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CURRY TO FAVOR TUFAAN TAKES INDIAN CUISINE TO THE NEXT LEVEL.

Byline: Larry Lipson Restaurant Critic

ARE YOU READY for monkfish curry, scallop curry, mushroom and goat cheese samosas?

If you are, the new Tufaan Indian restaurant in Sherman Oaks is ready for you.

Chef-owner Sumant Pardal, the founder of the mini-chain of East India Grills, since sold, is back in the Valley in the refurbished ex-India Cafe site with his interesting mix of traditional and innovative recipes.

Over the years, Pardal has experimented and honed his nouvelle Indian efforts into tasty, very acceptable dishes. Some are worthy of those plates served with a flourish and lots of hype by America's celebrity chefs.

Such is his delicious scallop curry, a Tufaan specialty dubbed ``king scallops moily'' ($15.50), which emerges as big, sweet, gently poached scallops swathed with a mild, creamy, coconut and mustard seed curry sauce perched on steamed idlis (Southern Indian rice and lentil flour patties).

This plate, believe me, would cost at least $10 more if served in one of those posh Westside dineries.

But before you get to such delights, Tufaan's starter list offers several enjoyments not always found in neighborhood Indian cafes.

The omnipresent idli can be found, for example, in crouton form in a really good soup bearing the title ``kerala prawn'' ($6.95), that displays both a smooth and creamy softness combined with an edgy spark of spice from black peppercorns. Filled with crunchy shrimp, it produces a range of soupy satisfactions in each spoonful.

Frankies, India's answer to Mexico's burritos, are not forgotten here. Tufaan's kitchen wraps its ``roti'' around a curried lamb mixture for a nifty Bombay frankie ($7) appetizer that should not be passed up.

There are samosas and there are samosas.

Here at Tufaan, you'll find excellent, puffed-up renditions of the traditional potato and pea ones ($4 for two) or those stuffed with minced lamb ($4.50 for two). But just for the heck of it, you have to bite into a mushroom and goat cheese samosa (two for $5), which you can dip into one or another of the trio of chutneys (dark brown tamarind, bright green cilantro-mint and red tomato brought gratis to each table).

``Do you have mango chutney?'' asked a dinner companion one evening. It appeared quickly, also apparently at no extra charge.

Ajowan (or carom) seeds flavor the batter that coats tender, moist filet of sole pieces in a memorable starter dish called ``amritsari fish fry'' ($7.50).

These also appear to be delectably mild, even though the seeds often carry the description ``astringent.''

For those who prefer their Indian food fiery hot, it would pay off at Tufaan to mention this when ordering, otherwise dishes generally lack high degrees of spicy heat.

Except the papadums.

Here, those crispy wafers might surprise your palate with a peppery whack.

Call them Tufaan's exclamation points.

Larry Lipson, (818) 713-3668

larry.lipson(at)dailynews.com

TUFAAN

Food: Three and one half stars - Wine: Two and one half stars - Service: Three stars

Where: 4523 Sepulveda Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

Hours: Open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekdays, for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. nightly, for brunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Recommended items: Kerala prawn soup, samosas (potato, minced lamb, mushroom and goat cheese), onion and potato bhaji, sole fish fritters, Bombay frankies, scallop curry, braised Goanese-style lamb shanks, goat meat curry, butter chicken, vegetable curry (Goan vindaloo or house-style), garlic or gorgonzola-spinach naan.

How much: Starters from $3.50 to $8, entrees from $8.50 to $15.50, desserts $4 and $5. Buffet lunch $7.99. Champagne Sunday brunch $11.99. Beer and wine. AE, MC, V, Discover.

Wine list: Larger selection than most Indian restaurants offer. Two-page list ($20 to $44 per bottle) of nine whites and 12 reds is basically well- rounded and offers by-the-glass opportunities ($5.50 to $12) for every wine listed. Extensive Indian beer list. Corkage: $10.

Reservations: Helpful. Call (818) 986-8555.

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1 -- 2) At Tufaan in Sherman Oaks, executive chef and owner Sumant Pardal pulls some nan bread from the clay oven, above, perhaps to go with a dish of ``king scallops moily,'' right.

Tom Mendoza/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Review
Date:Jun 4, 2004
Words:704
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