|Eggplant appetizer at Ananda|
I'm a homer -- literally because this is one of the closest restaurants to my house. But I think I'd be excited even if Ananda were on the other side of the county.
This is an Indian restaurant with familiar flavors and dishes, but a menu that aims to be different.
A few weeks ago, we started with a watermelon salad. Three towers cut from the heart of a sweet melon, served over a small salad with a lime-and-chili dressing and pistachios. A little feta for salt. Those nuts for crunch. It's a dish that I'd expect more at Range than an Indian restaurant, and it was perfect on a warm night as we watched the sun set.
We have friends who have gone every Sunday night for a month. They're working through the menu -- delicious tandoori chicken a week ago, a cold summer squash soup with pear chutney last night poured at the table from a spout. It's not perfect. One night the report was that halibut was lovely and light, but she wished she had ordered the Goa fish -- even with bones -- because it probably had more intense flavors. But they're excited by the dishes and the variety.
So are we. Ananda plates dishes rather than serving family style. That means you get side dishes with each entree, and I thought they were done smartly. Spicy fish curry comes with spinach. That's rich and earthy against the spicy sauce. The mixed vegetable curry comes with lentils. The lentil's zest contrasts the creamy vegetable sauce. The vegetables are cooked perfectly -- fork-tender broccoli, peas and the fresh cheese called paneer.
The building on Maple Lawn Boulevard was forever under construction, but the setting was worth the wait. For now, they're serving mostly in a patio room with three sides of open walls. Notice the paneling, the ceiling fans, and the fireplaces. It's comfortable enough to welcome kids in t-shirts, but special enough that several tables had women decked in night-out dresses.
If you squint, you can see only trees and ignore the sounds of traffic.
Again, I want to take it slow at Ananda. The kitchen has been wonderful so far. I figure we'll have time to take it's temperature. But I recommend it as a special spot -- maybe date-night cocktails on the patio -- or as a regular stop where you could explore the menu and specials. Either way, it's welcome in the neighborhood.