Surati Farsan Mart (Los Angeles, December 2021)

I noted in my review of dinner at Mo Ran Gak earlier this week that my mother-in-law’s move to Seal Beach a couple of years ago has meant the loss of Koreatown as our base of operations on our trips back to Los Angeles. But as an unfortunate bearded bloke once said, what you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts. For us this has meant greater proximity to the Japanese restaurants of Gardena and Torrance. And it has also meant even greater proximity to Artesia whence is located Southern California’s premier Indian enclave. Back when I lived in Los Angeles in the 1990s and early 2000s, trips to Artesia to eat on the long drag of Pioneer Blvd. were always special—there not being very good Indian food in Los Angeles proper (a situation that is still probably true). But it was also a major pain in the ass to get there from the Westside. Now, it’s a short 15 minute drive from my mother-in-law’s door to Pioneer Blvd. And so on a day when the boys demanded burgers from In-N-Out I abandoned the family and sallied forth in search of chaat and dosas. My first port of call: Surati Farsan Mart.

It was a rainy day but Surati Farsan Mart has very fancy covered seating on the sidewalk. Artesia in general seemed to have a number of restaurants with covered outdoor seating (I say “seemed” because I don’t know what the situation is now) but I don’t think I saw any others as nicely equipped as Surati Farsan Mart. The restaurant itself has transformed dramatically since the last time I was there—sometime in the early-mid 2000s. It’s larger and shinier. Their menu, by the way, says they’ve been in business since 1986 but I am all but certain that they were not around in the 1990s. In those days we Indian grad students used to get our dhokla fix at Jai Bharat. If I had to guess I’d say Surati Farsan Mart showed up in the early 2000s but my memory is increasingly unreliable. If anyone knows either way please do chime in below.

Larger and fancier though it may now be, the offerings are more or less the same. A large variety of snack foods, Gujarati—more specifically Surati—and otherwise. My own interests were primarily in paapdi chaat (sold here as Delhi Chaat) and paani puri. I also got some khaman dhoklas and jalebis to go. Also on the menu—and a large part of their business, now also online—is a plethora of Gujarati savoury snacks or farsan.

The chaat and the paani puri were fine. It’s a feature of Surati food that it’s quite sweet even by Gujarati standards and this was true of both the chaat and paani puri as I recalled it had been even on my last visit, long ago. But we who live in Minnesota—or for that matter, Southern California—cannot be too choosy and I was happy enough with these (here is an earlier piece about my feelings about chaat). The dhoklas eaten with tea in the evening were rather good. The jalebis, I’m sad to say, were marginal—I had one with my meal and the rest were reheated later.

For a look at the restaurant, the menu and what I ate, launch the slideshow below. Scroll down to see what’s coming next.

This was not an insignificant amount of food. It was, however, only the first course of my lunch. I wanted to eat a good dosa and the next stop I hoped would provide me one. Alas, it did not. More on that tomorrow.


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