All You Can Eat Ayurveda?

A good friend of ours, Lalitha Vaidyanathan, has been hard at work trying to bring the concept of Ayurvedic food to San Francisco. Specifically, she's focusing on franchising Annalakshmi, a chain of vegetarian restaurants with a twist. From The Karmic Kitchen in the San Francisco Weekly:

Imagine walking into an upscale Indian restaurant, its menu filled with delectable-sounding choices like Malabar avocado and coconut soup (made with plain yogurt, cumin, and lemon juice and served with fresh cilantro chutney and whole wheat chapatis) and drinks like the Saffron Sandalwood Fizz (lime juice and pure water, cooled overnight by the light of the moon). You sit down with friends and enjoy a delicious, ayurvedic vegetarian meal, served with a smile. Then you finish, feeling satisfied, and signal for the bill -- but none comes. This scenario is not merely a fantasy: At Annalakshmi, you decide what to order and how much to pay.

Inspired by Swami Shantanand -- a Hindu monk from Rishikesh, India, who came to Southeast Asia in the early 1970s -- the small international restaurant chain operates with an uncommon trust in humanity: that people will pay what is fair because we are inherently good and because it is in our own best karmic interests to give. Although its concept may sound too idealistic to stand a chance, Annalakshmi has been in business for 19 years, and has thriving outposts in Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, and India. And now it's geared up to open its first eatery in the United States -- in an as-yet-undetermined spot in San Francisco.

Behind the scenes is a 35-year-old Marina District woman named Lalitha Vaidyanathan, who, late last year, quit her job as a co-founder and vice president at SquareTrade, a company that facilitates fair online sales, to pursue the restaurant's local development full time. "I always felt like Annalakshmi has so much to offer people beyond just food," she explains. "It really provides a whole new way of seeing the world and its possibilities. I felt that San Francisco would be a perfect place to open one. Why not? I figure if it's meant to happen it will. I have complete trust in whatever's meant to be."

Hear hear! For those of us fortunate enough to taste the teasers Lalitha prepares in her kitchen, all I can say is she may well make permanent vegetarians out of us yet! Until then, here's to Annalakshmi, a place where you can balance your doshas (not dosas) as well as your pocketbook.

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- May 30, 2005 11:13 PM // Food