A hip Indian “gastro bar” is coming to Downtown Los Angeles soon by way of New York City, with plans to upend Southern California’s Indian restaurant scene. Baar Baar is an upscale-ish Indian hangout in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood, known for its contemporary Indian cuisine under chef Sujan Sarkar, who has cooked all over the world. In recent years Sarkar has led new restaurant openings in San Francisco and Chicago in addition to New York.
“We felt that Indian food didn’t reach up to the level that other cuisines had,” says managing partner Payal Sharma of Baar Baar’s New York City opening half a decade ago. “It wasn’t user-friendly, modern, or as appealing as it could be to a younger clientele, so we created a place that was more fun, more vibrant.”
The incoming colorful Baar Baar takes over the busy corner location that was for years Faith & Flower. Not far from L.A. Live or Downtown’s Financial district, that restaurant positioned itself at the time as a boisterous post-work with big chandeliers and Art Deco vibes a cocktail bar and private dining room. Faith & Flower shuttered quietly in 2021 during the pandemic, and now a new dark blue awning is up outside the address that bears (under a cover) the name Baar Baar. Sharma says that she wants to keep the same freewheeling sense of fun as the previous operator, but with food from Sarkar, one of India’s most celebrated chefs.
First opened in 2017, Baar Baar New York City was billed by the New York Times as a place for modern Indian culinary experimentation, without leaning fully into molecular gastronomy. Chef Sarkar “dabbles in sous-vide, foams, gels and such, but they do not dominate the menu,” said writer Florence Fabricant at the time. The year before, Sarkar had won India’s chef of the year (awarded by the Times of India), and he told Robb Report at Baar Baar’s opening that he hoped to use that momentum to “make Indian food sexy.” Today the restaurant serves both non-vegan and vegan dishes as well as a tasting menu and weekend brunch, earning it a plate designation in the New York City Michelin guide.
Sharma says that the menu will be “a little bit different” in Los Angeles than it is in New York, but that the basic principles will be the same. “It’s going to be a similar vibe, with brunch, small plates dinner, and amazing cocktails. You should be able to do all of that with Indian food as well, it shouldn’t just be formal.”
Sharma says that she’s interested in diving further into Indian food here ahead of the planned opening in March because so far she hasn’t been particularly impressed with her findings — and she’s aware that there will certainly be some friendly competition once Baar Baar LA is open. On the other side of Downtown, Badmaash has for years been LA’s answer to the casual-cool Indian hangout, while in Orange County a do-it-all Indian chef has become one of the most quietly in-demand caterers for high-end Indian weddings in Southern California. More recently, Pijja Palace (Eater LA’s restaurant of the year for 2022) has captured just about every Angeleno’s heart with sports bar riffs on Indian flavors, served in a Silver Lake strip mall. Expect Baar Baar to open in March at 705 West 9th Street, Los Angeles, CA.