Last night, I met my friends Shaina and Sharon for dinner at The Ayurveda Cafe, a vegetarian Indian restaurant on the Upper West Side. I first met Shaina and Sharon about two years ago when we all happened to be on the same Birthright Israel trip. (Have you heard of Birthright Israel?? If you have any Jewish in you, you are eligible to go on an all-expenses-paid 10-day trip to Israel — amaaaaazing.) I asked the waitress to take a picture of us at the restaurant, but we looked cold and tired, so I thought a peek at our Israeli adventures would be better.
Anyway, the three of us went to this lovely restaurant last night. From the restaurant’s webpage: “Ayurveda is very clear when it comes to food. Sattvic (pure) food is needed to heal and maintain good health and must incorporate six tastes in every meal: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent and pungent. At Ayurveda Cafe we believe food cooked and served with compassion adds a powerful value to the dining experience. That power may be invisible to the human eye but it can be felt by you.”
Doesn’t it sound exciting already? Not to mention that those six tastes came all bundled together in the one dinner option, a fixed priced meal for $14 that included an appetizer, two vegetable entrees, lentils, bread, basmati or brown rice, salad, raita and dessert. Oh, and I forgot to mention that everything is unlimitied. Yes, they do free refills!
Since the menu is fixed price and changes daily, the proper names for the dishes are not listed. The only thing I can label for sure when it comes to Indian food is chicken tikka masala, so I will let the photos do the talking. Feel free to jump in if you know something official!
Our appetizer was these standard crackerish pieces:
With assorted herb-y, sweet, and onion-y chutneys:
I had one of the crackers with lots of each dip.
Here’s my dinner plate. Look at all the tastes!
I ate half the rice (probably about 3/4 of a cup) and everything pictured (though I ate around the potatoes in the middle dish). I took advantage of the free refills to get another salad and raita.
Dessert was a sweetened mash of chickpea flour called besan halwa. It tasted a little peanutty and had the grainy kind of texture that I love. I obviously opted for seconds on this, too:
And, of course, Indian food isn’t Indian food without the tray of “birdseed”:
I had several spoonfuls of these:
And then made myself a tasting dish (or two) of everything:
I brought home those cardamom pods (top center) for experimenting because I LOVE cardamom but have only used it in its ground form. I’ll have to look into what I can do with them:
Also, a little box with a “take one” message sat on what I’ll refer to as the restaurant’s “ambience table”:
Inside the box were tons of paper fortune strips. Tell me mine doesn’t sound distressingly ominous: “A fear that captures our whole attention generates the repetition of negative images and affirmations. It holds within it the power to materialise itself into reality.”
Scary fortune aside, I left the restaurant feeling full of (ok, stuffed with) healthy and compassionate foods. And I stayed within my weekly entertainment budget of $20! I am officially a fan of The Ayurveda Cafe.