In today’s online edition the SF Weekly features among other vegetarian restaurants “Ananda Fuara”, an enter- prise lead by disciples of Sri Chinmoy:
Ananda Fuara, a few blocks away at Market and Larkin, is a San Francisco institution and “divine enterprise” of guru/super-athlete/humanitarian Sri Chinmoy. The spiritual leader died in 2007, but lives on at restaurants like this, which still bears the name he bestowed on it (translation: “the fountain of delight”) as well as poster-sized photographs of his beatific visage on the walls. There’s a lending library in the back stocked with Chinmoy titles like Beyond Within and Eastern Light for the Western Mind that you can peruse as you eat, but Chinmoy and his philosophies are never mentioned by the sari-clad staff (who do close the restaurant for yearly retreats, though, including one April 11-15). If anything, the room is peaceful, with robin-egg blue walls, tinkling meditative music, fresh flowers, and a fountain trickling water down one wall. The crowd’s a mix of business-lunchers and yoga-pant-wearing enthusiasts.
Chinmoy’s dedication to vegetarianism lay in his teachings to find your best self through meditation. He’s best known for antics like bench-pressing political dignitaries, but his followers also claim that he produced 1,500 books, 100,000 poems, 18,000 spiritual songs, and 200,000 paintings in his lifetime, many of which are on the walls. His high achievement is attributed, at least in part, to his avoidance of animal flesh. On his website, he wrote that when we eat meat, “the aggressive, animal consciousness enters into us,” whereas milder vegetables give us “the qualities of sweetness, softness, simplicity, and purity.” As such, the menu is less fake meat and more textbook hippie by way of the Moosewood Cookbook.
The restaurant is known for its Neatloaf, a take on meatloaf made with ricotta, tofu, grains, eggs, and spices ($11.75, a vegan option is also available). It’s admirably moist and texturally very similar to the version your mother might have made for Sunday dinner, but the tangy tomato-based sauce on the top was overly sweet and cloying. Still, it was a satisfying lunch, and came with a sizable fresh salad with a zippy lemon-tahini dressing. On a sandwich, the bottom slice of bread tended to get soggy; a better sandwich to try is the veggie burger ($7.95), of the soft and squishy variety and no more exciting than it needs to be.
The menu also has a large number of Indian dishes. Dal ($5.95) had the requisite complex layers of spice and heat that makes the simple chickpea stew so appealing. Samosas ($6.25) were stuffed with pea-and-potato curry, though the wrapping was a tad too thick and gluey. Ananda Fuara also has a daily curry served over rice ($11.50), which one day featured a mild, creamy version with mushrooms — nothing that blew the palate away with spice, but warming on a rainy afternoon.
Was forgoing meat for a few meals my path to spiritual enlightenment? Of course not. But dining under the gaze of the Supreme Master and Sri Chinmoy did make me more conscious of the meat I eat every day without thinking about it — turkey sandwiches, sausage on pizza, chicken in pad Thai, and so on. Given all the uncertainty these days around what’s in the meat we eat, a little mindfulness isn’t a bad thing. Even when it comes with a side of scripture. (Source: Anna Roth/SF Weekly)