Sep 13, 2010

One of the heaping lunch plates, in this case a lamb curry

The corner of Mission and Meridian in South Pasadena may seem ideal for a restaurant, given the Gold Line station, the abundance of popular cafés and boutiques, and the increasing street life, but this spot has seen several failures. Radhika seems to be the tenant that will stick.

A new incarnation of the restaurant that long filled the Shoppers Lane space where the Counter is now, Radhika calls itself a “modern Indian bistro.” And while that might sound gimmicky, it’s actually quite accurate. Although we miss the brick walls of the previous tenants, the interior is small and cozy, done in deep, rich colors. Service is attentive and kind. There’s a good list of wines and beers, as befits all proper bistros. And as for “modern,” well, the menu has Indian tacos. Ah, what Kogi hath wrought!

But while Indian tacos might be an attempt to jump on the LA. trendwagon, they really are good: warm corn tortillas filled with tandoor-style chicken, pickled onions and Indian seasonings. You’ll also find delicious baby-back ribs, which aren’t exactly an Indian staple. As for the classics, they are mostly well above average: stews (chicken tikka masala, lamb curry) with rich, complex flavors; saag paneer (a spinach and cheese dish) with the lightness and flavor of a good soufflé; delicate, fluffy saffron rice; and perfect garlic naan. Only the side vegetables, which seem a generic afterthought, disappoint.

The lunch menu has only a half-dozen or so choices, each a very hearty meal for the money, but if you want something off the regular menu (like the tacos), just ask for it. And note that lunch on the weekends comes with a complimentary glass of champagne (or another drink for those who don’t tipple).

South Pas already had more good restaurants per capita than most small towns, and now it’s upped the ante even further with  this fine Indian bistro.

966 Mission St., South Pasadena, 626.799.2200, L & D daily. Beer & wine. AE, MC, V. $$



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