There are only so many eateries a guy can try in a four day visit to Sausalito. Luckily for me, it's hard to make a bad choice.
2656 Bridgeway Boulevard
Sausalito CA 94965
June 23, 2016
Punjabi Mexican Fusion? Sounds like a stretch but I’m in California. Pretty soon I find out how brilliant it is. And who’s responsible for it.
A patron walks in the door and is greeted enthusiastically by owner Ashok Kumar, an extrovert, showman, storyteller and astute businessman rolled up into one dynamic presence. Thinking along the lines of how on earth Mexican and Punjabi food can be fused, I tell Ashok I’m torn between the Tostados and the Enchiladas.
“Have the Punjabi Enchilada with the curried pumpkin, ground beef and jack cheese,” he says emphatically. Case closed.
Moments later I find out why this place is so popular. The two enchiladas, soft corn tortillas, arrive coated with home made curry sauce, jack and cheddar cheese, a dark swirl of tamarind sauce and yogurt with a side of basmati rice sprinkled with luminous green peas and golden raisins. I read later this is Avatar’s signature dish.
Sausalito, as I’ll find out during the next few days, is a foodie paradise. I don’t know how to begin to describe the dessert. There is only one on the menu, called Avatar’s Dream.
The best I can do is show you a photo and tell you to imagine your palate on a joy ride. A wedge of cool creamy firm custardy filling topped with pistachios and other nuts and settled on a bottom of sweet chocolatey crust, presented with a swirl of puréed mango, yogurt and rose flavored sauce.
“I’ll have to charge you double if you use your fingers to sweep up the plate, “ Ashok says. Lucky for me he’s kidding. I did just what most of his customers do. That sauce was just too precious to leave traces of on the plate.
Ashok’s entrepreneur brother-in-law, Avatar Singh, hatched the idea to start in 1989, and hired Ashok to run the place. Ashok began the hard way… and way ahead of his time. He hung a “No Smoking” sign outside the door.
“You can’t smell or taste my food with all the smoke filling the room,” he said. And he knew that the flavors of the food he wanted to present needed unspoiled palates to taste it.
Sausalito, Food. Smoking…diners expected to be able to light up back in 1989. Some turned on their heels when they saw the sign. He recalled that one gave him the finger. Others told him to go back to India. There must have been days when Ashok thought about it.
The few foodies who tried the new place raved about it. Today, it’s one of the most popular destinations in town. The prices range from $4.95 to $16.95 with most items priced in between; considering the range and quality, it's one of the best values in town.
Avatar died in 1999 but his dream restaurant lives on. Ashok's sister is the chef. The place is cozy, clean, well lit, smells great and is filled with diners of all ages and nationalities. Ashok is one of a rare breed of restauranteurs who make you feel at home and unrushed even when the place is jumping, suggests food for you to try, and seems unrattled by long lines out the door. He knows he has a good thing going and does everything he can to keep it that way.
Photo of Avatar Singh; patrons at tables and counter of spotless restaurant
In Hindu mythology, avatar refers to the descent of a deity to the earth in an incarnate form or some manifest shape. Avatar’s Restaurant qualifies as a heavenly delicious place to dine.
Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.