Annapurna's, Albuquerque

It ain’t easy being gluten-free. Or vegan. In Albuquerque, apparently many people are both.

At the local co-op, a bunch of deli items are both GF and vegan. I don’t really care about vegan, personally, but now that my allergy tests came back ixnay on the cow’s milk and eggs, vegan has a new meaning for me. That being said, Annapurna’s in Albuquerque’s University district is some kind of hallucination. Not only is it totally vegan, but many, many items are gluten-free. On the back of the menu is this incredible statement: “We use NO eggs, honey, wheat, refined sugar, corn, or peanuts. Our alternative sweeteners include maple syrup, brown rice syrup, and agave nectar. Please mention all allergies to server at the time of ordering.” And the best part: “Ayurveda recommends dessert first, so check our bakery case for today’s tantalizing options.” If that isn’t like dollar bills raining from the sky, I’m Miss America.

The friends we are staying with in town are vegans, so Annapurna’s fed us last night’s dinner and this morning’s breakfast. We would have eaten dinner there tonight, but they close at 2 p.m. on Sundays.

Owner Dasji Prakash, originally from southern India, spoke with us a while about how bad gluten is, how “heating” it is, and how so many Americans have candida because of our crappy diets (without me even mentioning candida first). Also, how he doesn’t cook with a lot of onions and garlic either.

What’s so amazing about all this is that the food tastes so damn good. The friend we are staying with in Alb attests to Annapurna’s authenticity: it tastes just like what he had in Kerala last year during his two-month stay. That and my own taste buds are good enough for me. I’m a devoted fan.

For dinner I had the South Indian Sampler, which included a small dosa, sambhar with idlis, and a vadai–a kind of crunchy fritter. For dessert, my pals ordered carrot cake and coconut tart. Below is a pic of the carrot cake. I’m still trying to stay away from sweets–so, for a special kind of torture, I smelled the cake instead of tasting it.

The bummer part of all this is that Portland, I now realize, isn’t doing a very good job with both gluten-free and vegan. I hope that will change very soon–this is someone’s golden opportunity.

Also, Dasji Prakash is currently working on a cookbook. So I’ll have to be happy with that when I’m back home again and away from his kitchen.

Carrot Cake Annapurna’s

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17 Comments

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17 responses to “Annapurna's, Albuquerque

  1. Travel Veg

    WORST FOOD AND SERVICE EVER!!! My fiancé and I travel all around the country looking for the best veg places to eat. We were so excited when we first arrived – the atmosphere is fun and kitschy. However, DO NOT be deceived. We started with a mocha latte and hot chocolate. Both were very bland and mediocre at best. We got an order of Masala Fries because they sounded unique but really they are just a fancy word for potatoes soaked in grease mixed with a little Indian spice – Yuk! As any vegan knows – breakfast (especially pancakes) are a rare find and definitely a treat. We got 2 orders of them which were 2 too many. They were like a very dry mix of clay and dirt. The mango sauce tasted like orange flavored cough syrup. When we asked for some maple syrup they were very rude and said they would have to charge us an additional ridiculous amount, on top of the $40 we had already spent. We passed on the syrup knowing it would have never improved the awful pancakes anyway. Unfortunately we also made the mistake of ordering the Tofu Scramble. I didn’t even know it was possible to screw up tofu to this degree – even the broccoli was bad. We also tried a couple of their vegan deserts which were dry and not even worth mentioning. All in all this was by far the worst food either of us has ever eaten. We left with all of our barely touched food on the table because it was so terrible we weren’t able to choke any of it down – such a disappointment especially after all of our initial excitement. I have never written a bad review for any vegetarian restaurant but in this case there is absolutely nothing positive that can be said and anyone who is thinking of trying this place needs to be forewarned. Trust us when we say – don’t waste your time or money. It’s mystifying this place is still in business.

  2. mjennings26

    Hi Travel Veg,
    I’m sorry you had such a bad experience at my favorite place in Albuquerque. I hope it was just a bad day or “hiccup” for the restaurant and that others will try it and decide for themselves.

    Thanks for commenting!

  3. I was hired as a photographer to shoot Annapurna’s menu in May and to my surpise, many of the dishes were very, very good. I’m not vegan or vegitarian—far from it, but most things I tried were satisfying. The person who wrote the scathing review above is dead wrong in my opinion. Considering all the ingredients that are not used in their recipes, it’s a minor miracle they accomplish what they do. On the several days that I shot (over 2 weeks), the restaurant was always about half full and with many regular customers.

