Review: Radhika Modern Indian Bistro (South Pasadena)

I have been a customer of Radhika’s for years. I may or may not have first patronized them at their original home in Alhambra, but my memory fails me and it wasn’t until their move to Shopper’s Lane in Pasadena that my family and I became frequent faces in their dining room. They started off very strong, and it was a treat to go there. However, for whatever reason, they slipped into mediocrity and we did not patronize their establishment as much in the last two or so years of their time in Shopper’s Lane. Suddenly, they were gone. I was saddened, as I had once been proud to call them my favorite Indian restaurant.

Then, four-ish years later, I see a sign…not three miles from my home that Radhika’s is coming soon to South Pasadena. It was like the clouds parted, a ray of light shone down and a choir of angels had burst into song. That may or may not be an exaggeration. Radhika’s was not only coming back, but it had moved closer to me. If this doesn’t prove that there really is Something Out There then I don’t know what does.


Radhika Modern Indian Cuisine
Waiting for my food, watching the world go by


Radhika’s has been enjoying its success for just a shade under a year. I’m sending good thoughts to them because the previous occupants of the corner space they now occupy all went under – some in under a year or two. The first time we visited Radhika was a little rough around the edges, but we knowingly visited during their soft opening around Mother’s Day (2010). It held a lot of promise that was plentifully delivered in the following four visits and one take-out.


Chana Samosa
Chana Samosa


None of the food has been a disappointment (not even take-out!) and my recommendations are:

- Chana Samosa (big, hot potato, spice and pea filled turnovers with mint chutney and tamarind sauce)
- Chicken Tikka Masala (Whether it has origins in traditional Indian fare or is completely Anglicized is debatable)
- Garlic Naan
- Okra Stir Fry
- Lentils (suggested by my mother)
- Tikka Masala Paneer (suggested by my mother)

As I have a sensitivity to rice, I don’t order it any longer BUT when I bring home take-out I prepare quinoa to help me mop up the wonderful aromatic, flavorful masala sauce. Usually my mom and I split an order of samosa, chicken and a vegetable dish. We sometimes cheat with Trader Joe’s garlic naan (but I’d do that with any Indian restaurant, not specifically Radhika’s).

You know what I love best about the new location? No buffet. I hate those things. Reviews on Indian restaurants were so difficult to accurately gauge because people would always be rating the buffet, which I don’t touch with a ten foot pole. There is nothing wrong with buffets in general, but I want a fresh cooked meal when I go to an Indian restaurant, not something that’s been sitting in gloop for umpteen hours under a heat lamp.


Chicken Tikka Masala
Chicken Tikka Masala



The location itself has some downsides, the major of which is how Radhika utilizes its smaller dining area. I am not fond of seating they currently have as my chair is constantly getting bumped into if I am not sitting against a window. This is a common complaint, and I wish that instead of a hip wine lounge they had instead expanded the dining area. Still worth the food, but I don’t recommend bringing your small children that will require strollers, booster seats, high chairs, etc.

Now, a word of warning: this is not 100% traditional Indian food. The name says it all: Modern. Indian. Bistro. I prefer that Indian (or any ethnic cuisine) restaurants are honest when something isn’t traditional because there are so many opinionated food enthusiasts out there who would love to tell the internet/world just how un-traditional a restaurant is because some of their dishes veer away from what they conceive to be traditional fare. Now, whether their judgment is valid or not is debatable but irrelevant, the point is I don’t mind that Radhika doesn’t stick with grandma’s recipes. Daring to be different is okay when you have a top chef in the kitchen!


Garlic Naan
Garlic Naan


Highlights:

- Friendly, attentive staff
- Quality food
- Great location (across the street from the Metro Light Rail Gold Line Mission Station)
- Take-out and delivery service
- Weekend champagne brunch
- Extensive wine list
- Happy Hour at the adjacent lounge, Radha Room
- Lunch specials before 3:00pm

I’m crossing my fingers that the food stays on top of its game and the curse of the corner spot doesn’t hit Radhika’s as it hit its predecessors. The universe hath sent me a decent Indian restaurant within my quasi-neighborhood and by golly I intend to pay homage (now hand me that samosa).


Radhika Modern Indian Bistro
966 Mission Street
South Pasadena, CA
(626) 799-2200
website

Radhika Modern Indian on Urbanspoon

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