artesia, Restaurant Review: Now Closed

Indian fusion done with creativity and a real sense of deliciousness. Unfortunately, the restaurant closed earlier this month but check out the Tava Lounge Facebook page for updates on catering and a potential new location.

10 out of 10 Peppers = Extra Spicy

I went to Kolkata, India, for a week and a half in October (for the first time in 12 years!). And let's just say that, in general, for every day that I leave Los Angeles my life is actually disrupted for about two days -- between packing, arranging transportation on either end, doing laundry, and whatever other anxiety-inducing tasks that pop into my head that could probably wait but all of a sudden seem pressingly urgent. (I think in the back of my head every time I prep to leave I think of the .0000001% chance that I'll never see my condo again, and I don't want the post-earthquake rescue crew to see that I never finished my wedding scrapbook or judge me for not taking out the trash.) And if it's an international trip, you can pretty much much double that time frame. Visas, money conversions, credit card travel alerts, etc. -- it's a lot of work.

So that pretty much explains where October went. But now I'm back and I was so stoked to get back to blogging because I had a 10 PEPPER restaurant to review.  Only the fifth one since I started saagAHH two years ago, and one that I had just visited right before I left and figured I'd write up as soon as I got back. I even let it cut to the front of the line (yes, as usual, I'm behind with my reviews).

But ironically, on the same day that the restaurant too had a two-year anniversary (two years since it opened its doors), it suddenly closed its doors. Tava Lounge in Artesia's Little India is no more :( At least not in physical restaurant form. When I went on the Tava Lounge Facebook page to get a little more info for this blog post, I saw that it closed on November 3, a day that was supposed to be its two-year anniversary celebration, caused, apparently, by a problem with its lease agreement. The reason I'm still doing this post is because the Facebook page says the chef still offers catering and hints that Tava Lounge is looking for a new space. I hope it reincarnates soon. Preferably somewhere near me?

You can also still get recipes from the Tava Lounge chef on the Around the World with My Tava Blog.

THE SETTING

So, the setting is totally irrelevant now. It was large. It was lovely. It had a shared private parking lot. I went for a friend's birthday party (she's not Indian and she picked this restaurant; that says something, I think) with a group of about 14 people. I'm sad it's gone.

THE FOOD

The aspect of this restaurant that was the most amazing was the food. It was Indian fusion. Fused with all sorts of cuisines from Mexican to Spanish to Southern U.S. And whereas many times I'll give props to restaurants for simply experimenting with Indian fusion, even if it doesn't quite work out taste-wise, at Tava Lounge the combinations of ingredients truly worked. The food at Tava Lounge is so delicious. With a large group, I got to taste a ton of different dishes, and they were all superb. There were, by the way, some traditional Indian fare offered as well, but the fusion dishes are where the chef truly shines.

And something the whole table found amusing (though not amusing enough to order it): one of the dishes was reputed to be so spicy hot that everyone at the table had to sign a waiver if you ordered it, literally. Upon request, the restaurant let us glance at the binder full of waivers (heh) and the waiver basically said don't rub your eyes, wash your hands after eating it, and we're not responsible if you have an "accident" due to ingesting Bhoot Jolokia. They. Are. Not. Messing. Around.

One of the Mexican fusion items available was the BiriyaniRito. It was Tava Lounge's twist on the classic wet burrito, filled with biriyani and topped with butter sauce and cheese. It was truly ginormous. Another Cali-Mex-Indian-fusion dish that I was intrigued by but that we didn't order were the Tava Fish Tacos. The menu said the tacos were filled with pan-seared masala fish topped with cilantro-mint coleslaw and served with biriyani and daal.

I ordered the Seafood Biriyani Paella, Spanish-Indian fusion. Which was abundant with shrimp, mussels, squid, and crab.

Nick ordered Baby Back Ribs, which I believe is Southern U.S.-Indian fusion. (Love the sauce lettering on the plate!)

The appetizers menu served up creativity as well. These are the Tava Wings, available in three different exotic sauces.

And instead of papadum there was delicious potato chips. These disappeared so quickly, and I certainly ate my share. And this is coming from someone who doesn't generally like potato chips. They were so thin that I originally didn't even think they were made of potato (but the server assured me they were).

And, the drinks. There was a huge signature cocktail list with Indian-inspired cocktails like this Tava Monsoon (mint, raspberries, lime, infused vodka), a Young Coconut Oasis, and a Blueberry Sparkle.

With this restaurant closed, the best Indian fusion restaurant I can recommend is Susan Feniger's Street in Hollywood. Though that restaurant's focus is really on street food from all over the world, not exclusively India, though the Indian-inspired dishes (as well as the rest of the menu) are extremely tasty.

And more than that, I find the dishes at the now-defunct Tava Lounge to a source of inspiration. They show what modern Indian fusion can truly be. The dishes will inspire me as I experiment with recipe creation at home, in hopes of moving closer to a balance of creativity and taste.

Visit Tava Lounge on Facebook.

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