  4. mjennings26

    Hi Ray,
    Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I’m glad (and relieved) to know you also had great experiences at Annapurna’s recently. I wish I could go back more often myself!
    Best,
    Melanie

  5. Jesse

    Wow…

    I’m shocked to see that someone had such a bad experience at Annapurna’s. I haven’t tried pancakes, tofu scramble, or Masala Fries there. I don’t really understand why someone would go to an Ayurvedic Indian restaurant and order junk food. I suppose they offer it for those of us who are unwilling to try new things. Perhaps it is just nice to have some of the comfort foods we have grown up with. Alas, some people take pride in being critical and find satisfaction in being negative. Who can say what the case was here.

    As for myself, Annapurna’s is the only restaurant in Albuquerque who’s food I can eat. I was forced into a very restricted diet due to some intestinal issues last year. I had eaten at Annapurna’s before and thoroughly enjoyed it, but now I appreciate it on another level. The food is carefully and thoughtfully prepared. It is delicious and healing. The staff is friendly and helpful. This restaurant feels welcoming and supportive of community. I don’t know what I would do without Annapurna’s!

  6. mjennings26

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Jesse.

  7. Kat

    I haven’t eaten there yet but I am a celiac who is also allergic to vegetables, most fruits, and even Gluten Free grains. My diet is so painfully limited but even I have hope with this resteraunt. There are a few other Gluten Free places in town but they are so expensive that I can’t afford to eat there. I am looking forward to trying this place out, thanks for the great review.

    As far as the person complaining about the quality of food, try making gluten free pancakes at home. Learn to do it yourself, then try complaining.

    Also, knowing they have comfort food for the days when I could kill just for a french fry, that is a soothing thought.

  8. mjennings26

    Wow, Kat. I thought I had it bad! Good luck to you and let me know how your meal goes at Annapurna’s.

  9. Hi, thanks for posting this blog entry. The person who gave the scathing review did not mention any Indian items they might have had. Just saying! I get their idli sambhar quite often and love it. It is good if you have earthy tastes: lentils, greens, potatoes… I don’t think I’ve ever encountered any other restaurant that makes items anything like Annapurna. I am linking to this blog for a website I am making. You’re welcome to look… it’s under construction.

  10. By the way, notice the similarity between the scathing review you have on your blog page and the one on this page: http://albuquerque.citysearch.com/review/35807837?brand=marchex_nm

    I think you were spammed. (You can delete this comment.)

  11. mjennings26

    Hi Froggy,
    Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I’m so glad you pointed out the spamming nature of the negative comment posted above. It makes me wonder if the writer had some other serious beef with this restaurant. Excuse the pun.

    Either way, I hope any future readers here will try the restaurant for themselves.

    Good luck with your site!
    Melanie

  12. I too happen to LOVE Annapurna, and have never had anything there that was unsatisfactory. I visit Albuquerque several times a year and they are one of the first places I stop.
    I live in Seattle and we are lucky enough to have quite a few really great vegetarian/almost-vegan sort-of restaurants, but none serving food quite like Annapurna. I honestly didn’t realize their foods were gluten-free, just love the fact that they’re mostly vegan, making it easy for me to find all sorts of yumminess on their menu!

  13. Gabriel Peñaloza

    A bit about myself: I’m a U.$.A. born artist/film-maker/composer currently residing in La Paz, Bolivia. Of New Mexico’s many great restaurants, i miss Annapurna the most. It’s a vegan’s dream come true.

    “We started with a mocha latte and hot chocolate. Both were very bland and mediocre at best.”

    Being vegan, it wouldn’t be my first impulse to order either item in *ANY* restauraunt [ Even one that specializes in vegan food ].

    “We got an order of Masala Fries because they sounded unique but really they are just a fancy word for potatoes soaked in grease mixed with a little Indian spice – Yuk!”

    As a previous poster stated: I don’t really understand why someone would go to an Ayurvedic Indian restaurant and order junk food.

    “As any vegan knows – breakfast (especially pancakes) are a rare find and definitely a treat… They were like a very dry mix of clay and dirt… We passed on the syrup knowing it would have never improved the awful pancakes anyway.”

    I’ve never ordered pancakes at Annapurna. I’d never order something so domestic as pancakes at a restaurant that specializes primarily in Indian cuisine.

