Ashirwad – The Blessings, 583 E. Foothill Blvd. (at Fifth), Upland; closed Mondays
Vegetarian restaurants in these parts are unusual enough, but this one is devoted to vegetarian Indian food. Blessings — the full name seems to be Ashirwad – The Blessings, middle punctuation uncertain — opened in 2012 in a strip mall in Upland. Its specialties are foods from West and South India, but without lamb, chicken or other meat.
Two friends who’d had an enjoyable meal there invited me to join them for a return visit. Blessings is nothing fancy and feels almost temporary, with practically no decor, cheap tables and chairs, foam plates and plastic utensils. Needless to say, though, the food (see the menu here) is mostly unknown unless you’re a devotee of all things India and is thus of high interest.
We shared three items: pani puri ($5, below left), small puff pastries which you crack, fill with spooned-in potato cubes and eat in one bite; khichdi kadhi ($7, below top), a stew of rice, lentils and vegetables, kind of spicy; and masala dosa ($5.50, bottom), an enormous crepe rolled into a funnel the size and shape of a megaphone, inside of which is spiced potatoes and onions. That and the pani puri were our favorites. I also had a salted lassi ($3), a foamy yogurt drink.
We didn’t get dessert, but the restaurant makes its own non-dairy ice cream, one scoop at a time, to order.
The main item on the menu that I recognized was palak paneer, a spinach, cheese and rice dish, but the version served here was not to my friends’ liking on their previous visit, and while we were there the table next to us sent theirs back. So, take your chances with that.
The restaurant seats about 16. Half-filled when we arrived at 7:15 p.m., it was full, with maybe eight people waiting inside and on the sidewalk, at 8. Service, by the owner, was disarmingly friendly and humorous. A small selection of Indian history, literature and philosophy books were lined up on the counter for the curious to read.
What they’re doing is very different, but it’s a good advertisement for both vegetarianism and Indian food. May they continue to be a blessing.
* Update: LA Weekly put Ashirwad in its Best of 2014 issue: “Best Reason to Head to Upland.”