Still Going Strong in Hollywood

7166 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood.

Indian food in Los Angeles continues to be popular with a certain crowd, but unfortunately compared to London the quality and selection lags way behind. The only real gauge you can have is longevity, and I was shocked to find out just how many that I knew quite well had closed in the time I returned to the UK to live, For example where did my old hangouts like the Bengal Tiger and Akbar go, and what about Gypsy’s in Santa Monica? At least Gaylord’s is still going strong on La Cienega and places like Nizam in Westwood are still doing good business.

Mumtaz in Hollywood has been around for thirteen years, which is a real good sign under the patronage of owner/chef Muhammed Rahmann, a fellow I knew from the India Inn on Cahuenga in Hollywood, and a native of Bangla Desh. Mumtaz won the LA Weekly award in 1992 for the best Indian restaurant in the city, and now a concerted effort is underway to reclaim the crown. They have been added to the prestigious Zagat Survey, and after two years as a 2 star restaurant from the California Restaurant Association, Mumtaz has now been upgraded to a 3 star restaurant. Despite this the format and menu has changed very little over the years, and the prices have only marginally increased, and no major tinkering with the food is expected. Rogan Josh is not on the menu but can be ordered if required, and the temptation to turn Mumtaz into the “Hollywood Balti House” has also been resisted by Muhammed.

The décor unfortunately is still stuck in the sixties with the heavy dark colors and low lighting, although I did like the brightly colored chandeliers. The music is pretty good however, not just the standard raga classical music, creating a nice atmosphere for the tasty and demanding food to follow. It is important to point out that the food at Mumtaz can be ordered from the very mild right up to blazing hot. We ordered everything medium, and were pleasantly surprised to find it more on the hot side than mild. In addition nothing is pre-cooked at Mumtaz. I did have to take some of the food home in a doggie bag because the portions are on the generous side, and discovered the quality to be just as good the next day, always a good sign. That kind of goes along with their motto, which is, “If you like it today, you will like it tomorrow!” Another good omen-although the restaurant was only partly full on a quiet Tuesday night; one of the tables was full of Englishmen from Essex enjoying a good blowout.

Appetizers are very good here with the tried and true Onion Payolas ($1.95) to go great with the very fresh tasting Garlic Nan ($2). In fact all the breads are outstanding .The Curried Mussels ($5.50) were a new experience for me, steamed and coming in a thick garlic sauce that also included basil, white cream and soy sauce. Even better was the King Prawn Butterfly ($5.50), a Jumbo shrimp stuffed generously with herbs and spices and deep-fried.

For the main courses we tried a selection highlighted by the Kashmiri Tandoori Chicken ($25 for two), a whole chicken marinated and stuffed with minced lamb and herbs and cooked in it’s own special sauce. Of course we also went for the always good Chicken Tikka Massala ($7.95), and a lighter tasting Green Coconut Beef (7.95), flavored with coconut milk and cilantro. For the two vegetable dishes we tried the Brinjal Bharta ($5.50), lightly spiced fresh roasted eggplants, and another old favorite, Sag Aloo ($4.50), potatoes with spinach and fresh ground spices.

All dinners that cost around the $11.95 mark include the main course along with Soup, Rice, ½ Naan and Rice Pudding. Some of the other specialties of the house include King Prawn Massala dinner ($25.95 for two), and the Kurzi Lamb feast for six people ($80). This gourmet delight is a whole leg of lamb marinated in various garam Massala sauces and cooked Muglai style. A 24-hour notice and deposit is required. There are plenty of vindaloo dishes to choose from, and these are reputed to be as hot as expected as well as biryani’s and all the expected imported beers and lassi drinks.

Another plus for Mumtaz is the free delivery service that covers a generous portion of Los Angeles, Hollywood and West Hollywood. The lunch specials at $4.95 are a good chance to check out the food. I will certainly return for dinner in the very near future to maybe check out the Kurzi Lamb feast.

Mike Hepworth, July, 2000

Tel: 213-933-2945
Parking: Easy on street
Hours: Lunch 11:30-2:30, dinner 5:30-10:30, Saturday and Sunday all day.

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