Monday, August 18, 2014

First Thoughts On Ananda: Really Good Indian In A Really Unusual Space For Howard County

Eggplant appetizer at Ananda
I don't want to get ahead of my skis on Ananda, but I'm really jazzed -- both for its food and for the new restaurant space in Fulton.

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.


The Unmanly Chef said...

Has anyone tried their Paneers or Tikka Masala? How does it stack up to our long gone friends Akbar?

dzoey said...

My wife and I tried Ananda last night when it was nicely cool. Seated on semi-outdoors area, with the bay doors open and the fans keeping the temperature very pleasant, it was one of the best dining atmosphere experiences I've had in Howard County.

I had a meat samosa which came with a very nice tamarind sauce that cut through some of the unctuousness of the meat filling wonderfully.
I had a chicken dish who's name I don't remember, but it was chicken in a coconut / chicken broth. The sauce was really good, but the chicken was a bit overcooked.

My wife had the chicken murghal which was like Tandoori chicken. It came marinated in a sauce that contained a spice she couldn't tolerate, though we're not sure what it was. She's not effected by other Tandoori chickens in the county. Since she doesn't like curry, the waiter suggested crab malabar which was crab and sweet corn and some light peppers in a very light sauce. The lumps of crab were very large and delicious. Not the cheapest dish in the world, but executed very well and worth the extra dollars.

The main dishes come not only with rice, as in other Indian restaurants in the county, but also with a small amount of daal which added a nice smoothness to the plate.

The service was excellent, my water glass was never empty and they handled my wife's taste preferences very well. The only sour note was the overcooked chicken pieces, but that's easy to overlook for such a nice dining experience.

Worth travelling to south county for.

SHZ said...

One of my friends (who is Indian), loved the Saag Paneer. The eggplant dish photographed here is their Baingan Bhartha, which is offered as an entree, but can be ordered as an appetizer (as we did - it was absolutely delicious). Their Fish Tikka is wonderful (Salmon) and their seafood dishes (especially shrimp) are outstanding. We love this place - for both the food and service.

theminx said...

Ananda is the sister restaurant to the Ambassador Dining Room, in northern Baltimore City, and to the late Banjara, in Federal Hill. While Maple Lawn is a bit of a haul for me, I enjoyed a meal at Ananda a couple of weeks ago. We had the watermelon salad, the summer squash soup with pear chutney (dynamite!), halibut, and a huge tandoori shrimp served with mint-cilantro chutney made with both mango and avocado. While I kinda wished we had been served the dishes we more typically think of as Indian (predominately Punjabi cuisine), I did enjoy the modern American twist.

Zevonista said...

Todd Kliman (Washingtonian) raved about it in his most recent chat:

I suspect it may start to get difficult to get in!