When Samosa House recently opened at Plaza El Segundo in the space that used to be The Counter, I was amused.
Hard to think of two more diametrically opposed concepts, a shrine to humongous burgers gives way to vegan/vegetarian Indian food. But the community seems to have embraced the change, as lunch was a busy hum when I visited on a weekday afternoon.
Vibha Bhojak’s family owns and operates all five of the Samosa House restaurants. The first one, Samosa House West in Culver City, opened in 1979. Bhojak’s aunt ran it as an Indian grocery with a sideline of takeout samosas. When a tiny food article appeared in the LA Times mentioning that John Travolta enjoyed those samosas, the next day a line formed around the block. The family decided it was time to expand.
El Segundo is their newest location. Bhojak had been looking in the area for a while, and with its close proximity to Yoga Works and the Veggie Grill, she thought the location was a perfect fit. The exterior hasn’t changed much, but inside a beautiful mural of Krishna and some Indian maidens over simmering chafers of Indian delights heralds something new.
Customers order at the counter cafeteria style. If you want to try a variety of dishes, a combination plate is a good choice—three items plus rice, naan and yogurt for $10.99
The most popular is the veggie ‘chicken;’ the chicken substitute is made from gluten, in house, and served in a buttery curry. The rest of the menu, other than the naan, a round flatbread perfect for tearing and scooping, is gluten free.
Jackfruit is native to southern Indian cooking. It can achieve a meat-like texture, and has a mildly sweet flavor that accommodates all sorts of preparations. At Samosa House they marinate it several hours and then cook it in coconut milk, Indian spices and a bit of cashew.
Other choices include a smoked cauliflower and a saag: a curry of spinach, mustard greens, broccoli and cabbage.
There are other made-to-order options. I liked the Masala dosa. It’s a crispy, crepe-like pancake made with lentils and rice flour rolled around a filling of mildly spiced potato and onion. The length and diameter of a baguette, it’s fun to eat; served with two chutneys, a sweet coconut and tangy tomato.
My favorite dish may have been the lentil soup. Indian chilies, turmeric, curry leaves coriander and cumin are roasted and ground to add depths of flavor to the soup of vegetables, lentils and ginger.
Drinks include a cooling mango lassi—a shake made with mango and yogurt and a hint of cardamom. They also make a soy version, and rose milk—or beer, if you prefer.
As for the namesake samosas, they are large and lovely, traditional style pastries filled with potatoes and peas and all those warm Indian spices, mango, tumeric, fennel and coriander, fried and served with tamarind and mint chutney. They’ve tried adding different samosas, paneer or other flavors, but customers seem to prefer the original. Just ask John Travolta.
Samosa House is located at 700 S. Allied Way, Suite A in El Segundo. They are open seven days a week 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Manhattan Beach resident Eileen Shields is a regular restaurant profiler for The Beach Reporter. Aside from discovering fabulous beach city eats, she spends time traveling and writing fiction. Links to her work can be found at eileenshieldswriter.com.