“You say Badmaash however you want to say Badmaash . . . and now you’ve heard it twice,” laughs Nakul Mahendro, who founded the family owned-and-run Indian gastropub with his brother Arjun and their parents. “But that’s kind of the whole thing about being a badmaash. It means naughty, rascal — someone who’s, like, against the grain and does whatever the f**k they want. An all-encompassing badass.”
The Mahendro Family opened their Downtown doors almost two and a half years ago amidst a climate of cultural naivety. “The perspective on Indian food [and culture] in America is all screwed up,” says Nakul. The family are trying hard to change the perception with their imaginative approach to traditional Indian food though.
“We are really, really proud of our food and we do everything the right way,” says Nakul. “We do everything the way my great grandmother would do it back in Amritsar, Punjab,” where head-chef and father, Pawan, was born. Aside from the spices, which are shipped in from India and then ground and roasted in-house, everything is sourced locally and made fresh. Even the yogurt is whipped by hand.
The Mahendro family moved to LA from Toronto together after falling in love with the city. “It wasn’t just a business decision. It was the first and only place we felt at home,” Nakul recalls. “It was a very emotional decision and it was very important that the Downtown community accepted us.” And that happened, simply by Badmaash being who they are and DTLA being what it was and is — a culinary community who expect authenticity, tradition, and innovation.
Their attention-to-detail becomes obvious through the fast-paced, dine-in service allowing DTLA’s lunch crowd the luxury of getting in and out the door in under half an hour, and the comprehensive, concise, and, perhaps most importantly, English menu. “Make it easy for people, man,” says Nakul, “put it in English so that people know what they’re eating.”
The butter chicken and spicy lamb burger are popular, while there are a handful of vibrant vegetarian dishes to complement the carnivorous corpus. The soft naan and exceptional mango lassie — staples of contemporary Indian dining — should accompany every order and there’s even a small section on the physical menu reserved for something not restaurant or food related.
“We’re slowly becoming the authority on all things Indian and all things dope!” says Nakul. And that’s exactly what the top right of their menu is reserved for — things like angry Indian father memes, which make fun of the pressure Indian parents place on success. Nakul credits this cultural upbringing as the reason both Arjun and he are such perfectionists and, along with the family’s collective training and experience, why the gastropub has been so well received. “Blood type B+ . . . why not A+?” laughs Nakul, reading one of the memes. Badmaash certainly doesn’t have the same problem: this upside-down, Indian eatery is A+.