Summer’s game-changing restaurant: Indian sports bar Pijja Palace

Have you enjoyed the hottest culinary sensation of summer? The sports bar serving Indian-American fare in the Silver Lake strip mall, where the legendary Happy Foot Sad Foot sign has been around for 30 years?

It’s a fun sentence to type, although the Pijja Palace is much more enjoyable to experience firsthand. Its intertwined influences and owner Avish Naran’s we-do-what-we-want reverence feels innate for the city, but also nothing else quite like it is in Los Angeles. .

Left: Chef Miles Shorey prepares a plate of frozen malai. Right: The stream usually starts early.

Left: Chef Miles Shorey prepares a plate of frozen malai. Right: The stream usually starts early.

(Wesley Lapointe / Los Angeles Times)

A waiter serves a family a plate of chilled malai at Pijja Palace.

Waitress Casey Gardner serves malai aromaatoni, one of the restaurant’s signature dishes.

(Wesley Lapointe / Los Angeles Times)

The restaurant is actually located in a space formerly owned by Sunset Foot Clinic, which moved in 2019. When Pijja Palace opens at 5pm, cars quickly fill up a few parking spaces in the area. the narrow land of the complex. The rest of us drove around, looking for what we could along Sunset Boulevard or on neighboring residential roads. Approaching the threshold, eyes began to follow the fast-paced images flashing inside: 13 TV screens mounted around the dining room playing whatever game was happening locally that night.

Otherwise, the decor will change any clichéd notions of a “sports bar”. Beige banquette, light wood, round back chairs in vaguely modern Midcentury style, small table in pink and green: It gives the atmosphere of a business class lounge in a Scandinavian airport. Noisy, it contrasts with the pre-departure mellow: Cement floors make up the small space, which is always packed at 6 p.m., including dozens of unpreserved seats along the bar to the front. following – a variety of voices and consumption.

All of these competing factors make the brain happy and set the mood for the evening ahead.

The 12 seats at Pijja Palace's bar haven't been reserved yet, but they fill up quickly.

The 12 seats at Pijja Palace’s bar haven’t been reserved yet, but they fill up quickly.

(Wesley Lapointe / Los Angeles Times)

On most tables you find at least one bottle of sour whiskey, sparkling with warm spices and almost too easy to swallow. Cocktails are lightly sweet and fruity: rum with tropical aromas of guava, pineapple and coconut; a distant cousin of the martini with mango honey and apricot liqueur. I chose the driest option in the house: vodka from the Indian brand Smoke Lab flavored with lemon and holy basil and mixed with Dolin Blanc and seltzer. Among a tempting list of creamy chocolates and other non-alcoholic beverages, look for ones made with tamarind, lemon, and Rooh Afza, a concentrated fruit syrup with rose and citrus flavors. Concocted as a summer refreshing drink in Delhi in 1907.

This is technically a sports bar, with over a dozen beers in draft, check out the familiar IPA boxes, lager and stout. Cooking does not follow any such convention. For a menu of mostly wings, pasta and pizzas recreated with broad Indian flavors, Naran and chef Miles Shorey created their own cohesive logic.

Crush onion rings in lentil paste and drizzle with mango chutney, or thin-skinned okra topped with chili powder, while finishing your first drink. The sliders are made two to one order under the bun that can be pulled apart to where it is still attached. Choose between a flat lamb kebab or a crispy, mouth-watering aloo tikki; imagine a spiced potato filling for a samosa shaped into a small piece of cake. Both will be crowned with an onion salad and a thin white slice of Amul, India’s answer to American cheese.

Blue wings at Pijja Palace.

The green wings are clad in a chutney of cilantro, mint and chives.

(Wesley Lapointe / Los Angeles Times)

The wings are color-coded: bright “red” with chili peppers and seasoned with three harmonious flavors of garlic, ginger and garam masala; saffron dyed “yellow” with honey and a blend of horseradish and spicy mustard can increase volume; and my favorite, the “green” in the cilantro-mint-chive chutney. The fresh, bright flavors of the herbs contrast with the uniform charcoal surrounding the chicken. A vegetarian dish of sweet and spicy cauliflower fried into crispy cubes reminiscent of Manchurian gobi, a popular dish when Indochinese cuisine, still popular in India, was at its most popular in America in the early years. 2000.

By the time malai dictatoni lands, you’ve reached the heart of the food labyrinth of Pijja Palace. A boiled mixture of tomato gently masala and cream softens pasta; The reed twigs of coriander seeds cut through all the layers as smooth as velvet.

This is a prime example of Naran’s mind at work and play. He studied both restaurant management and cooking in a professional setting, including briefly working at some of the Bay Area’s popular Indian restaurants, before breaking as many rules as he could.

Have you ever eaten ketchup vodka on an Italian American menu? Have you ever ordered butter chicken at a northern Indian restaurant? Then malai carvedatoni will come easily, innately meaningful, even if the spacious sports bar scene in which it is presented feels quirky and thrilling.

