For YEARS I have been searching for the perfect Indian restaurant where my friends and I could go out to enjoy ourselves. When I moved to downtown Los Angeles, I was positive that if I were to find this kind of restaurant anywhere, downtown LA would be the place. I was disappointed when I searched and searched but found nowhere to go. I looked online, I looked in the yellow pages, I asked my friends… so you can imagine the excitement I felt when I heard that my prayers had been answered in the form of a small gastro pub which had opened just a few blocks away from where I live. Hallelujah!
Badmaash, which means “badass” in Hindi, is most definitely living up to its awesome name. Opened in 2013 by Chef Pawan Mahendro and his sons Nakul and Arjun, Badmaash brings the vibrant flavors of Indian street food (with a few fun twists) to the downtown area.
Like Father, Like Son(s): Chef Pawan Mahendro and His Boys
The Mahendros arrived in Southern California by way of Toronto. Chef Pawan, who is formally trained in classic French and Italian cuisine, had previously opened Jaipur Grill in Toronto and spent years traveling through India before arriving in Los Angeles.
Father and sons put together their talents to get a new take on Indian cuisine, combining a respect for tradition with a dose of contemporary flavor.
The concept of “badmaash” came about because they were upset that there was simply no option for modern Indian food. Like I said before, no matter where you looked it just didn’t exist. At the end of the day they just wanted a restaurant to go to that they could enjoy. Long story short, they decided to fill that void.
They began to make their vision into a reality, and it was time to write the menu. The family felt strongly that Indian food is misunderstood, and they wanted to show the public that it doesn’t have to be this foreign and scary concept. To make it more approachable, they chose to forego having 3,000 options on the menu, and instead decided it was best to take the most popular traditional items and make the menu strictly in English.
FUN FUN FUN. No better word to describe it. Badmaash is one of the most vibrant and exciting places I’ve been to in my entire life. As soon as you walk in, the bright and eccentric walls will have you mesmerized. The place is small, but it’s important to note that it didn’t feel like it was squishy. Every person at their own table was able to have their own space. I feel like it’s hard to make a small restaurant seem like it has extra room, so props to them!
The walls are covered with different art, decals, and pictures. The upstairs of the restaurant is pretty cool. On the wall there are some pictures of different Bollywood films. The music here is pretty great, always up to date and never dull. The place is popular; there’s no doubt about it. It’s rare that you’ll find this awesome place empty.
The restaurant is mostly made up of walk-ins; however, for those who wish to make a Badmaash reservation, the option is always open. If you come with a big group of people I would suggest calling in advance because the place is pretty small and very popular so you won’t always know if there will be enough room.
In terms of parking, you can usually find street parking and pay the meter. In case there is none, you’ll find plenty of nearby parking lots and valets.
I could’ve had the worst luck with the service and still have been 100% happy at the end. Thank g-d that was not my experience! I really felt that the staff was genuinely great.
I walked in and was immediately shown to my table. I got the feeling from them that they were there to make sure that everything about my experience was perfect, and that they would do anything they could to help. I loved that about them. The staff was informative in a great way. They were able to tell me about every single dish, how it was made, and what they suggested that I get. I’m not great at making decisions, so at the end of the day, I really felt like that contributed to my experience in a great way.
The waitress was fast and did her job well. She was able to be attentive to our table along with a few other ones and to make sure that everyone got the amount of assistance that they needed. She was attentive but not annoying, and took care of things quickly. I really loved that about Badmaash.
Not much to say about the chef because I didn’t actually meet him, but I feel like I know him from the tastes of his awesome food! This is one talented ‘badass’ chef if I ever heard of one.
The “Badass” Menu
The Badmaash menu is pretty unique and diverse. When creating the menu, the Mahendros decided to focus heavily on Indian-style cuisine, while still drawing on influences from Canadian, French, and Italian cultures. They are so interested in making Indian food “more approachable” that they tried to do everything they possibly could to come out with one of the most delicious and diverse menus anyone has ever seen.
Let’s break down the Badmaash menu, shall we?
Chickpeas & Chips (Papri Chaat) – masala chickpeas on soft flour chips with whipped yogurt, tamarind & mint chutney
Indian Pickles (Gharwalla achar) – homemade pickles of seasonal vegetables with Indian spices
Pink Lentil Soup – pink & yellow lentils with tempered mustard seeds, plum tomato, ginger cilantro & lime
Mixed Green Salad – local organic greens, pickled carrots & onion, tamarind vinaigrette, chickpea crisps
Masala Potato Fries – crisp fries toasted in house masala & Indian black salt – served with paprika and spiced mayo
Homemade Punjabi samosas
The Traditional – potatoes and peas cooked in masala of coriander, ginger & cilantro
Butter Chicken – tandoori tikkas in a tomato & fenugreek cream sauce & sautéed onion
(Samosas are an Indian favorite! These triangular soft-dough dishes can be stuffed and fried with anything. They are perfect to share, or enjoy as a meal with a side salad.)
