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Oct 3, 2006 06:01 PM

Annapurna in Sunnyvale: Sometimes There Are Reasons to Avoid Secret Restaurants in Office Parks

I’m all about the hard to find ethnic hole-in-the-walls where you can get great food on the cheap. Well, Annapurna definitely has the hard to find ethnic hole-in-wall part down as it’s hidden in an office park jungle and only has six tables, but after my experience eating there yesterday I can see it needs to work a lot on the great food and the cheap part.

$8.95 gets you a vegetarian thali lunch. Unfortunately there’s no description ahead of time to let you know what that day’s offerings are. The thali includes two vegetarian dishes, rice, rice crisp and pappadam shards, several pooris, sambar, something that looks like Corn Pops, and a drink. Other reviews have mentioned that their meal included chutney pickle and a dessert. Mine included neither. Also, although the server did tell me to let him know if I needed anything else, I didn’t take this at the time to mean second helpings, as I read now in other reviews are available for free.

Mung bean dal – I only was able to eat two small bites. It had a strong sour taste.

Pea, potato, eggplant curry – This was the best thing in my thali, but that’s not saying a whole lot. It was too oily and had started to congeal.

Rice – The rice was fine.

Poori – There were four small pieces of poori which was pretty generous. However, they were all cold – probably because I arrived at 1:45. If they’re going to serve lunch until 2:30, I think all the food they serve should be the correct temperature. Given the calories of eating bread that’s been fried, I only think it’s worth it if it’s warm, so I only ate one poori.

Sambar – Since the mung bean dal was a strike-out, this was the second half of my meal. I thought it was slightly too ketchup-y tasting (not that it looked like ketchup; just that it was sweet in the same way), and wasn’t one of the better sambars I’ve had. I will say that the spiciness level of the sambar and the curry was perfect.

Pappadam shards and rice crisps – These were fine.

Puffed corn with puffed red/pink balls – I’m not sure what this was (maybe this was the missing dessert) but it looked like Corn Pops mixed with my Smurfberry Crunch cereal from the 80s, and didn’t taste all that far off. It was a little sweet and much too artificial tasting.

Drink – It seemed to be a thin, salty yogurt-y drink, and I avoided it after a single sip.

Basically my whole meal was the pea, potato, and eggplant curry and the sambar, neither of which were all that good. If I came across them in a buffet I would have avoided them after a few bites. However, since that and some pappadam shards were all I had, that was my lunch.

I’m really surprised that this thali lunch costs $8.95, and from past reviews it appears the price was only $6 a year ago. Assuming the food was good (which it wasn’t), $6 is more in line with what should be charged, even with multiple servings. For $8.95 I would have much rather had lunch at Mayuri where my $8.95 could have been spent towards a great, constantly restocked lunch buffet or at Kabab and Currys where for less I could have had exceptional chicken boti kabob or chicken tikka masala.

I got back to my car after eating at Annapurna and thought, “I just spent 10 dollars on a lunch I half-heartedly picked at, and I’ll probably be hungry in two hours.”

1112 Elko Drive
Sunnyvale, CA 94085
(408) 745-1373

Next on my list to try: Swathi Tiffins. Any recommendations on what to order there?

Mother May(uri) I (Santa Clara Indian Buffet)

My Slightly Offensive Review of Kabab and Currys

Inaugural Silicon Valley Chowdown lunch: Annapurna Snacks, Sunnyvale

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  1. I just wanted to specify that I was wrong when I said the puffed corn with reddish pink puffed balls resembled Corn Pops mixed with Smurfberry Crunch cereal. I mean to say they resembled Corn Pops mixed with the Crunchberries from Captain Crunch. That is all.

    1. the salty yogurty drink you avoided was a fairly standard salty lassi the one time i was there.

      1 Reply
      1. re: markseiden

        No, it's not as thick as lassi. The drink is thinned buttermilk that I've had at other South Indian restaurants. According to this linked article, it's called neer-mor and the buttermilk added to water is believed to kill bacteria to make it safe to drink.
        I find it quite refreshing and the dairy component helps to quench the heat and spice.

      2. Congealed does not sound good at all. That's a shame because I really liked the pigeon pea and eggplant curry the time I had it, and what pulled me back to Annapurna to see how the kitchen would do with South Indian. Here's the photo of it.

        Image of Gujarati lunch thali -

        The eggplant had such a velvety texture without being oil-soaked or mushy like too many are. I find Gujarati food to be a touch sweet, it has a completely different balance point. Maybe that's what you were picking up as ketchupy?

        2 Replies
        1. re: Melanie Wong

          The eggplant did have a good texture, althought it was a bit oil-soaked. The ketchup-y taste I described was the best way I could think to describe it. I think you are more correct in your description of the different sweetness balance point.

          Honestly I was guessing on the drink based on a tiny sip. Reports online on Chowhound and Yelp mentioned a yogurt drink and buttermilk so I was making my best guess.

          Did you like your latest meal at Annapurna? Maybe I picked the wrong day to go or the wrong time of day?

          1. re: katya

            The most recent visit to Annapurna
            was on a Tuesday, so the cooking was South Indian. On Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays, the thali is Gujarati. I didn't like the South Indian nearly as much. To be happy here at this price, everything needs to be right and that wasn't the case last Tuesday.

            When we had the pigeon pea and eggplant curry, the first serving came out right away when we sat down before 1pm. The second one was delayed to finish prepping a freshly cooked batch, and they tasted identical to me. Temperature wasn't a problem for our meal.

            You might want to give Kokila's Kitchen that Peter Yee posted on recently or Deedee's in Mountain View for more sampling of Gujarati style food. It might not be your thing. Some of my South Asian friends don't like the sweetness.