Location: 115 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 829-7200
Date: May 14 & 31, 2018
Rating: Casual modern Indian
So “interesting” that a modernized craft Indian opened nearby, as that’s a tough sell — even though I love Indian food, it seems that only cheap “buffet driven” Indian places survive, and not in this kind of high rent area.
Avocado Bhel Puri. Farmer’s market citrus, rice puff, Indian vermicelli, mint tamarind chili, garlic chutney. This was very tasty, nice textures, although a little carby for me and missing a protein. The avocado helped.
Afghani Seekh Kabob Frankie. Ground lamb, fennel-star anise-ginger rub, tomatillo chutney. This is sort of a contained “plate” with the very mustardy/Indian salad, a touch of raita (yogurt) and what amounts to an Indian burrito or wrap. The lamb was good and the flavors inside, particularly with the raita. I don’t love the wrap format. I hate wraps and consider them a cheapo American sandwich with horrible tortilla instead of bread.
Butter Chicken Tiffin (“full” plate). Boneless leg meat, butter tomato curry, aged safrani basmati rice, dal bhukara, papadum, house salad, achaar. Butter chicken, a close cousin of Chicken Tikka Masala and rice were quite good. But I’ve always hated these Indian “meals” with the tiny little baby metallic containers because you get very little curry. I don’t eat Dal, as it destroys my GI, and the weird fibrous pickles are a favorite of no one who didn’t grow up in India.
And the actual curry.
In the lower right are the pickles (the second time I ordered there was an anemic single chunk). These taste weird and medicinal, although that’s typical of this kind of pickles, but still not welcome. Not sure what you do with them as they are so fibrous you can barely eat them.
The salad has nice greens and a very black mustardy/cumin dusty dry kind of Indian flavored dressing. I liked it, but probably not to most people’s tastes.
Overall, I like the cooking at Tumbi and the flavors, but I don’t like the menu at all. A couple beefs (or lack thereof):
- There is NO meat (or fish) on the appetizers, and they are kinda expensive to supplement the mains. The supposed minced lamb on the menu actually has no lamb in it — they have told me twice it’s a miss print!
- The “mains” are in the form of 3 form factors: frankie, uttapam, and tiffin. All have a bunch of accompaniments I often don’t want. I don’t really like any of the form factors. I’d much prefer to order decent sized portions of actual dishes/curries. They could easily have both on the menu. I’ll ask them next time if I can, but I bet they refuse. All the form factors have the same basic ingredients and they work passably for lunch for one but would be terrible for multiple people eating as they don’t really share. The actual substance of the tiffin is miniscule.