The Mahendro family is the force behind Los Angeles' trendsetting modern Indian restaurant Badmaash, and they still find time to get together for feasts on the weekend.
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The Mahendro family
The Mahendro family includes (from left) Arjun, Anu, Pawan, Shivam, Nakul, and Saloni (holding Saloni and Nakul's dog. Timbit). not pictured: Arjun's wife, Disha Mahendro.
| Credit: Jennifer Chong

Pawan Mahendro is standing shoulder to shoulder with his eldest son, Nakul, staring at a cutting board on the granite kitchen countertop in the home Pawan shares with his wife, Anu, in Anaheim. "You're cutting the onions crooked," Pawan gently scolds Nakul in Hindi. Across the kitchen island, his younger son, Arjun, laughs as he tussles with the cork of a bottle of wine. 


Arjun, Nakul, and their parents are the family of restaurateurs behind Badmaash, a modern Indian concept with two locations in Los Angeles. Since opening nearly nine years ago, Badmaash has helped set a standard for what a modern Indian restaurant looks like, with a cutting-edge wine list, incredible hospitality, and a catchy hip-hop playlist. If your local Indian restaurant is serving chicken tikka poutine, tender lamb burgers, or a saucy fried butter chicken sandwich, you can thank the Mahendros. 


making fried catfish sandwiches
Credit: Jennifer Chong

When they're not running their restaurants (they also own a catering kitchen and Burgers 99, a fast-casual burger spot), the Mahendros try to gather weekly for family dinners, though Anu admits that it's closer to "a twice-a-month thing." Each person lends a hand in the family kitchen. "Dad is the chef at the restaurants, but mom is the chef at home," says Nakul, who for his own part is acting as a prep cook, dicing the vegetables for the coleslaw. Anu is in charge of the noodle salad; it's a recipe she came up with nearly two decades ago after wanting to create a healthier and more flavorful version of KFC's macaroni salad. Pawan, who likes to joke he is Anu's sous chef, readies fish fillets for his fried fish sandwiches, dredging each piece in flour and spices. He uses two stainless steel thalis, or rimmed plates, handed down to him from his grandfather in Amritsar, Punjab.

Arjun is on what Nakul calls "vibes duty," making sure everyone's wineglasses are filled and the playlist remains robust. Conversation zigzags between Hindi, Punjabi, and English, punctuated by raucous laughter and occasional ribbing. Nakul's wife, Saloni, wanders into the kitchen to grab their energetic three-year-old son, Shivam, who is looking for snacks, as their dog, Timbit, barks in the backyard. 


Pawan and Anu prepare noodle salad
Pawan and Anu prepare noodle salad.
| Credit: Jennifer Chong
The Mahendros in the kitchen at Pawan and Anu’s home in Anaheim.
The Mahendros in the kitchen at Pawan and Anu's home in Anaheim.
| Credit: Jennifer Chong

For the Mahendros, work time and family time bleed together the way cream swirls in coffee—it's impossible to separate the two spheres. This is evident in the way they cook, too. Though they are at home, little details betray the fact that they are a professional restaurant family: the industrial-size roll of cling wrap that sits on the counter, the small plastic bag into which they throw trash and scraps as they cook, the way they clean as they go—just as they do in their professional kitchens. "Pawan taught us all these tricks," says Anu. But a close look at the kitchen also reveals the Mahendros' personal family story in small details: the aforementioned thalis from Punjab, the bright red coffee maker stocked with Tim Horton's coffee that marks the family's time in Toronto, the bowls of Doritos and sleeves of Oreo Thins on the counter—American snacks that they fell in love with when they moved to Los Angeles. 


The Mahendros spend their days in their restaurants making plates of verdant saag paneer, a rich coconut fish moilee, and vats of butter chicken, so when it's time to relax, their family meals are often less Indian than people might expect. Sure, the coleslaw might be laced with Indian spices like cumin, and there will definitely be cups of masala chai after dinner, but tonight, they just want to eat and enjoy each other's company and cooking. After all, the most important aspect of the meal is that they are eating it together.

Recipes

Fried Catfish Sandwiches with Cumin Slaw

Fried Catfish Sandwiches with Cumin Slaw

Tender catfish fillets marinate briefly in garlic and pepper before being breaded and fried for these extra-crispy fried catfish sandwiches from Pawan Mahendro, whose family runs Badmaash, a modern Indian concept with two locations in Los Angeles. Don't skip Mahendro's creamy coleslaw: In addition to the usual cast of green cabbage, red onion, and matchstick carrots, he punches it up with cilantro, bread-and-butter pickles, and a roasted cumin, mayo, and vinegar dressing. Like most slaws, this one gets better after a day in the refrigerator; stir in the cilantro just before serving to keep it fresh. 
Anu's Noodle Salad with Crunchy Fruit

Anu's Noodle Salad with Crunchy Fruit

A joyful romp of textures, Anu Mahendro's refreshing salad combines crisp bell pepper, juicy grapes, pineapple, chewy egg noodles, carrots, and fresh apples dressed with a homemade vinaigrette. While it's perfect paired with her husband Pawan's Fried Catfish Sandwiches with Cumin Slaw, it makes a grand addition to any potluck spread. To maintain the textures, serve it chilled. 
Peppercorn Crusted Roast Beef with Horseradish Cream

Peppercorn Roast Beef with Horseradish Cream

To make this tender beef roast, brothers Nakul and Arjun Mahendro—restaurateurs who, along with their parents, run Badmaash, a modern Indian concept with two locations in Los Angeles—start with a center-cut strip roast, which they spread with peppercorns, salt, mustard, and rosemary leaves. An overnight chill seasons and tenderizes the meat and also dries the outside of the roast nicely, helping to create a crispy crust after roasting. It's a perfect centerpiece for a Sunday dinner.