Friday, May 17, 2013

80 North: Berkeley, Ajanta

update/p.289

Previous Ajanta update.


Owner Lachu Moorjani is again exploring new paths with a Chef’s Tasting Menu.  I visited recently to sample the vegetarian menu ($24) (a non-vegetarian menu ($27) is also available).  Note that it is a requirement that everyone at the table order the same dinner.  Our spread began with complimentary papadam lentil wafers and mint-cilantro sauce.  Then came fleshy portobello mushrooms with a delicate sauce of cashews, cilantro, mint, tamarind, and yogurt.  Tandoori asparagus arrived with a low-key sour cream-cashew sauce.  And then came our last appetizer--a vegetable samosa stuffed with potatoes and fresh peas and a side of cilantro sauce topped with tamarind.  At this point things revved up, and our entrees arrived all at once:  Navrattan korma (seven different vegetables in a rich creamy curry sauce with nuts and paneer); khumb jahanara (a mix of shitake mushrooms spiced with onions, tomatoes, garlic, ginger cashew paste, coriander, cardamom, and cloves); bheh kofta balls (formed from lotus roots, potatoes, breadcrumbs, and spices and served in an orange-colored sauce of onions, garlic, tomatoes, yogurt, cashews, and more spices); and our hands-down favorite—red and smoky achari baingan (eggplant in a highly spiced sauce composed of tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and Indian pickling spices).  Surprisingly, we had room for dessert, which was a choice of pistachio kulfi, exotic and refreshing cardamom gelato, mangoey mango sorbet, and the best gulab jamun I’ve ever had—swimming in a honey sauce.  Ajanta will celebrate its 20th birthday in June.  Expect some surprises. 

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image c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

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