Culver City opens its doors to SAMBAR, Akasha Richmond’s latest take on Indian cuisine.

When Akasha Richmond arrived in LA, she lived in an ashram on the corner of Fairfax and 3rd Streets. There she studied yoga, learned Indian cooking under Yogi Bhajan, and worked at Golden Temple, a restaurant frequented by Michael Jackson. A few decades later, including a 14-year stint as MJ’s personal chef, Richmond is now channeling her passion for India through a new restaurant venture called SAMBAR. Located a block away from her renowned Akasha restaurant in Culver City, SAMBAR is where she offers her personal twist on typical Indian dishes.

Named for a soupy Southern Indian stew (and the first Indian dish Richmond ever tried), SAMBAR’s menu is spiked with salty, spicy, sweet, sour, and hot flavors that reflect the mélange of spices found across the Indian subcontinent. In turn, California produce informs the seasonal menu.

Cheese Thali is an excellent starter: the platter of goat and cow paneer (fresh Indian cheese) comes with papadums, naan, spiced pistachios, pickled Meyer lemons, and delectable mango chutney flavored with mustard seeds. The Truck Stop Goat Curry — slow braised in cumin, tomato, onion, and goat yogurt sauce — is a crowd pleaser.  You can turn up the heat anytime with chili thali made of red chili powder, pickled jalapenos and malabar hot sauce. For balance, the gin-based Road to Rishikesh cocktail is mixed with aloe liqueur and holy basil bitters, and Rose of Jaipur punch is served in a silver goblet – both delicious palate refreshers. You might also try the Punjabi Mama greens and masala braised short ribs. If it’s chicken tikka masala you’re after, you won’t find it here; apparently, that is a British invention.

SAMBAR is open for lunch Tuesday to Friday, and dinner Tuesday to Sunday. Closed on Monday. 9531 Culver Blvd. Culver City, CA 90232, 310-558-8800,

Marina Chetner is a Los Angeles-based Australian freelance writer.