30853 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Westlake Village
Indian food is comfort food. The heavily spiced dishes evoke fond memories of sitting at the family table waiting to scoop up portions of warm spinach or savory chickpeas before plodding off to watch television, a happy camper. It was the takeout of choice in my college days, too, but lately I’ve chosen to exchange the takeout window for fancier locales to chow down on chana masala, such as the impeccable dining room of Anarbagh in Westlake Village.
To dine at Anarbagh is to escape into a world in which service matters. From the host to the waiter, our table was thoroughly looked after, receiving prompt attention when needed. We arrived earlier than our friends and so we placed an order for the mixed vegetarian appetizer for two ($7.95) as a plate of poppadoms and various chutneys arrived at our table. The platter arrived at the same moment as the rest of our party, and we all promptly dug in to the onion bhaje (a deep fried ball of savory onions), vegetable pakoras and a potato samosa.
The dining room itself is impeccable. A large chandelier hangs from the center of the room and red curtains line each corner; tables are clean and the seats shine as if new. This is important to note because the restaurant shares a parking lot with TJ Maxx, not exactly the best view. When you’re inside, however, the atmosphere is serene.
Our friends are omnivores and thus ordered the chicken tikka masala ($12.95) as well as an order of saag paneer ($11.95), and we ordered the chana masala ($11.95) and the saag mushrooms ($11.95), all à la carte, though there exists a dinner option that comes with soup or salad and rice.
To add, we ordered two portions of the garlic basil naan ($2.95) and were convinced to upgrade our rice to the sag biryani ($9.95). We must have been in a spinach mood that day.
Note: this is a lot of food. Dishes arrived from the kitchen on a cart, a first sign that we were not going to need dinner that evening. The mains were served in ornate steel bowls alongside two behemoth naan breads loaded with garlic, though the basil was stealthier. A large bowl of biryani took up most of the middle of the table, and as is tradition, we all dug in.
The first noticeable thing across the spectrum was the high level of salt, though not overpoweringly so. Perhaps a teaspoonful more would have made the dish hard to eat, but whether by expert craft or luck, the kitchen had managed to find this magic zone between too salty and not salty enough.
The chana masala was the star of my own personal show. Chickpeas marinating in a tomato-y, powerful gravy topped spinach rice and made for a perfect pair, while garlic naan sopped up the mushroom sauce left behind on the plate. With a helpful spoonful of cilantro and mango chutney, the saltiness was quelled and the ginger-cardamom combo popped.
The saag paneer, an old standby, proved worthy of a revisit as well. Soft cheese simmered in the spiced spinach is always a winner, especially when paired with biryani and more garlic naan. Seriously, you cannot have enough garlic naan, one of the few dishes that was finished at the restaurant.
By the end of the feast, there were plenty of leftovers, which is not at all a bad thing. In fact, I was thrilled with the fact that now I wouldn’t have to worry about dinner and would be able to eat Anarbagh’s dishes again so soon.
We capped the meal off with a round of chai masala tea, a creamy beverage that proves a more worthy after-dinner beverage than coffee, and left with a feeling of contentment. Indian food is ubiquitous in Ventura County but rarely do you find a combination of perfect preparation and presentation. Anarbagh is a treasure, and one that I hope to visit again and again.