World Flavor Café
205 N. Signal Street
I always get excited when a new restaurant opens. New food, new faces, so many possibilities, a chance to try something different, unique, maybe even life changing.
On the other hand, I worry. Will the new place end up like so many others, boarded up with piles of mail on the sidewalk? Will the new owner be an inexperienced wannabe restaurateur who thought, with stars in his eyes, “Gee, how cool would it be to have my own restaurant?” only to realize too late that it’s actually hard work and not simply an opportunity to schmooze, glad-hand and get slapped on the back.
Something tells me, though, that’s not going to be the case with World Flavor Café, Ojai’s newest eatery. Chef and owner, Susan Kapadia, had been a guest chef at Iron Pan in Ojai (a now defunct restaurant much like the one I described
in the previous paragraph), cooking regional dishes from India on Tuesday evenings. She developed quite a loyal following, so when she opened World Flavor Café, a built-in client base followed to help her realize a dream she had long been preparing for.
Susan’s husband, originally from India, is said to have inspired her insatiable quest to perfect her recipes for authentic Indian cuisine. Each night, World Flavor features her Indian Thali of the Day and another dish from somewhere else in the world. The only menu is simply detailed on the chalk board outside the front door. If you like what you see, have a seat.
My husband and I wandered in one evening after work recently to find a lovely courtyard with tables and chairs surrounded by a walled garden with views of the
Topa Topa Mountains. Pedestrians walking their dogs strolled by and an occasional bumble bee floated through. We surveyed the sparse menu and had a seat. When the server came by, we ordered one of each (there were only two items to choose from). Susan made a point of coming out of the kitchen every now and then to greet her guests and introduce herself to new faces.
Soon our dishes arrived. The colors, the smells and the presentation gave us pause. We knew instantly we were in for an amazing meal. The Thali featured small portions of eggplant layered with a Bengali tomato confit, dal (a lentil dish), naan (Indian flat bread), papadam (a thin, seasoned wafer), basmati rice with peas and peanuts, raita (a seasoned yogurt condiment), pickle and a spicy potato dish, all presented on a beautiful copper platter. Our other dish was a seven-vegetable North African stew with chickpeas, basmati rice with almonds, potatoes and golden raisins simmered with saffron, which turned everything a gorgeous bright yellow. Bite after bite revealed delicious and complex flavors and textures that made our eyes roll and voices rapturously harmonize, “Mmmm.”
The entrees, though tasty, were priced a tad on the high side, $17.95 and $18.95 respectively, but the portions were certainly large enough that a couple could easily share one entree. But why do that when you can try them both and take whatever is left to enjoy another day?
Beverages include traditional sweet lassis and cardamom chai, as well as beer and wine. The café also has a lunch menu, complete with soups, salads and sandwiches, many featuring the flavors of India and other parts of the world.
As is the case with any new restaurant, service and timing will improve (we found it to be a bit slow and wanting for our server’s attention). With authentic and flavorful regional dishes, though, World Flavor Café is sure to be around for a long while.