Story and photos by Valentina Silva
Even though I grew up very close to Artesia, an epicenter of Indian restaurants and shops in Los Angeles, I didn’t try Indian food until college. Not really knowing what to expect, when I finally did feast on my first meal of chicken tikka masala and aloo gobi, I was surprised at how much the meaty stew and hearty vegetable dish reminded me of my grandmother’s cooking. And she’s Mexican.
Enter Cowboys & Turbans, Silver Lake’s year-old “Indian Mexican Street Food” joint. Relocated from its former Miracle Mile home on Wilshire Boulevard, the Silver Lake strip mall restaurant is the brainchild of Baba Ji, the man behind Electric Lotus and Electric Karma. And while some may have had it with the whole fusion thing, Cowboys & Turbans’ tandoori burritos and tacos are an interesting entry into L.A.’s most enduring food trend. They even offer a few naan pizzas to add to the cultural confusion.
Our entrée into this strange new world started with the Aloo Gobi Quesadilla. The portion was large, almost giant. My dining companion found the melding of mozzarella (again with the Italian!) and Indian spices a little startling, but I found the (albeit strange) mix rather pleasing. It works because the cheese is kept to a minimum, putting the emphasis on the cauliflower, potatoes, and flour tortilla, which isn’t an entirely unrecognizable combination.
For those not turned on by melting pot cuisine, Cowboys & Turbans offers a straight-up curry and masala dishes along with tandoori meats. We opted for the Whole White Basa Fish to offset the weighty quesadilla. The mix of raw and well-cooked onions went well with the moist and flaky fish. Also on our plates was a Mixed Green Salad, which looked ho-hum but was actually really tasty with its garbanzo beans and mint-laced dressing.
The bummer of the meal was the naan. We went for the Kabuli Naan with dried fruit. While the baked-in currants were interesting, there was nothing very “naan” about this bread. With its extremely chewy and undercooked texture, it was more like pizza dough than anything. It might be good as a naan pizza crust, but as a stand-alone bread? Not really.
Even with that one hitch, Cowboys & Turbans deserves a repeat visit. Next time, I might sample a rice or fruit dish from their deli case and maybe even one of their massive burritos, which received enthusiastic praise from the Indian-American teen at the next table who, after one bite, exclaimed: “This Channa Saag burrito is so bomb!”
Now, that’s promising.
Cowboys & Turbans | 2815 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake | Prices: $9-$14
Word to the wise: I tried going on a Friday night right after their Groupon was issued, and it was jammed packed. As a result, the service was non-existent. I walked out that night and had better luck on a Saturday afternoon.
Valentina Silva is a regular contributor writing about food and restaurants. You can also find Valentina’s reviews and stories on her new blog, Eastside Food Bites.