Monday, April 25, 2005

Taste test: Agra

Since I got a $40 certificate for Agra in Silver Lake at an auction for $20, I was eager to try the newish Indian place tucked deep in a corner of what is known among the locals as Crackhead Minimall. Appropriately for L.A., Crackhead minimall is a veritable international foodcourt, between Saito Sushi, the excellent new Thai restaurant Nadbob and now Agra.
The setting: While Agra is crowded on Fridays and Saturdays, it was nearly deserted Sunday evening, perhaps because of Passover. The room is moderately sized with spare but tasteful decorations and pleasant, only slightly overzealous service.
The food: Agra offers a selection of Balti dishes, a type of Pakistani dish that originated in Birmingham, England. Apparently much beloved by the British, Balti dishes are stews of various vegtables and meats cooked in a small wok-type dish, which don't really differ much from other curries.
We had the mixed Balti with mushrooms, lamb and chicken; the shrimp vindaloo; sag paneer and chicken tikka masala. Garlic naan, rice, chutney and raita rounded out the order. The mixed Balti was quite nice, in a rich and complex brown gravy.

The chicken tikka masala was also a winner, with a thick red curry sauce and tender chicken. The sag paneer, however, was not among the finer renditions I've had -- the spinach wasn't particularly creamy, and there were very few pieces of paneer cheese. Even though I don't go to Tantra often, it's really good there. Although the shrimp vindaloo was quite spicy, the sauce was one-dimensional. Agra seems to have more seafood selections than most Indian restaurants, so it might be interesting to try one of the grilled or tandoor fish dishes.
The verdict: Agra is a worthy alternative to Electric Lotus and Tantra. We asked for everything medium spicy, and all the dishes had a good kick. Next time it might be better to vary the dishes between mild, medium and spicy. Prices seem a touch high for the portion size -- four dishes were just barely enough for four people, since we didn't have appetizers or dessert. Our total for four people before tax and tip was $60 and we brought our own beers, since they don't have a license.
Agra Cafe
4325 Sunset Blvd.
Silver Lake