Before I go any further, I will say this: Annapurna at 1926 W 4th is actually closed, but will supposedly open at a new location sometime soon. This review is just based on my visit to the Annapurna that was on W 4th, shortly before it closed. Whether it will reflect the quality of the soon-to-open Annapurna, I cannot say.
M, N, and I had actually agreed to meet at Maenam one week for dinner, which is located on the same block as Annapurna was, but ended up changing our minds when we found that we would have to be out before 7:30pm if we wanted to dine there, at Maenam. We hadn’t set up a reservation! None of us realised that it was so popular, but we will keep it in mind should we decide to try it out again. In any case, we relocated to Annapurna, which was fairly empty relative to Maenam, but still had quite a few people dining. The restaurant itself wasn’t particularly clean, but looking back, I’m wondering if this is in part because they knew they were closing soon, and cleaning before messing up the place for a makeover may have seemed pointless. I don’t really know, but I still sort of think they should have maintained a clean storefront until the very end. In any case, the atmosphere was very relaxed, and it was quite quiet, with only some Indian music playing not-too-loudly in the background. I was starving so I ordered as soon as M and N were also ready.
The waitress who took our orders was very friendly, but wasn’t very attentive. Although I know dairy is better (e.g. milk or yogurt) for cooling off your mouth when you eat spicy stuff, I still wished our water glasses were topped up more frequently while we were eating… I actually had to just stop eating altogether at one point because I didn’t have any water to counter the spice. Unfortunately, friendly service does not necessarily equal good service, but it wasn’t too bad, in general. The waitress was also quite helpful when it came to the menu, and was very knowledgeable about all the dishes. Points for knowing the menu well and for willingness to cater to customers’ preferences, and preferred spice levels!
Neither M nor N like really spicy stuff, so they both specified that their dishes be only mildly spicy, and the waitress was more than happy to pass this on to the chef, as their dishes did indeed not come out too spicy. M surprised me by ordering the Veggie Chicken Caesar Salad. Usually I am the only one ordering salads! In any case, she said it was really good, and the “veggie chicken” really did taste like chicken. The dressing also tasted like your typical Caesar dressing, although it was vegan, so there must be some secret to the subtle anchovy taste that it still had… The picture was taken after she had already dug in – just ’cause it looked that appealing when it arrived.
Of course, a salad is truly too light to appease any normal person with an empty stomach (well… I would think so, at least), so M of course also ordered something else: the Veggie Butter Chicken. Also reportedly also delicious, I thought the presentation could’ve been a bit better. The bowl was so big that the portion looked puny, and it looks like it was plated in a hurry. If you go through the trouble to prepare something great, it can’t hurt to spend just a few extra seconds making sure your plating is also great, right? Anyways, once again the veggie chicken tasted akin to real chicken – although this is probably less of a surprise since the dish had plenty of sauce to give flavour to the veggie pieces. The spice was juuust enough to give a nice kick without overwhelming your taste buds.
N ordered some Veggie Black Pepper Prawns, which to me didn’t really look like prawns at first… but they do when you actually start picking them up with your fork and whatnot. I was curious as to whether or not they tasted the same as the veggie chicken that M had, but I refrained from trying since this dish does contain coconut (to which I’m allergic). It came with veggies and rice on the side. The veggies got some of the black pepper gravy, which was really flavourful and not too spicy despite its appearance: there did seem to be a lot of black pepper sprinkled on top and infused in the gravy, but it was well distributed over everything on the plate so that it spiced up everything just enough to satisfy N’s spice level preference.
I was super predictable and got a Cucumber Salad to go alongside my meal. The veggies were refreshingly fresh – especially the cucumbers – for which I was grateful since I was using the salad to cool my mouth down while eating my main dish…
I ordered a simple Lentil Dal, which came with Basmati Rice, like N’s dish, and Naan as well. M’s dish actually didn’t come with naan, although it was supposed to… The naan came with mine, but I had plenty of rice so I didn’t mind forfeiting the naan anyway. I had a bite, and it was soft, fluffy, and actually deliciously buttery – and M enjoyed it immensely as well. Nevertheless, I had a whole plate of basmati rice to eat and stuck mostly with that instead of the naan…
The dal was… okay. I asked for it to be spicier instead of mild, and it was spicier than M and N’s dishes, but wasn’t as flavourful as it could have been. Somehow, the flavours didn’t blend together very well, and I can only guess that it’s because it didn’t simmer long enough for all the flavours to fully come out and marry together nicely. Again, the presentation could have been a bit nicer, but I suppose it’s difficult to carry a dish out without its contents splashing the sides a bit, so I shouldn’t be too picky. There wasn’t a lot of it, unfortunately, which was a bit disappointing.
Partway through my meal, the Aachar I ordered – and had forgotten about! – arrived. That was when I truly got my spice craving satisfied. The pickles had tons of flavour and lots of spice. I have no idea what half of the pickled stuff was, but it was an awesome dish. I would order it again – and I’m looking forward to trying it at different Indian restaurants.
Altogether it was an enjoyable meal. I’m curious to see where the new Annapurna will open up – if the owner still decides to open a new one somewhere. In its place on W 4th, there is now a new Indian place – Indian Fusion – that I’ve yet to check out. My impression of this previous Annapurna was that the meal was pretty decent, and fairly suitable even for non-vegetarian eaters (standard omnivores!). The service was mediocre, as was the actual ambiance… Definitely “casual” dining. It wasn’t bad value, either; it would most certainly be better value if M, N, and I had shared dishes, of course, as I think you’re supposed to when eating Indian food… but we were content with picking and finishing off what we ordered individually. Overall: not bad… not bad at all. Just not astoundingly amazing, either.