I have heard a lot of good reviews on Annalakshmi and its unique practice of having its customers to pay as they like. Hard to believe? Here's an excerpt from their website:
"Firstly, the principal motive is service and not profit. Annalakshmi was not established as a business venture competing with others to make profit in a stipulated time... Be it any sphere, how can we price tag an act of love, selfless service... Almost all Annalakshmi outlets world over runs on this concept of “Eat as you want, Give as you Feel”. We do not mean to embarrass you—our esteemed guest, or put you in a tight spot by making you, instead of us, decide the price for the meal. Let this not be a factor bothering you, if it does. Have your meal first, pay whatever comes to your mind; that is perfect and appropriate for the meal you had in Annalakshmi. There is no right or wrong amount for the meal you had in Annalakshmi. We gratefully accept whatever it is."
And here's an interesting bit on the name itself:
"In Annalakshmi, as the name goes—food is revered. Anna means “food” and Lakshmi is the presiding deity. So, the food served in Annalakshmi is “Prasad” - a sanctified offering."
I have to say that it's a very noble cause worthy of admiration, even more so when you realise that this place is largely run by volunteers. Moreover, service here is excellent and it certainly puts you at ease as you enjoy your food. Before we move on, I'd just like to add that I won't be providing any ratings for the food here because it's only the second time that I'm having Indian vegetarian food and I don't think I'm in any position to really determine what exactly is good (and what isn't) since I have no point of reference at all! Still, hope you enjoy the pictures, and hope they entice you enough ;)
"Delicious triangular-shaped Indian-style curry puffs with a filling of spiced vegetables". This was a good appetiser indeed because it's something familiar to me and I thought it somewhat allowed me to transit from my carnivorous state of appetite to something more vegetarian-like. The curry and spices mixed really well with the potato cubes, and the puff casing was adequately crisp.
"Hot, crisp savoury lentil doughnuts". A pity these didn't come hot and crispy enough, because I used to like those sold at night bazaars which comes with a deep-fried prawn (of course, no chance of finding it here). Maybe I'm mistaking it with something else. The vadai here is softer and more bread-like, but I found it almost tasteless.
"Crispy, golden brown balls made from potato masala, deep fried in a lentil flour batter". The first of many masala-based dishes for the night. The potatoes were really soft, almost mashed up, and mixed gently with the Indian spices.
Rebecca mentioned that there was no way she would be going home without first eating her favourite garlic naan. We found it alright but it was admittedly a bit too hard on some parts, so hard that you can't exactly tear it apart with your pair of fork and spoon but instead have to use your hand like you're eating a cracker. I didn't really dip the naan in much of the gravies or sauces since I thought it tasted quite good on its own, given the appetising garlic flavour.
"A deep-fried bread made from plain flour." It came all puffed up like a balloon, but "deflated" on its own in a matter of seconds. This was a favourite at the table and went well with any of the gravies that we ordered. I thought of it as an Indian version of the Chinese "you tiao" (fried dough-sticks) since it tasted quite similar actually.
Vegetable Fried Rice
"A non-spicy chinese style fried rice". Surprising as it is, this really tasted as though it came out from a Chinese vegetarian kitchen. Nothing much to say about ingredients since there wasn't much of it in the first place. Pretty alright.
"Spicy chickpeas". We ordered two bhaturas which came with a serving of channa masala each, so this was a bit excessive on our part. Goes really well with the naan or bhatura.
"Mushrooms served in a delicious onion-based gravy". Our favourite masala gravy. The button mushrooms were really soft and yummy. You could use this as a filling for a self-made bhatura or naan wrap.
"Potato and cauliflower in an onion-based gravy". I quite liked this because there was already quite a lot of masala gravy going around and this was much closer to a the typical Indian curry as well.
Kulfi's a kind of traditional Indian ice-cream, so the menu says, and I think it really gave a sweet end to the meal. It's really milk ice-cream with bits of (what seems to be) red-beans and tends to remind you of the local "potong" ice-cream. I would return to Annalakshmi just for this deliciously simple dessert to be honest. There's also another dessert that we left out, one that I remember as deep fried milk balls. I'm sure those would taste great as well.
Excellent. The staffs were very friendly and polite.
"Eat what you want, give as you feel". Some food bloggers have noted that people tend to give more in the absence of a fixed menu price, but to me I prefer to see it as a small contribution to the non-profit Temple of Fine Arts and the Temple of Service. To know more about Annalakshmi, click here.
Chinatown Point Basement.