Chef Akasha Richmond Debuts New Indian Concept
Chef and owner Akasha Richmond announces the debut of her second concept opening this June 2015 called Sāmbār. Inspired by her travels throughout India, as well as her affinity for the rich culture and traditions of the country, Sāmbār will showcase the diversity of Indian cuisine with an invigorating array of clean, bright flavors and choices — all inflected with familiar ingredients as interpreted through a California lens. The concept takes its name from a traditional Indian lentil based vegetable stew that is a staple in most South Indian homes. It was the first Indian dish that Richmond had ever tried many years ago. “I am enamored by the balance of the very complex yet comforting approach to Indian cooking,” Richmond says.
The menu at Sāmbār will change with the season as the kitchen turns out a selection of spice-driven dishes that focus on local California ingredients including small plates, snacks, and street foods. While the foods of India can be as diverse as the varying states, from the heartier and richer curries of the North, to the rice-based and more tropical fare found in the south, there is a common thread which Richmond has effortlessly captured with the Sāmbār menu emphasizing a balance of sweet, spicy, hot, and salty dishes such as Sevpuri Chaat, Gunpowder Smashed Potatoes, Truck Stop Goat Curry, Mississippi Masala Wings, Cheese Thali, or Black Quinoa Uttapam — a small fermented pancake. Open for dinner to start with an announcement of lunch to follow, Richmond’s penchant for the lighter foods of the Southern region, as well as nourishing and curative ingredients will stand out at Sāmbār, such as the Pigeon Pea Fritters, Goan Chicken Xacuti, or Lemon Rice, as well as Curries and Vegetables including a Backwater Shrimp Stir-Fry and Punjabi Mama Greens, to name a few. Exploring new techniques, the ever-evolving menu will showcase Richmond’s culinary prowess and ambition to try inventive dishes while striking a balance with approachable and crowd-pleasing items. “While there will be vegetarian options and we won’t have beef on the menu, we will have goat, lamb, and pork dishes, there will be something for everyone,” Richmond says. Additional entrées will include Tandoori-Style dishes such as a British Raj Chicken, Pistachio Lamp Chops, and Pork Shoulder roasted with vindaloo masala served with naan focaccia.
Sāmbār’s resident mixology team will be led by Clare Ward who, together with Richmond’s influence, inspired the cocktail program at Sāmbār. Ward also serves as the lead mixologist at Akasha, Richmond’s landmark Culver City neighborhood eatery. Spice driven cocktails, housemade bitters, and rare and interesting spirits will be found on the drinks menu including “Last Train to Goa”— a punch made with Arrack and rose syrup, or East Indian Pimms made with fresh curry leaves. The beverage program will also incorporate housemade chai and organic Indian teas. Guests can enjoy cocktails at the bar or take a front-row seat just steps from the kitchen and share Head on Prawns with Mango Powder Marinade and Turmeric Naan, or the Sāmbār Snack Mix and a drink.
Designed by Ruth Black of RTR Homes, Sāmbār will incorporate an inviting and convivial atmosphere, emulating the bustling and pedestrian-friendly community of its surroundings and prime location on Culver City. The exterior preserves the historic elements and gritty nature of the building as the interior illuminates the space with a glow-like ambiance featuring subtle whites, soft woods, and a restrained yet inclusive interior. “Sāmbār captures the inner spirit that inspires Akasha’s cooking in the kitchen,” Black says. Guests will find a kaleidoscope of colors within the design that evokes a fresh, modern, and light space inviting guests to stay for a while. A custom made multi-colored chandelier takes center stage boasting colorful glass cylinders of orange, blue, reds, and yellow. By day, the cheerful chandelier filters light through the skylight bringing a warm airy feel to the space. By night, the room transforms as the white onyx bar panels, and white glass bar shelving are lit from within offering a romantic glow. Recycled materials and woods are paired with contemporary elements including touches of grey and playful furnishings such as a green banquette and white and black chairs. An original art-piece, made entirely from reclaimed and recycled woods, was conceptualized and designed by Black. The imaginative piece resembles a sun, which continuously wraps the entire space drawing the eye upwards. Utilizing the indoor and outdoor spaces, Sāmbār boasts an expansive outdoor patio that wraps around the restaurant, complementing the clean and crisp feel of the dining room. The former Ford’s Filling Station has been completely transformed into a light-filled space to enjoy the culinary adventure that awaits just steps from the charming Culver Boulevard in the heart of Culver City.
Richmond is well known in the Los Angeles food community, having spent most of her career as a self-taught chef and baker, as well as the owner of a successful catering business. As a personal chef to Michael Jackson, Richmond has established herself as a celebrated culinary talent and opened her first concept Akasha in 2008. She places an emphasis on the importance of eating local foods, utilizing health conscious cooking methods, sustainable practices, and a dedication to authentic ingredients and products that are sustainable and organic. A longstanding affinity for the cuisine of India, Richmond has traveled the world taking inspiration back to her kitchen from Southeast Asia, Bali, Australia, as well as Eastern and Western Europe. The author of Hollywood Dish: More than 150 delicious, healthy recipes from Hollywood's chef to the stars (Avery, 2006) she has been featured in Food & Wine Magazine, and has acted as a guest editor for Vegetarian Times, and continues to consult on numerous natural food product lines while exploring new methods and practices for living a healthier life through food and cooking.