Ahimsa, Explained — And Served Fresh

by Paul Bass | February 19, 2007 1:30 PM | | Comments (2)

AHimsa%20Shahs%202.jpgNew Haven? Oh, that’s the city that (now) has an Indian-owned vegan kosher-supervised natural foods restaurant. With table service.

That special combination — and it is special, outside of New York’s Curry Hill district — can be found at the corner of New Haven’s Chapel and Howe streets, where Sudhir and Anita Shah and their son Nirav Shah have opened Ahimsa restaurant. (Sudhir and Nirav are pictured.)

Suffice it to say they have launched a unique restaurant: an elegant natural and raw foods sit-down eatery and adjoining cafe run by a family originally from India, cooking with no meat or eggs or dairy products, under kosher dietary supervision (by this rabbinical group).

Ahimsa began as a cafe, a daytime adjunct to the family’s Imagin photo studio across from the Green. Then Nirav, a high-school senior, suggested expanding the eatery into a full-blown restaurant in a new location as a way to promote the family’s spiritual and health values.

The family found a vacant spot at the corner of Chapel and Howe. The cafe reopened next door to the corner restaurant space last month, serving delectable wraps, smoothies, nut-based ice cream, teas (recommended: the potent ginger), and other delights during the day. The full restaurant has now opened, too, serving six nights a week starting at 6. Sunday night they’re off. (Ahimsa’s phone number: 786-4774.)

Nirav explained the meaning of “Ahimsa” as he cooked up some chocolate ravioli one recent evening. Click on the play arrow to watch.

The chocolate ravioli topped a meal that was a vegan’s dream come true — eggplant Florentine, pesto, and dumplings, all usually off-limits. (Entrees start at $16.) The Miles Davis music and African art on the walls added a relaxed, tasteful atmosphere.

A Kosher Renaissance

Ahimsa is the sixth kosher restaurant in town. (The others are Claire’s, Edge of the Woods, Stella’s European Bakery, Westville Kosher Market, and Kosher Express.) It’s the only one serving food with no meat, dairy or egg products, and the only downtown kosher spot with full table service, along, soon, with wine and beer, until 10 at night.

The Shah family follows Jainism, which puts an emphasis on “vegetarianism and Ahimsa.” Click on the play arrow to watch and hear Sudhir Shah, who came to New Haven from India in 1978 to attend Yale School of Management, describe the process of preparing his new restaurant to meet kosher requirements, and what he learned about connections between his faith and Judaism.

The restaurant adds a new fine-food offering to a block that has seen its fortunes soar in the past two decades, to become an international-cuisine mecca. The spot where Ahimsa now serves upscale vegan fare was the home in the 1970s to Cafe des Artistes, a head shop/pinball parlor/ ice-cream shop popular among stoners, night owls and prostitutes; the center of New Haven’s red-light district used to be catty-corner at Chapel and Howe. Nowadays, in addition to three other close-by Indian places, the immediate area features the popular Miya’s Japanese restaurant and Mamoun’s Middle Eastern food.

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Posted by: Cedar Hill Resident | February 19, 2007 4:59 PM

The food is great and the dinning is to, quite a relaxing environment to dine. They have the juice bar as well!! Congrat's on the new place.

Posted by: DMc | February 27, 2007 2:36 PM

What you fail to mention is how stupid-expensive this place is. It is absolutely, in no way worth the cost. I was charged $17 for an eggplant dish that should have been a $6 appetizer. I was really excited about this place and went in on the first night it opened. Afterward, I had to go to Mamoun's to get some actual food at a reasonable price. And I wasn't the only one. The two other groups that were there did the same thing.

Huge disappointment.

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