One of my favorite things about Los Angeles’ burger scene is their ability to take traditional elements of any cuisine and create a gorgeous hybrid burger. And I don’t mean sprinkle a little spice into an aioli and call it a day. I mean taking one of America’s beloved foods, breaking it into parts, and rebuilding it from the bun up. The new Indian gastro pub, Badmaash (which means a person who is naughty or notorious in Hindi), has thrown its lamb burger into the ring and it’s a winner.
Located near City Hall in downtown Los Angeles on 2nd and Main, you can smell Badmaash before you can see it. As you walk down 2nd street, curried spices and sautéed onions beckon you into the restaurant. It’s a tiny space that is awash in color. Bold stripes festoon the walls and the kitchen is so close you can hear the chefs yelling to one another. As soon as you sit down and glance at the menu, you know you’re going to have a good time. Traditional Indian favorites with cheeky names line the bottom like Good Ol’ Saag Paneer and Ghost Chili Lamb Vindaloo. The more exciting pubby food is closer to the top with amazing creations like Chili Cheese Naan, Chicken Tikka Poutine, and samosas stuffed with short ribs, pineapple and cilantro.
The only item on the menu that is circled is the Spiced Lamb Burger. When a burger gets its own little section it’s usually a very good sign. It’s listed thusly “ground and spiced in house-with spiced mayo, onion, lettuce, tomato on a brioche bun.” However, when the burger was brought to the table, I quickly realized that the menu has done it a dreadful disservice. It was like having your friend describe their car as blue and then finding out it’s a Shelby Cobra. There were definitely details left out. Like the beautiful tomato chutney on the side or the cilantro that gave it an extra punch. The patty was delicately spiced but not so much so that you lost the earthiness of the lamb and was accompanied with a creamy curried aioli and the tomatoes were so red and ripe and luscious, they looked like they had just come out of the ground.
Was I disappointed it came on a brioche bun and not naan? A little, but I understood why that decision had been made as soon as I picked it up. Juice ran from every crevice of that thing. Even on a traditional bun, that thing was impossible to put down and extremely hard to wield. I could imagine that placing that sucker between two pieces of floppy naan would be disastrous. As for fries, I played it safe and got the masala fries not the Chicken Tikka poutine. Epic mistake. The masala fries were not very exciting at all. They somehow managed to be both over spiced and under salted, which is odd. It was really strange that a place that had gotten all of the elements so right for something as complex as a burger, just failed at something as simple as French fries. BUT maybe their poutine is excellent and I just ordered the wrong thing. Maybe the chef put all of his love into the more complicated dishes and couldn’t be bothered with the less exciting ones. Totally possible. I will have to go back and find out.