Sundara began as a pop up in 2012, and today, the cozy dining room and a casual patio hum each night at dinner service with a large number of South Asian patrons who say they've come especially for the home-style dishes. Ironically, Chef Adam Lowe is neither Indian nor technically trained.
After working in Indian restaurants part-time while studying business at USD, Lowe spent the last 14 years cooking the cuisine of South Asia. “India’s culinary culture is genius. I respect it immensely, which is why I've devoted my life to mastering it,” Lowe explained. “I fell naturally in love with it and practiced cooking it every night in my apartment for years,” he said, crediting hours spent hunched over cookbooks by Madhur Jaffrey (essentially the Julia Child of Indian cooking).
Lowe is flattered by the fact that most nights his seats are filled with Indians, and he always checks in with his regulars to find out how he can improve.
“I've made it a priority to follow traditional Indian cooking methods as closely as possible. Cooking the onions for hours is a big one for sure. That sets good Indian apart from the rest. Another is the spices. We always toast and grind our own spices. It’s just one of those added steps that, while labor intensive, can make a big difference.”
The Gluten-Free Options
Sundara kitchen staff and servers are well-trained in understanding the needs of gluten-free guests and have established protocols to avoid any chance of cross contamination.
The gluten-free options, including curries, tandoori chicken, and lamb biryani, are clearly marked on the menu.
The appetizers tend to be more modern than traditional, with the likes of an aromatic sprout salad ($7.50) filled with crunchy cucumber, sprouted Moong dal and paneer cheese and a visually stunning salad with roasted vegetables ($10.50) featuring mixed greens topped with sweet roasted carrots, crunchy roasted chickpeas, and a dollop of creamy eggplant raita.
The tamarind scallop appetizer ($11) includes three plump, succulent scallops served atop a sweet, nectar-like tamarind sauce, while the seared shrimp ($8) are cooked with ginger and topped with crispy garlic.
Juicy pork baby back ribs ($8.95) are rubbed with garam masala and smeared with a sweet spicy glaze that offers a nice kick.
For the main event, all of Sundara’s curries are all gluten-free and served with a generous portion of basmati rice.
Vegetarian options include the classic spinach curry, saag, available with or without the paneer cheese ($14.75), as well as chickpea-laden chana masala, and rich, buttery black dal makhani (both $13.75).
Meat options include vindaloo ($14.75), featuring a deep tang with medium heat that can be amplified with the addition of spicy chutney, and chicken tikka masala ($14.75) made with large pieces of all white chicken served in a velvety, tomato-based sauce.
Lamb biryani ($18.50) is a popular menu item featuring layers of spiced rice and tender lamb topped with sliced hard boiled egg and fresh herbs.
Don’t Miss: Eggplant raita ($3.75), bursting with fresh eggplant flavor, it makes a great addition to any curry.
Pro Tip: If you want to beat the crowds, enjoy your meal before you visit the Ocean Beach’s farmers market on Wednesday evenings.
1774 Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, Ocean Beach
Open for Dinner: Sunday to Thursday, 5pm-9pm; Friday and Saturday, 5pm-9:30pm