Progressive Asian cuisine: That's the biggest part of the Avani brand.
Walk into a modern bar with a granite water fountain backing it up. Turn right in to the expansive dining area tastefully decorated with photographic art and Rajasthani murals. One even covers an entire wall. Muted earth tones and shades of the spice route give a sense of sophisticated calm here. (Avani does mean earth, in Sanskrit.) While considering the menu, we enjoy one of manager Jaya Baskeran's signature cocktails. A fresh Mango Bellini ($9) is topped with a delicious splash of raspberry puree. That's just one of the options from other signature cocktails, to wine or beer, an obvious choice with this cuisine.
The menu is extensive, catering to multiple pan-Asian food styles. Hakka, Szechuan, Mongolian, Goan, Afghani, Kashmiri and South Indian, even Japanese elements, are deftly fused in surprising ways.
Our first dish is Avani Chilli Fried Prawns ($12). "It's a hybrid dish," Jaya tells us. "We borrowed from Japan, flash frying the prawns, tempura style. There are scallops and tender rings of squid in a Hakka inspired sauce of onions, ginger, black pepper and other freshly ground spices.
A Chicken Sampler ($15) follows, with varying styles on the platter. Classics like tikka and seekh kabab join with Afghani and Reshmi chicken. Cooling cucumber-coriander raita and tamarind dipping sauces are a cut above.
The freshest ingredients make Butter Chicken ($14) edge out any ever tasted. Channa Massala ($12) is expertly seasoned and Lamb Korma ($15) is melt-in-your-mouth tender. Fresh roti and naan breads from the tandoor oven complete the dishes.
The dessert stunner is Deep Fried Coconut dusted mango or vanilla ice cream ($5). Jaya still has other interesting offerings if you're too full to take advantage of the sweet menu. "I've created a Chai-tini ($8) which we suggest for a dessert drink," he adds, so we shoot the moon and order a couple. A little cream, vodka and a specialty chai liqueur are shaken and strained, than topped with a dash of spice and a little cinnamon stick for stirring.
The food presentations are eastern inspired and elegant with modern touches throughout the service. The Pan-Asian whirlwind is complete!