Anula's Cafe (Oakland)
I always wondered about Anula's Cafe as I walk by it on the way to Stag's. Last week I was tired and didn't feel like going the extra few blocks and ended up in front of Anula's. Boy was that a good decision. The hot meal specials sounded Indian but it turns out the proprietor is Sri Lankan. I had the chicken roti lunch and returned Monday for the chicken curry lunch. It was delicious in a wholesome, homemade kind of way. Like slow food. The food was very flavorful without being overly greasy or salty. Each day there is a different special, each $7.
They also serve standard lunch fare like sandwiches, salads, and smoothies but I've been too intrigued by the lunch specials. The other customers seemed to be regulars, it sounded like she has a small following.
I wrote this for another thread awhile ago and apparently never hit “post.”
The first time I went in Parliament’s “Flashlight” played as I awaited my takeout box in the tiny, almost closet like space- listening to that as two Sri Lankan ladies packed my lunch was a nice dose of Oakland charm.
The curry lentil soup is fantastic- toothsome lentils and potato chunks in a richly-flavored broth beaded with oil droplets, with a good curry flavor and a bit of lingering heat, served with a slice of Semifreddi sourdough. Available Monday & Thursday, this is the best soup going downtown.
The jerk chicken on Tuesdays is my favorite daily special- 2 drumsticks heavily pasted with dark, rich jerk seasoning served over peas and rice, with kale and green beans. Which brings me to a key failing of the place- the kale is undercooked for my taste, and the green beans are not fresh. The peas and rice is very good.
I haven’t had the chicken curry but I enjoy the vegetarian roti option on Wednesday. The roti itself is a bit odd, but the curried vegetable filling is excellent. This one comes with a side greens salad.
The lamb curry lacks flavor, and the meat is oddly cut into small, unappealing, somewhat ragged chunks.
Each of these dishes comes with a dollop of chutney with a bright, fresh flavor. Matouk’s Trinadadian hot sauce is available on the counter, and it’s a must- I prefer the milder one (which still packs quite a punch) labeled "Hot Sauce/Salsa Picante," which marries the fruity flavor of Scotch bonnets with papaya. The Scotch bonnet flavor is blasted away by the heat in the hotter, "Calypso" sauce. It’s worth buying a bottle to take home.
The hot dishes are prepared off-site and served from electric warming pots. Anula is Sri Lankan and her husband is Jamaican; hence the varied menu.
I haven't tried the many sandwiches, but they are popular.
Since I wrote the above, she’s added Sri Lankan patties, empanada-like pockets of dough filled with curry chicken or curried vegetable mash. They make great snacks, or a light lunch paired with the lentil soup.
re: Pius Avocado III
Your rave of the lentil soup reminded me that the lentils that came with the chicken curry were fantastic. They were the best I have had since Sultan I'd downtown SF closed. The chicken curry also came with a delicious side of eggplant. I normally am not a fan of eggplant but this version was flavorful.
Also returned today for the fish special and it was very good. It came with a great side of beet salad.
I agree that the roti wrapper is a little unusual and is probably my least favorite compared to the other daily specials I have tried.
Anula's is my favorite place to eat in downtown Oakland. I've been there several time when I was attending events nearby or when on jury duty. As luck would have it, I have been called Monday and am hoping I have to report so I can lunch at Anula's. I remembered the location but not the name. Thanks for reminding me!
It turns out they are starting to do dinners once a month - the first friday (eg tomorrow night).
re: Pius Avocado III
I had to visit the County Assessor's office last week and took a chance that Anula's was still serving. Didn't ask how, but they were serving the usual lamb curry on Thursday. The excellent curry was a dusky mix of spices. Lentils and spinach were mildly spiced. The wild card in the deck was that she subbed a roti wrap for rice. It was too much spice on top of the curry for me. Glad to see that she is still operating. She is very friendly and recognized me although I hadn't been there in a few years.