Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Return of the Brunch at Ananda Fuara

We thought the Ananda Fuara Sunday brunch had been permanently lost to the annals of history; their wholegrain pancakes and homefries were hardly unique to brunches in SF, but it was veggie, and not so crowded, and a comforting place to go on Sunday. We've been going there since we started going out together! They took a three- or four-year break from Sundays. Their brunch is back, and they appear to have gotten ambitious. Gone are the mix-n-match combos of wholesome-sounding fare that could have been found in any year from 1970 to 2000. Now they offer dishes that are finished, much more refined-sounding, with some fashion-flavors thrown in, and some twentieth-century standards veganized. We ordered Sausage Benedict, Orange Blossom French Toast, and Lemon Ricotta Pancakes. First came the coffee, and the Rose Lassi. The sipper said: “You can taste the yogurt sourness. The rose water flavor is strong. I like it to be very strong. It’s more enjoyable.” There were visible flecks of cardamom, another flavor note that didn’t overpower and added depth. The coffee was good in strength and flavor, and fresh. (No sign of the hazelnut flavored coffee, as of old at AF; no loss I say.) The food came, and was prettily presented. The french toast was unfortunately barely shy of burned, and that was a real knock off the total experience. “A little bitter,” said the diner. Otherwise, the dish was good. The bananas were cooked and soft, but maybe not as nicely caramelized as the menu would lead you into thinking. The maple syrup was applied beforehand, rather than served in a cup for you to douse the dish as you please. The ricotta pancakes were excellent: the cheese does a nice job of tenderizing the pancake, and adding a slight sourness and substance. The maple syrup came in a cup, but the diner didn’t use it all. The raspberry sauce proved to be a really tasty addition, tart and flavorful, and a good foil for the pancakes. A few fresh raspberries were nice. A few more might have been welcome, but the diner didn’t even finish the ones given. “Better than the pancakes they used to serve,” he said to sum up. The sausage benedict showed a clear effort toward perfection (photo at top): The hollandaise was lemony and smooth, the eggs were poached very nicely (no loose white, the barest layer of cooked yolk) the sausage (veggie of course) was crisped beautifully outside, chewy but not dry inside, and a good flavor—imitating the meat experience without falling outside the bounds of real food and into mystery-processed food-product land. The diner liked it, and she is no fan of flesh-imitating food stuffs. However, the sauce was too thinly laid on. There was no puddle left toward the end into which the diner could smear the last bite of muffin! Also, they chose margarine instead of butter for spreading on the English muffin, which was a mistake not worth the penny in savings. The potatoes with the benedict were as close to perfect as could be imagined: not overcooked to start, toasty crisp on all sides, just salted enough, and no nasty blackened bits adhering to them. In fact, there was something a little eerie about potatoes all that uniformly cooked and sized: one pictures the cook picking off the dark bits, and removing the too-small or too-big pieces, and otherwise fussing in a way one doesn’t usually associate with something as homey as a pile of … homefries! Still, they were good eating. The little bit of salad on the plate was a welcome foil. Glad to see their signature julienne beets and carrots. At least some things are the same old Ananda Fuara. Some let down in service: no coffee refills, not quite there on the water refills, and the scrambled eggs that were ordered with the pancakes had to be asked for after they had brought our food. The service has always been earnest but often unprofessional, being the work of devotees rather than resting actors. I always liked this, but sometimes it means prompting. The up side is they don’t hover, which irritates more than one person in our party. The scrambled eggs were very good, when they came: well cooked with just a film of liquid egg inside. We look forward to returning and trying almost everything on the menu—huevos, omelets, scrambled tofu, crepes, gingerbread pancakes. Ananda Fuara, Sunday Brunch, 9am-3pm, NE corner of 9th St and Market. 415*621*1994