    “Unfortunately we also made the mistake of ordering the Tofu Scramble. I didn’t even know it was possible to screw up tofu to this degree – even the broccoli was bad.”

    You two are so adventurous. A scrambled eggs substitute to go with your pancakes… right. Did ordering any dishes this restaurant is loved for ever occur to you? I can just imagine you and your fiancé glancing over the many delectable Indian dishes listed in the menu, and being intimidated by all those ‘weird ethnic names’. Sticking with what little you already knew was preferable to asking someone for a bit of assistance, i guess.

    “We also tried a couple of their vegan deserts which were dry and not even worth mentioning. All in all this was by far the worst food either of us has ever eaten.”

    I’ve eaten the cake, which was moist and fantastic. It’s too bad you didn’t mention specifically what desserts you ordered; i might have taken you seriously.

    “I have never written a bad review for any vegetarian restaurant but in this case there is absolutely nothing positive that can be said and anyone who is thinking of trying this place needs to be forewarned. Trust us when we say – don’t waste your time or money. It’s mystifying this place is still in business.”

    I think you two have got it all wrong. Annapurna’s mocha latte, hot chocolate, masala fries, pancakes and scrambled eggs substitute [ Oh God ] may very well be terrible, but i wouldn’t know because ordering such items in a place that specializes in *EXOTIC FOOD* is just silly. The next time you decide to critique a restaurant, i suggest you focus on their main dishes, even if they’re not in English. Ask for some help next time. Enough said.

  14. Vegetarian

    I would like to pipe in with my own review. I have been to many excellent vegetarian and vegan restaurants, and have also been to several Indian restaurants in Albuquerque that were quite good, and at which I ordered only vegetarian dishes.

    I went with three others to Annapurna last night and we ordered Saag Paneer, the South Indian Sampler, a vegetable sampler special, and lots of rice, dosa, and chapati.

    The service was fine and friendly, the prices were reasonable, and the restricted ingredient list would definitely be a godsend for someone on a restricted diet.

    However, the food simply did not taste good. It was bland, it had unpleasant textures, and there was not a single item out of the approximately 12 things we tried that any of us thought was “tasty”.

  15. Enya

    I too am a gluten-free fan of Annapurna, Albuquerque. Yes, I do find the sweet potato pie a little dry, and just a touch bland. But it’s one of the few gluten free – healthy alternative desserts that I find remotely edible.

    I am a big fan of the Vadai Sambhar combination. The Sambhar is a spicy mung bean soup with vegetables; I find it very tasty and satisfying – an elevated split pea soup. The Vadai are lentil, spices and cilantro “hush puppies”, served with a spicy yogurt sauce. They are so good, they can’t possibly be good for me. . . but since it’s Annapurna they probably are.

    Yesterday, a friend who is a meat eater (and dosn’t pay much attention to anything in his diet) had the Portabello Sandwich with Masala Fries. He loved it. He even enjoyed the gluten-free bread, which looked a little crumbley to me. The fries were very different from standard American fast food – made from fresh, not frozen potatoes, probably parboiled and then lightly fried. Nice, light spices on the fries, but the dipping sauce had a kick.

    They also have some wonderful chai’s, teas and blends. I’m a fan of the Mango Lassi, and the Tulsi Ginger tea. A girlfriend likes the fresh coconut milk (in the shell), and my friend yesterday tried the Orange/Black tea – a blend of juice, tea and spices. He loved it!

    My only complaint is that healthy eating is rather expensive. . . but you do get what you pay for at Annapurna. The two lunches yesterday were a little more than $20.00, which isn’t outrageous, but I can’t do that every day.

    If you are an adventurous eater, you need to try Annapurna’s.

  16. bodhi-mine

    I dine at Annapurna whenever I get downtown. I make a point of traveling there for the chai and the coconut milk. The vegan desserts I have had have been wonderful and almost all the dishes are good. Granted the coffee is okay at best and the espresso is not even okay, but why would one get upset about that … it is an Indian vegan and vegetarian restaurant, not a European cafe. It is what it is, and it does what it does. If it were to try to be all things to all people then it would lose its character and its value. I hope it never tries to do too many things and sticks to its nature.

    I am looking forward to the opening of the 4th street venue tomorrow.

  17. mjennings26

    A new Annapurna location? Wow! I’ll have to get back to Albuqu very soon.

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