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Page history last edited by Mark P 14 years, 10 months ago

Ajanta Review


Ajanta served us very good Indian dishes, none of which we've seen previously. We thought the chefs really "took care of the flavors." Not a single dish missed the mark.


The restaurant tries to highlight unusual dishes from particular regions of India. (Many dishes are labeled on the menu with the region they come from.) It also serves some items inspired by Indian dishes. The menu gradually changes as the owners visit India, add new dishes, and remove old ones. Of course, the restaurant offers half a dozen "popular standards" that all Indian restaurants offer; we didn't bother ordering any of those.


Our two appetizers were a wonderful start to the meal. Both were served with sauces, though in both cases we found we preferred eating the items without the sauce. Although the sauces didn't detract, they distracted from the complex, clean flavors already there.


  • Tandoori asparagus. "Marinated in garlic, lemon juice and spices including paprika, cumin and cardamom, served with tan yogurt-cashew-sourcream sauce." Four spears of pure flavor of quality grilled asparagus, with a crisp yet soft center and a hot outside.
  • Tandoori portobello mushrooms. Served with a mellow white sauce. Four rectangles. Whatever they marinated them in gave them an atypical, weird, yet appealing taste. "This is great."


We shared three entrees. The scallop one and the chicken one were both mellow dishes, well prepared. The scallops were properly cooked, served in a mild tomato coconut curry sauce. The chicken was really tender. Our vegetable entree was spicier than those two: just the right amount to be interesting but not overwhelming. Here are the detailed menu descriptions:


  • "Chicken pistachio korma: Boneless chicken pieces simmered in a sauce made with onions, tomatoes, yogurt, cashews, pistachios, cream, garlic and spices (Uttar Pradesh)" (The sauce was green.) The e-mail newsletter included the following description of this dish:

    Chicken Pistachio Korma: Every time we have featured this dish, there have been many requests to make it a permanent item on the menu. This is a very special, uncommonly tasty Moghlai dish from Delhi, north India. Moghlai dishes generally have rich sauces, containing ground nuts and dairy products. As the name suggests, the sauce in this dish has ground pistachios. The onion and tomato based sauce also has yogurt, light cream, ground cashews, garlic and spices. The sauce is flavored with cumin, white pepper, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. Boneless and skinless chicken pieces are simmered in the sauce until tender. Like most Moghlai dishes, this dish is eaten mild in India.

  • "Scallop curry: Fresh dayboat scallops cooked in a sauce made with coconut milk, onions, garlic, tomatoes, lime juice, curry leaves and spices including coriander and turmeric (Kerala)" (The sauce was red.)
  • "Bheh, khumbi aur matar: Lotus root, shiitake mushrooms, and peas cooked with caramelized onions, ginger, garlic and spices including mango powder, turmeric and coriander (Sind)"


Along with our entrees, we were provided plates with little mounds of rice with a fried onion on top. Also, we got a satisfying onion kulcha (naan stuffed with onions).


The desserts were fairly typical for Indian restaurant, and, as such, didn't like them much. (We felt we had to order some to complete our experience trying this restaurant.)

  • Cardamon gelato. Decent; exactly what you'd expect. Smelled and tasted strongly of cardamon.
  • Ras malai: "paneer cheese patties served in a thickened milk sauce, flavored with cardamon" and decorated with pistachios. Unusually textured patties. Tasted of a mix of dairy flavors. An interesting dessert, though I must admit we didn't bother finishing it.


As for drinks, we tried three alcoholic drinks, plus tea. We liked them all, and they all went with the flavors of the meal.

  • India Special (lager). Huge bottle. Smooth.
  • Samuel Smith's India Pale Ale (from England). A mild pale ale--certainly not as hoppy as most IPAs. Some called it slightly bitter, but only in comparison to the extreme smoothness of the India Special.
  • Edelzwicker, "a blend of Gewurz, pinot gris and riesling, Navarro, 2006" (white wine). A slightly sweet, slightly floral, pleasant, and very comfortable drink.
  • Chai tea. Correctly done. Served with a strainer to filter out the whole spices (e.g., cardamon, cloves).


The atmosphere is fairly sophisticated. There's a long mural on the wall, supposedly a reproduction of a painting in the cave walls at Ajanta, India. There's also mirrors, uniformed waiters (one of whom wore a turban), and white tableclothes, though the effect of the last was muted because of the white paper on top of the tablecloth.


The total was $26/person including tax and tip but not including drinks.


Original Announcement


Today we'll head to Ajanta, a restaurant in Berkeley that offers seasonal and reinvinted Indian food.



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