In the space that once housed Breads of India, Annapurna has risen as a solid choice for lunch or dinner in a neighborhood better known for cutting-edge food than classic choices. Annapurna’s nearest neighbors include Delage, a Japanese omakase place, Cosecha, new-age Mexican, and B-Dama, Cali-Japan fusion. So, it’s somewhat refreshing to find a straight-up Nepalese and Indian menu, especially when it comes with exceedingly welcoming, gracious service, to boot.
We visited the nearly two-month-old restaurant for dinner on the early side, with our two kids, seven and two, in tow. The first thing we noticed is how the cavernous space was quite sensitive to squeals and cries. The room has an incredibly high ceiling, complete with a balcony and rather Gothic chandeliers, prompting me to ask our server what had been in the space before Breads of India. She didn’t know, but it’s very elaborate—kitschy, even—and evokes a German beer hall. Nonetheless, she was lovely about the unsolicited noise, as well as the mess that always ensues when you take a toddler out to dinner.
We ordered simply, beginning with hand-formed vegetarian momos, fat Nepalese dumplings stuffed with cabbage, spinach, mushrooms, cheese, onion, and cilantro, served with a tomato chutney that was a nice balance of savory and sweet. Before they arrived, our server brought out little bowls of yellow lentil soup to start us off.
Aloo matar came next, stewed green peas and potatoes in a sauce that was pleasantly spicy, even though we’d ordered it mild, thinking of the kids’ preferences. It was what most people might consider medium-spicy, and that ended up pleasing everyone, especially with hot-out-of-the-tandoor naan, cut into triangles, which the baby kept referring to as “pizza.”
For our main course, we chose one of the best tandoori chicken dishes I’ve had in Oakland, big chunks of chicken rubbed in tikka spices and marinated in yogurt, served sizzling on an iron platter covered in shredded cabbage, onion, and green peppers. The garnish was rendered invitingly smoky by the tandoor, and really made the dish. We took the chicken off the plate immediately to cool so that it didn’t get overcooked.
The drink menu could be improved. The consolation for the run-of-the-mill wine and beer list is the full bar.