Pasadena's 5 Best Indian Restaurants

Pasadena is no longer the franchise food wasteland it is so commonly reputed to be. In fact, it has grown to be an unofficial capital for Indian food, with five Indian restaurants located within a mile-and-a-half radius. And that's not even including the two Tibetan restaurants that serve Indian-style dishes located within the same parameter as well. Here are those five Indian restaurants, in all their spicy and aromatic glory.

New Delhi Palace
Indian buffets are a starving student's best friend. Eat enough naan and tandoori chicken (saag paneer if you're vegetarian) at any Indian buffet and you'll have enough fuel to study until way past dinner time, guaranteed. Luckily for the students of Pasadena City College and Caltech, New Delhi Palace serves up the one of the best Indian buffets in Pasadena and is walking distance to both schools. It's rounded out with made-to-order fluffy garlic naan and always-crispy veggie pakoras fried in a highly addicting seasoned chickpea flour batter. All this, for less than $10. On Wednesdays, there is tender lamb curry. You can get a buzz going during their weekend champagne brunch for a couple of extra dollars too.

Sitar Indian Cuisine
Sitar has been saving late lunchers since 2004, offering their generous lunch buffet offerings until 4:30 p.m. daily, a much later cut-off time than other Indian buffets in town. Expect a creamy spinach saag made with tofu instead of paneer cheese and a sweet and savory tender mango chicken curry, plus all the saffron flavored basmati rice you can sop these two up with. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't order off their a la carte menu though, unless you want to miss out on things like prawn biryani and a coconut mushroom curry. Extra frugal diners can find a 10% off coupon if you look it up online beforehand.

All India Cafe
All India Cafe offers some of the slightly harder to find Indian dishes from the South, like masala dosa, a crispy crepe made from fermented rice and lentil flour and stuffed with spiced potatoes, lentils, and coconut chutney. Not to mention some harder to find street food, like a lamb frankie, India's answer to a burrito with a handmade chewy flour tortilla stuffed with lamb masala, two chutneys, and marinated onions. Other complex street foods you can find are bhel puri, a mix of crispy puffed rice, potatoes. and crispy chickpea flour noodles dressed with tart lime juice and sweet tamarind chutney. Vegans will be ecstatic to learn that All India Cafe caters especially to them, eschewing traditional meat and cream heavy popular favorites like chicken tikka masala and doing a "Tofu Tikka Masala" instead, made with coconut milk.

Akbar
If you're craving Indian food but also wanting to impress a hot date, Akbar is your main spot. The lighting is dim and the highly seasoned "exotic" food is definitely tantalizing enough to impress anyone, even a native. Plus, it's smack dab in the middle of Old Town, which encourages a drink down the street. Just make sure your date doesn't stare off at the busy chefs in the open kitchen sticking metal rods of assorted meats in the tandoori oven instead of you. Akbar takes a more American approach to their plating, offering an entree served with rice and vegetables on the same plate as opposed to the family style that is the norm at most Indian restaurants. The tender "Coco Lamb" is a customer favorite, as is the bengan ka salan, a dish that takes a couple of slabs of properly sautéed eggplant and drowns it in a thick savory gravy made from coconut cream, cashew paste, and tart tamarind pulp. If you still have room for dessert, their mango cheesecake is supposed to be amazing.

Mezbaan
Mezbaan is known for not only their authentic preparations of the usual Indian cuisine suspects but for also featuring some rare Hyderabadi classics, dishes that reflect the Turkish and Arabic influences of the Andhra Pradesh region, made popular in the 1500s. Step back in time with dishes like lamb pasanda, boneless lamb marinated in yogurt, coconut, almonds, peanut,s and 14 other spices, or bagaray baingan, an Asian eggplant filled with a sesame seed thickened curry sauce. If feeling a little more baller, there is a wok-seared lobster karahi curry too. This place is a true Old Town Pasadena gem.

New Delhi Palace
950 E Colorado Blvd. #205, Pasadena, CA 91106

Sitar Indian Cuisine
618 E Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91101

All India Cafe
39 S Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, CA 91105

Akbar
44 N Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, CA 91103

Mezbaan
80 N Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, CA 91103


About the Author

Javier Cabral is a food culture and punk rock reporter born and raised in East Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley.
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