Some pasta dishes have obvious magnetic appeal. The sweet saffron and musk of the Indian long pepper, a dish that looks like Kraft shells and cheese. The short, styrofoam tubes are meant to resemble the shape of rickshaws – they’re so cute – they smell like coriander – mint and scattered cashew nut flakes add a prized crunch.

Left: People dining in a restaurant with a TV screen showing the evening. Right: A plate of malai aromaatoni.

Left: The TV screen showing the night match is always displayed at the Pijja Palace. Right: A plate of malai aromaatoni.

(Wesley Lapointe / Los Angeles Times)

Refrigerated malai, chaas dumplings, shredded salad, green wings and fries.

Pijja Palace dishes include chilled malai, chaas dumplings, shredded salad, green wings and okra fries.

(Wesley Lapointe / Los Angeles Times)

But the inconspicuous sleeper hit? It’s chaas dumplings. If I’m sharing, I admit that I only ate one of the dough balls, which are lightly sweetened with yogurt in the recipe. But underneath the dumplings there is a soft textured dal, made high with chhonk (also called takda, a technique of frying spices in buttermilk or oil and pouring them over the dish as a final layer of flavor) mixed with dill spoon. Its excellence is a reminder: In a city where one can find countless concrete expressions of global cuisine – Mexican, Korean, Japanese and Chinese at the forefront – we there are very few special Indian restaurants. The individualism of Pijja Palace is welcomed on many levels.

As for the eponymous pies, Naran and Shorey do their best to stay away from the label, but I’ll narrow down the inspiration for East Coast bar or bistro pizza: thin, chewy, crunchy crust with lots of flavor. sauce and cheese. its blackened edges. The concept of “Indian pizza” is not new, in India as well as in the states. I recall encountering variations on the theme in the Bay Area while working at the San Francisco Chronicle 15 years ago. But this couple creates space even in the middle of a golden pizza moment in LA

No need to go crazy with your own self-constructed combinations. A relatively mild vindaloo sauce topped with chicken tikka and tandoori onions? Trust me, a lot. For good reason, the restaurant sells many of its custom “green chili sauce pijjas”: a tomato pie, its sauce made from dried fenugreek leaves, served with some green chili sauce. toppings. Pizzas are generally very rich, and the best green chutney pijja is to bring balance to the acidity.

Make your own pijja with vindaloo peri peri, chicken tikka and tandoori onions.

Make your own pijja with vindaloo peri peri, chicken tikka and tandoori onions.

(Wesley Lapointe / Los Angeles Times)

A full dining room and dinner bar at Pijja Palace.

Dining room and bar usually fill up by 6pm

(Wesley Lapointe / Los Angeles Times)

Around this time, often feeling very full, I look up from my meal and appreciate not only the space but also the people, staff and customers.

The patient souls that keep the nearly 4 month old, busy from Day One running smoothly are as wonderfully special as the place itself. One wears a handset to ring orders on his wrist “like an Apple watch”, they quipped. I watched a bartender disappear into a Kygo ecstatic remix of “What’s Love Got to Do With It” while pouring a Guinness record and rocking a classic at the same time.

Angelenos can sometimes exist in a homogenous series of bubbles, and it’s fun to be in a space that’s frequented by customers of all types. I’m not just talking about racial origins but also chosen tribes: sports enthusiasts along with fashionistas and foodies, excited about a place that offers adventurous choices. more dangerous and successful.

Chef Miles Shorey coats soft bottle powder with chocolate powder.

Chef Miles Shorey coats soft bottle powder with chocolate powder.

(Wesley Lapointe / Los Angeles Times)

Any restaurant that is immediately in disarray like this one is going to have some aspect of growth – the restaurant can certainly be mushy at times – and it needs time to settle back into what it will become. Fort. The kitchen recently started making square pies for takeout and delivery. They don’t darken like a strict Detroit-style cake and aren’t nearly as breathable as a Sicilian variant. If Naran and Shorey revealed that they used a Pizza Hut pan pizza as the template for their square pie, it wouldn’t surprise me.

I think about how the cold and even slightly wild Pijja Palace appeared at first passing, and how it eventually transformed as a reminder that restaurants don’t have to take the safe route. even in turbulent times. Then I flashed on its logo. It’s a slice of anthropomorphized pizza, dripping cheese, sports sunglasses and tongue-in-cheek sticking out. Its shape isn’t entirely different from the emotional illustrations on the complex’s Sunset Foot Clinic sign, now covered by a brown tarp.

Couldn’t that be a coincidence? In any case, the slice of pizza made me happy, certainly not sad.

Palace of Pijja

2711 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles,

Price: Appetizer $7-$14, wings $13, pasta $17-$22, pizza $13-$26, soft serve $8.

Details: Open 5-9:30 p.m. Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday; 5-10:30 pm Friday and Saturday. Full bar. Car parking, street frontage.

Recommended dishes: Onion rings, green wings, lamb kebab sliders, chaas dumplings, green chutney pijja. Summer’s game-changing restaurant: Indian sports bar Pijja Palace

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