September 18, 2009
Taurat Tandoori – Los Angeles, CA - Bangladeshi goat on the cusp of Koreatown
I remember reading an article a few months back about how the Bangladeshi community on the northern edge of Koreatown has been claiming the area as Little Bangladesh, something that perplexed me because I was completely unaware of the sizeable population of immigrants in the area. After a meal at Taurat Tandoori, which was first written up by C. Thi Nyugen in the LA Times, I was convinced that Koreatown needed to cede area to this growing community of Bangladeshi residents, if only for their statement of compelling Bangladeshi fare on the corner of First St. and Vermont. Proprietors Muhammad and his wife Eliza are creating some of most remarkable and inexpensive ethnic fare in the city, featuring the oft-neglected goat as the main star.
Fellow eater Josh Lurie of FoodGPS and I stopped by for a late lunch, where the odd-ball dining room, once a flower shop, contained a dingy hodgepodge of chairs and tables, a mid-sized pool table tended to by teenagers, and remnants of its past life with floral displays on the ceiling. To the right, there's a number of dry goods such as whole spices and seasonings for sale at reasonable prices. As Nyugen notes in his piece, the sight of a steam table holding various foods is often a turn-off to a the curious foodie, but in this instance, it’s nothing to stray from. On the other hand, I recommend taking a look at the extensive menu and picking out some items to order a la carte. This way Eliza, a self-taught cook, deftly prepares dishes and brings them out fresh at your table.
Pappadums (shown above) are served with mango chutney and a cool herb sauce. The paper-thin, crunchy taco-shell-like crisps have a hint of garlic and salt in its flavor; they contrasted the sweet, cold chutneys quite well. We got our first dish of goat biriyani, a mouth-watering fried rice of various spices and tender chunks of goat meat. The meat tased like braised beef, but with a milder flavor and slight edge. Some might call this gamey but I prefer likening it something resembling a hint of grassy field, or a light hay. I’ve discovered that for foods like goat and horse (which I’ve recently tasted in Bali), I don’t taste an overwhelming attribute of gamey flavor, though my dining partners sense it. Perhaps all that hoppy beer I’ve drunk has wiped out that part of my palate. Either way, biriyani sports a mild heat from large green chilis (that aren’t meant to be eaten with the rice), making it addictive and comforting.
Muhammad tells us that he procures the goats from farms in Fresno, whereupon he does all the butchering in-house. No wonder the goat is of such wonderful and fresh quality.
Next up is the goat vindaloo. I’ve had some decent version of lamb vindaloo, which is a common preparation of Portuguese origins (via Goa, a former Portuguese colony in India) and is short for “carne de vinha d’alhos.” The sauce involves flavors of chilis, red wine (or red wine vinegar), garlic, and heavy spices. Our version was deep in hearty flavors, with a dark brown sauce and a fiery kick of chili. Paired with the near loaf-like naan, crispy and browned on the bottom while retaining air bubbles on the top, I found one of the best vindaloos I’ve ever tried. Fresh cilantro brought the flavors to life, as fresh herbs always do in this sort of stew.
My lunch ended here, but after a disappointing discovery that Birria Flor de Rios in East LA had closed early for the day, I convinced my dinner companions, Bill Esparza of Street Gourmet LA and Javier Cabral of Teenage Glutster to try Taurat Tandoori. Suffice it to say that Muhammad and his wife were surprised to see me just a few hours after my lunch!
We started our early dinner with the same pappadums, then progress to goat vindaloo (ordered again) and the goat halim. I’m honestly not sure what the halim consisted of, though traditional it involves cracked wheat (which thickens the stew), lentils, and citrus. Our version has the limes and a creamy curry-based sauce that’s dreamy and complex. Bill falls in love with the halim while I enjoy the vindaloo as much as the first time. Javier also orders some fried okra (since we all need our daily dose of vegetables). Instead of regular naan, Bill makes a request for garlic naan, which is smeared with buttery minced garlic and chopped parsley.
Muhammad brings us some deep fried eggplant with a sweet, tart sauce, which we find a starchy but satisfying accompaniment to our dishes. We also get some mango yogurt to wash down the flavors. The drink/dessert is cool, thick, and almost saccharine, while rich mango flavor pervades the yogurt.
Though the décor isn’t what one might consider anywhere near fancy, Taurat Tandoori serves up delicious Bangladeshi fare (especially goat!) at terrific prices.
101 S. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90004
Posted by mattatouille at 8:34 AM