Whiff of good food
Like Brady, the 6’4” American football quarterback, those who have eaten at Ashoka The Great can talk food all day long ...
I could talk food all day. I love good food.
—Tom Brady, American football quarterback
Like Brady, the 6’4” American football quarterback, those who have eaten at Ashoka The Great can talk food all day long. This popular Indian restaurant was established in 1988 on the Pioneer Boulevard in Artesia, a locality also called Mini India in Los Angeles. Over the years, countless palates have had an ongoing love affair with the restaurant’s authentic north Indian cuisine.
When it was set up in 1988, the restaurant was one of four in the area. Today, there are 25 of them out there, but Ashoka The Great manages to hold its own, and keeps doing better even as the competition gets stiffer either side of Pioneer Boulevard. You could put it down to a mix of hard work, great cuisine, and, of course, total value for money.
Authentic north Indian cuisine is Ashoka The Great’s staple. Since the food has gone down well with customers, the owner, Darshan Singh, has not tampered with the menu over the last 28 years. He says that if something is working just fine, why bother to change it. Over time, the restaurant’s repeat customers have only swelled. Its lunch buffet is much talked about and receives rave reviews from food writers. The restaurant offers a staggering 35-course menu on weekdays, unlike most other places where they pare down the elaborate weekend menu during other days of the week. So there’s plenty of value for money. Darshan himself picks the chicken tikka masala, the goat items and the tandoori chicken as the restaurant’s hot-favorite dishes. Guests also like the free-naan basket that comes with the buffet. The exhaustive fresh fruit bar does not go unappreciated. When you get a 35-course buffet for less than USD 10, you can only come back for more.
But it’s not only about the money. Darshan says that Ashoka The Great’s USP is also about the authentic manner in which the cooking is carried out by the chef and his staff. A combination of price and quality places the Pioneer Boulevard restaurant streets ahead of the rest. One guest wrote that “we paid under USD 10, but ate worth more than USD 20.” It helps that the restaurant offers a bar with the best brands, and business is brisk at all times. Several reviews on the website yelp.com help establish Ashoka The Great as a premier restaurant in the north Indian cuisine segment.
Aiding Darshan in his business is his wife, Balvir Kaur. The couple’s three sons, Jagjit, Sarbjit and Gurvinder, are being primed to take over once the father decides to hang his boots, and take the back seat. Darshan Singh made his way to USA from Kuwait where he had worked for three years. After arriving in the US he worked in the kitchen of an Indian restaurant, sharpened his culinary skills, kept his eyes and ears open and learnt the ropes of running the restaurant business. He then opened two restaurants of his own, while leasing out a third. But things did not pan out well. Darshan lost money, and shut the shops. It was around the late 1980s that he ran into Karamchand Sood and Paul Dhillon. Both decided to put up money for what would be his fourth restaurant in the US. This time, though, he made things work. Within 10 years he bought out his partners, and now owns Ashoka The Great fully.
People often query him about the restaurant’s name. He is clear in his response: Ashoka immediately connects with India, and while you are walking in you almost half know what kind of food to expect. The menu at the restaurant carries a brief about Ashoka himself. Outdoor catering is now boosting the restaurant’s bottom line and there is a heavy demand for deliveries at home and at parties. Thanks to its success and popularity, now there are enough people in Southern California and beyond who talk about Ashoka The Great’s food all day long.
From the book Indian Americans in Greater Los Angeles Area by India Empire Publications