Richard Foss

Fast and flavorful at Bollywood Zaika

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Surprisingly successful Indian fast food comes to Redondo Beach

Owners Addi DeCosta and Uri Radia at Bollywood Zaika, their new restaurant in Redondo Beach which offers an innovative, fast food take on Indian cuisine. Photo by Brad Jacobson

You can tell a cuisine has mainstreamed when someone comes up with a fast food version of it. Nowadays that means putting everything on a bun, in a burrito, or some other permutation that fits our love for portable and quickly served items.

Addi DeCosta has ideas about how to do this with Indian food, and that’s the basis of his new restaurant Bollywood Zaika. DeCosta is well-known locally for his elegant Addi’s Tandoor, which specializes in dishes from his native Goa that fuse Indian flavors with those of the Portuguese colonists. It somehow makes sense to fuse them again with the techniques of American popular culture.

The central idea here is simple: a variety of fish, chicken, and vegetarian curries are available, and you can have them on a bun, in a wrap, on a bowl over rice, or on a plate with sides. You’ll probably start by considering which of these straightforward options you’ll have, but before you do it’s a good idea to look at the section marked Small Plates. Two of the most interesting items are there: the vada-pav, described as a potato patty in a bun, and the samosa chaat.

The samosa chaat is a crisp vegetarian turnover that is smothered in a mix of garbanzo beans, a kind of fresh salsa of tomatoes and green herbs, a dollop of yoghurt, and a dusting of tiny crunchy noodles. This is my favorite item on the menu, a combination of fresh flavors with multiple textures that is warm and cool all at once. It is best eaten immediately so the samosa at the bottom isn’t mushy, but it’s good even after a little while.

The vada pav has a garbanzo flour crust around the potato filling, and is remarkably like a mild falafel stuffed with chunky potato. Some tangy chutneys add a dash of heat, and if that isn’t enough then there is a bit of wickedly hot and flavorful garlic and chili chutney on the side. It’s a nifty idea, though I might ask for mine without the bread next time because it’s a bit heavy on the carbs as a sandwich.   

There are other starters that I fully intend to experience someday, but I do need to address the main items here. The plate option is just what you’d expect, the curry of your choice along with a choice of sides: rice, mildly spiced lentil mix, or potatoes sautéed with cumin. On one visit a eggplant salad was also offered, and if it’s available when you’re there I’d recommend it highly. Some of the curries like the Bhuna chicken pack quite a kick, and that cool eggplant helped a lot with the heat.

The wraps here are a solid choice for those who like finger food, as the Indian chapatti is more durable than a flour tortilla and doesn’t fall apart when holding moist ingredients. You will want to have napkins handy to finish it because it can be messy unless you’re dexterous, so be warned. I wasn’t quite as enamored of the bun version here because the rolls are slightly crumbly and fell apart when challenged with moist curry, but it probably would have been fine with a drier item like the seasoned fried fish.

Chai tea, lassi yogurt drink, and the usual sodas are offered, as is one unusual one – the sweetish Indian cola drink called Thums Up. I tried one of these in a spirit of experimentation, and it’s actually pretty good.

The name Bollywood Zaika means flavor of Bollywood, and it’s a good one. India fused Western filmmaking techniques and their own stories to make a charismatic product, and  Addi daCosta wants to see if the same can be done with fast food.

Bollywood Zaika is at 633 North PCH in Redondo. Open Mo-Sa 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., parking lot, no alcohol served. Wheelchair access good, many vegan choices. Website at bollywoodzaika.com, phone 424-398-0066.

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