Quick Indian, fab froyo, wine notes and a hard-to-believe soft opening.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
In only four months, Monterey’s number of quick-Indian spots has zipped from zero to two, with the Ambrosia India Bistro (641-0610) opening a tiny but tasty cafeteria version of the place our readers vote Best Indian, on Cannery Row near El Torito, and Indian Summer’s owners opening Karma Cafe (920-1310) on Alvarado.
That’s a good thing. The spongy vegetarian “meat” I had at Karma was not.
So it went: good Karma, bad Karma. Good Karma – the appetizers are big and yummy. The “assortment plate” is only $4.95 and includes samosas stuffed with peas, potato and herbs; paneer pakora, deep-fried homemade cottage cheese; papad, crispy roasted lentil wafers; and vegetable pakora, a dynamite wad of ground chickpea and onion fried like a fritter. Good deal. And the accompanying mint-tamarind sauce is brilliant.
More good Karma: The tandoori chicken is an affordable treat at $5.95. By design, the entire menu is under $10. A one-item combo with rice and naan is $5.95; two goes for $6.95; and three items run $7.95, with lamb a little more.
Bad Karma: The decor is a little depressing inside, not unlike the plastic utensils and paper plates. Once local artist Amanda Burkman’s beautiful murals outside spill indoors, that will change.
Good Karma: The garbanzos are nice. The stewed spinach is better. I hear the wraps are also strong ($5.95-$8.95).
Bad Karma: The lamb curry could have been moister, though the chicken curry came tender and flavorful. Strangely, the lamb’s sauce was much thicker and tastier than the chicken’s.
Good Karma: The late hours (midnight Sunday through Wednesday and until 3am Thursday through Saturday).
Bad Karma: They haven’t followed through. Ownership admits they often close at 10pm. Call ahead.
Good Karma: The owners are eager for feedback. “We like complaints,” one said. “They help us serve people better.”
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Our table tried mango and plain lassis ($2.49 each) at Karma but still had room for dessert at neighboring MYO Frozen Yogurt (649-FROY), another new downtown addition.
You wouldn’t consider a place where folks dump Butterfinger and Heath Bar in their cups “healthy,” but healthy things were surprisingly present.
The yogurt deploys live cultures to promote digestion, and arrives in non-fat, non-dairy, and no sugar-added variations.
Flavors range widely and wildly: white chocolate macadamia and Dutch chocolate, Irish mint and pomegranate-raspberry, mango and strawberry-banana. I tried the dulce de leche froyo and it compared surprisingly well to its Argentine ancestors I had regularly in its Buenos Aires birthplace.
And though there are sprinkles, M&M minis, chocolate turtles and gummy sharks, there are also nourishing nuts and fruit delivered daily from Del Monte Produce, albeit often out of season, which can mean some serious shipping.
Other nutritious nuggets to mine appeared from there. The pay-your-weight exercise – 45 cents an ounce – doubles as a lesson on excess and smart business. The Alvarado venue has tables, unlike its Cannery Row original (375-FROY), including some outdoors, encouraging the full house to slow down and enjoy an early afternoon treat. The staff is enthusiastic. A stamp card kicks down free froyo after 10 visits. And healthiest of all, in my book, is the locally owned business’ locals discount: 20 percent.
Wait – one mo’ healthy harbinger: This Saturday, June 12, is Josephine Kernes Day, with 20 percent of all sales going into the Kernes Foundation’s work providing aquatic therapy for those with physical, mental, emotional and developmental disabilities. Reps will be on hand (10am-6:30pm) with info on the pool’s programs, a raffle (with whalewatching and horseriding prizes among the loot) and several speakers. The event is free; raffle tickets are $5.
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In honor of Monterey Wine Festival splashing around this weekend (1-800-422-0251), the Carmel Valley Art & Wine Festival (659-4000) descending upon the village Saturday and a cover story about the country’s biggest vineyard in little ol’ Monterey County (see p. 18), some wine notes: Doug Danzer reports Anthony Dias Blue reviews family-run Cima Collina’s 2007 Pinot Noir, Tondre Grapefield Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands ($48) in the next The Tasting Panel, with a score of 92 points.
Thursday, June 17, is the Learn Your ABCs Tasting at Zeph’s (757-3947). Anything but Chardonnay and Cab means a gauntlet of wines from adored local wineries for $20 (in advance).
And Santa Lucia pioneers Hahn Family Wines are celebrating 30 years Saturday, June 26, with a “Spaghetti Western” Pasta Cook-off. 678-2132, www.hahnestates.com
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Plenty doubted it would swing open its huge new front door by the U.S. Open, but Cannery Row Brewing Company is hosting soft openings this week, with official opening June 14… Maybe no better way to enjoy a pint than with World Cup soccer stoking international passion at atypical drinking hours. My favorite spot locally has to be the Brit (656-9543)… Jersey’s Subs (899-8400) has added a salad bar in Sand City: more than 60 items… Robert Louis Stevenson: “Wine is bottled poetry.”