We have dined at and enjoyed the Distinctive Indian Cuisine at Ajanta Restaurant on Solano Avenue in Berkeley many times over the past twenty years and were interested when we heard that they were initiating a nightly Chef’s Tasting Menu. We always enjoy the décor that features large bold Indian Art inspired by the Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra India. Indian background music and lovely flowers on every table also adds to the experience. The cuisine is healthier and lighter than most Indian Cuisine, as they use locally sourced and mostly organic seasonally fresh and natural ingredients including organic chicken, natural seafood, as well as hormone and antibiotic-free meats. We ordered wine and looked at the very reasonably priced Chef’s Tasting Menu which is served from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. every night and is priced at $27.00 ($24.00 for the vegetarian offering). It is served family style and features three appetizers, four main dishes, sides of rice, naan bread, chutneys , pickles and a choice of dessert.
We enjoyed all of our Appetizers from the tasting menu. The delicious Tandoori Fresh Scallops were marinated in yogurt and spices then roasted in the Tandoor Oven and served with yogurt-cashew-tamarind sauce. The marinated and grilled Tandoori Portobello Mushrooms tasted fabulous because of the cloves and spices. We also loved the Tandoori Chicken Chaat which was chicken pieces marinated then grilled in the tandoor oven, shredded then tossed with oil, lime juice, red onions, ginger and spices.
The main dishes which were accompanied with Basmati Rice, Naan, Mango Chutney, and Carrot and hot Pickles were all delicious. We ordered them Medium Spice which was definitely hot enough for us. We were pleased to see that the Lamb Rib Chops which are marinated in yogurt and spices then grilled in tandoor was one of the main dishes as they were as fantastic as on past visits! We also enjoyed the Chicken Mulligatawney which is a chicken curry dish from the south of India. The boneless organic chicken was cooked in a sauce made with onions, ginger, garlic, coconut milk, lime juice and spices.The Green Fish Curry made with Ling Cod is simmered in a sauce made with cilantro, mint, onions, garlic, green chills, coconut milk, cashew powder, lime juice and spices was excellent! The Vegan Achari Baingan is a delicious sautéed Eggplant cooked in a sauce with tomatoes, ginger, garlic, lime juice and Indian Picking spices.
The wine list features wines from India, California and around the world. We enjoyed the 2010 Villa Maria Marlborough New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc which was light and lively with our appetizers and the 2010 Double Decker California Red Blend with was full bodied and paired well with the main dishes. Our favorite Dessert was the Kulfi which is a frozen dessert made with thickened milk, cream, pistachios and flavored cardamon and keora. We finished our dinner with Numi Earl Grey Black Tea.
Chef/Owner Lachu Moorjani’s new nightly Chef’s Tasting Menu is a True Indian Feast from The Best of The Best of Ajanta. We overheard one diner say as she was leaving, “This is the Food of the Gods” and we agree! We left happy and satisfied and look forward to returning again as Ajanta continues to be the Best Indian Restaurant in the Bay Area.
By Carol & Joe Davis
1888 Solano Ave
Berkeley, CA. 94707