Spiced Lamb Burger – all natural and free-range lamb butchered & ground in house daily, spiced with chilies, mint & cilantro – on Breadbar brioche – lettuce, onion, tomato & paprika meyo. Served with organic local greens in tamarind vinaigrette
Badmaash Fish & Chips – catfish in chickpea batter seasoned with carom seed, paprika and dried mango served with masala fries
Spiced Mango Pork Belly – slow cooked in it’s own aromatics & spices, seared to finish with spiced mango sauce
Dad’s Favorite Coconut Curry Mussels – madras style – coconut milk, curry with paprika, turmeric, plum tomatoes, onion & cilantro
Eggplant Dish No. 3 – eggplant steaks with tangy tomato & mustard seed sauce , with toasted sesame seeds
Quick Fire Lunch
Ghost Chili Lamb Vindaloo – smoky & spicy – slow braised lamb & potato in very spicy curry of ghost & other chilies
Chicken Tikka Masala – tandoori charred chicken, chopped onion, red and green peppers sautéed in a spicy tomato curry
Classic Butter Chicken – Indian classic; tandoori charred chicken finished in tomato & fenugreek cream curry
Punjabi style chickpeas – (channa masala) sautéed in house masala, topped with tamarind chutney, & pickled onion
Some of the Best Indian Dishes
Let me start off this section by saying that the food was well worth my years of searching for the perfect Indian place. Badmaash exceeded my expectations! Let’s get into what I had and why I loved it.
I decided to go with a friend because I knew I wanted to try a lot of dishes but couldn’t possibly finish them alone. We chose to order a bunch of things and share it all.
Starting off the meal was easy. We ordered the Chickpea & Chips, which has a perfect spicy yet refreshing taste with the yogurt sauce on top. Loved this dish!! It was seasoned perfectly with just about everything.
Our waitress recommended the samosas, so we knew we couldn’t refuse. The samosas were my favorite appetizer of the night. It was crunchy on the outside with a creamy butter chicken filling. It also came with a cilantro dipping sauce that I loved!
For a bigger dish, we decided to go with the butter chicken. It was out of this world! It’s kind of similar to the masala, but the chicken was more tender and the sauce had a great, sweet flavor.
We also ordered the spiced pork belly. It was crispy and full of perfectly textured fat, something that I really appreciate. In general I’m more of a chicken person so I wasn’t CRAZY about this dish, but it was presented beautifully and tasted really good.
My favorite dish of the night was the spiced lamb burger with masala fries. The chef cleans, grinds and seasons the lamb daily. Incredible combination of flavors and the aioli perfectly balanced the burger with just a touch of spice. I also had the masala fries, which are basically just delicious French fries seasoned with Indian spices.
Although it is a gastro pub and they have a nice variety of different alcohols to choose from, I chose to spend the night sober because I was the one driving. (Better safe than sorry!). Something that I did have that I thought was seriously cool was the soda that they import from India! I had a lemony drink that tasted like a Smirnoff ice. Loved every second of it! The drink went perfect with my meal. Before I left, I even bought one more drink to take home.
Badass to a Whole New Level
What can I say? This place is heaven on earth. It’s one of the chillest gastropubs I’ve ever been to in my life. This place is great for just about everyone. From the décor on the walls, to the food on your plate, Badmaash LA has really got it going on.
I find the creation of the Mahendros to be an inspiration. They are a perfect example of persistent individuals who saw something lacking, and instead of looking for it elsewhere, got up the strength to create it themselves and fill that void. If more people were like that, the world we live in would be a better place.
The location of the restaurant happens to be in a amazing place that’s really very central. Getting there is super easy by car, foot, or bus. Parking is almost always accessible, and there are so many different activities to do in downtown LA. Perfect location!
I’m not sure why, but for some reason Badmaash is the best kept secret in Los Angeles. If people knew what they were all about, there would be lines out the door and down the street. All I have to say is thank g-d they opened this place! Of all the Indian restaurants I’ve been too, this is among the tastiest I’ve ever had.
I have been waiting so long for a place like Badmaash to find its way into the downtown LA scene, and I’m so thrilled that they finally did. The people are amazing all around. When you walk in, the staff greet you with a smile and do everything they can to make sure that you feel at home. I LOVE THAT. When you eat there regularly and get to know everyone, you pretty much become family. Family is what started this special restaurant, and family is what keeps this place running so smoothly.
If you’re looking for a really special place with amazing Indian food, great prices, friendly people, and all around good vibes, than search no further! Badmaash is the place you need to be. Shout out to the badass Mahendros for creating such an awesome place!
Looking for more gastro pubs in the area to try? Check out Father’s Office, home of the gourmet burger!