Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ananda Shifting To Regular Menu, Showing Off Another Side Of Indian Food In Fulton

Avocado appetizer at Ananda
The new Ananda restaurant in Fulton is switching to its full menu, and it's definitely a place worth exploring -- especially if you want something off the beaten path.

We ate off the "soft opening" menu Monday night, and we particularly enjoyed some dishes that we had never seen before.  An appetizer salad of cucumber, avocado and herbs was the star of the meal.  Then the cardamon-kissed desserts stole the show at the end.

The shrimp entree
Overall, Ananda seems like a worthy entry among the great Indian restaurants in Howard County.  I have chattered with friends about how it compares to Royal Taj and Mango Grove.  It's too soon to write the book on a restaurant that doesn't even have a sign yet, but people are excited by the menu and the vibe of the place.

Ananda is one of the prettier spots for dinner.  You can still hear traffic off Maple Lawn Boulevard, but the dining room with open walls makes for a beautiful spot, complete with white tablecloths and a Monday night show by a baby bunny on the grass outside.  It's nice enough for a date, but completely friendly to the kids who have been eating when we visited.

This is an ambitious kitchen.  The dal and the raita were just side dishes in our meal, but they were intensely flavorful.  Great cooks use Indian spices and herbs in a way that I have never mastered at home, and they're paying attention to those details even in the side dishes.  They hit similar successes in the chickpea entree and in our desserts -- a house-made ice cream and a rice pudding.

But Ananda stands out because they're pushing the offerings of local Indian restaurants.  I have said for years that I'd love specials or seasonal dishes because several of our Indian kitchens are among the most-inspired in town.  Ananda's avocado salad -- fresh vegetables, dressed beautifully and served with the crunch of a papadum -- was a revelation.  Simultaneously Indian, but new to us.

The chickpea entree
Beyond the menu items, Ananda is following their original Ambassador restaurant in defaulting to plating each entree.  Unless you ask for family-style service where everyone shares, you get a main course with rice, dal and a sauce like the large shrimp on the "soft opening" menu.

Overall, this is a fun place to check out.  People are loyal to their Indian favorites because they're among the deepest cuisines in Howard County.  We happily alternate between the curries at Royal Taj or House of India and the dosas and south Indian food at Mango Grove.  Ananda could create its own niche -- the same white tablecloth feel of Royal Taj, but a bar for cocktails and a menu that offers slightly different tricks.

Ananda is on Maple Lawn Boulevard just south of Johns Hopkins Road.  They don't have a sign yet, but they're across the parking lot from a Suntrust.  Ananda joins a scene with five established Indian restaurants in Columbia -- House of IndiaMango GroveRoyal TajFlavors of India, and Nepalese-Indian Curry & Kabob -- plus the new Chutney that replaces Akbar's and the quick service Tandoor Grill on Johns Hopkins Road.


Lisa B, Mrs. S. said...

The open air dining room is a special treat here in HoCo. The restaurant is friendly to kids in a way that's similar to Stanford Grill - families, couples on dates, business dinners can all fit here. I'm eager to see the full menu. Everything we've tried off the soft open menu has been delicious.

PSeto said...

Will they have a lunch and/or dinner buffet like all other Indian places?

The Unmanly Chef said...

I'm interested to hear how some of the staple Indian restaurant dishes are (i.e. Tikka Masala, Maatar Paneer, etc. etc.)

Elizabeth said...

Excited to try the place - the avocado appetizer sounds amazing, and I love the sound of the open air dining room.

Clarese said...

I went tonight to try it before full open - everything was delicious! The service was impeccable, too. I'm looking forward to seeing the full menu.

Kalie said...

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Mena said...

Ate there Sat. Nice setting, nice decor. Only had Indian 2x so can't really compare. Everything we had was delicious. plan to go back.