Sambar: Indian Food with a California Flair

The first Indian dish Akasha Richmond, owner and chef at Akasha in Culver City, ever tried was Sambar, a lentil-based vegetable stew with tamarind, spices, onions and toor dal, popular in South Indian and Sri Lankan Tamil cuisines. The dish stuck with her and her love for Indian food developed over the years as this self-taught chef worked as a personal chef for Michael Jackson and other celebrities and opened Akasha seven years ago. So, when she opened her newest restaurant in Culver City, it was only natural to call it Sambar.


The space is open, modern and bright with white walls and a multi-color glass light fixture hanging in the center, adding lots of color. The open kitchen, which has a counter for patrons in front of it, has a large wood-fire burning oven.


Indian food can be thought of a heavy but Sambar offers fresh, healthy dishes that are full of flavor and will satisfy a wide range of palates. Like Akasha next door, the menu is based on fresh, seasonal ingredients and focuses on purchasing from sustainable companies. The menu offers a variety of dishes and flavors from throughout India but has modernized the dishes by adding a seasonal California flair.

While looking over the menu which offers Salads, Breads, Kati Rolls (a Kotkata street food), Thali Plates (a sampler plate), Vegetables, New Wave Masala (familiar dishes with an Indian slant) and Dal, Rice & Raita, start with a few items from the Street Food and Snacks section.

Sevpuri Chaat – These bite size snacks are made with teff puris, green mango, avocado, red onion, pomegranate-mint chutney, tamarind chutney and sev. There are six in an order and great to share but I loved them so much, I would have eaten them all.

Sevpuri Chaat

Quinoa Pancake (uttapam) & Sambar – Put the sambar on the pancake and then top with red onion & tomato chutney, hempseed chutney and sesame gunpowder, depending on how spicy you want it.

Quinoa Pancake (uttapam) and Sambar

Kati Rolls are made with an egg-washed paratha (gluten free option is available as well), chaat masala, pickled red onion, chutney, chile-lime slaw & gunpowder potatoes. There are vegetarian, chicken and pork versions available

Pork Shoulder Vindalook Kati (malabar hot sauce, mango chutney)

Pork Shoulder Vindaloo Kati

Thali Plates come with basmati rice, pappadum, paratha (gluten free option is available), chutney, raita, dal or sambar. This plate is a full meal for one person or great to share with friends.

The Yogi (punjabi mama greens, zucchini kofta with cashew, tomato & saffron sauce)

The Yogi Thali Plate

With all of the flavors and spices, a glass of wine, beer or a cocktail is a perfect compliment. Mixologist Clare Ward has created a great selection of both non-alchoholic and alcoholic drinks.

Mixologist Clare Ward

The non-alcoholic drinks are all house-made and the Chai-Cherry Lime Ricky and the Tamarind Cooler are both refreshing choices that will also help soothe the heat from the spices.

Chai-Cherry Lime Rickey Tamarind Cooler

The cocktails are classified as Spice Trade, Punches and Inspired Classics.

The Sacred Cow (Sloane’s Gin, yogurt and apricot liqueur, lemon, honey, egg white, saffron bitters, pistachio crumble) is not only delicious, smooth and both savory and sweet, but it is just sweet and creamy enough to be perfect with the spicy chutney.

Sacred Cow

The Maharaja (Rye, Kummel Combier, carrot syrup, beet shrub, lemon juice) is aromatic and has depth of flavors.

The Majaraja

Malabar Coast (Old Monk Rum, banana liqueur, pineapple, coconut waters, jaggery, lime, sambar bitters) is a tart punch with tropical flavors and a refreshing note.

Malabar Coast

Sambar is a flavorful and fun experience. But, don’t just take my word for it. As I looked around, I noticed that at least half of my fellow diners were Indian. I would say that this is a very good sign about the quality and integrity of the dishes and flavors of Sambar.

9531 Culver Blvd. Culver City, CA 90232