Annapurna in Evergreen Lodge brings Nepali-Indian cuisine to Vail
If you go ...
What: Annapurna, Nepali and Indian cuisine.
Where: Located inside the Evergreen Lodge, 250 South Frontage Road W., Vail.
Hours: Daily, noon to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, 4:30 to 9 p.m. for dinner.
Must try: Veggie or chicken momos, lamb masala.
More information: Visit http://www.annapurnavail.com, or call 970-476-7812.
for years, Om and Sarita Lohani had planned to one day sell their successful Glenwood Springs restaurant and head back to their native Nepal to open a new business.
They got as far as selling Nepal Restaurant, which they’d owned and operated for more than a decade. Then, last April, massive earthquakes rocked Nepal, leaving both death and destruction in their wake. The Lohanis were advised by their relatives back home in Kathmandu, “Business is bad here. It’s not a good time to invest.”
That tragic turn had a silver lining for the Vail Valley, as the Lohanis looked for a new restaurant opportunity in the Colorado mountains. They landed in Vail’s Evergreen Lodge as the new operators of Annapurna, serving Nepali and Indian cuisine.
Om Lohani said he hopes to bring the same cozy atmosphere, sense of community and authentic tastes of the Glenwood restaurant to Vail.
“I have many friends who live in Avon, and they all said we should open a place here. I think there’s a need for this kind of food here,” he said. “My wife came to Colorado first in 2003 and started the restaurant. She taught me how to cook, too, and people loved our food. We want to do the same thing here.”
Taste of Nepal
The restaurant space, which used to be part of the hotel’s dining facilities, is nondescript, but what it lacks it decor, it makes up for with heart and the delicious smell of curries and herbs.
Barely open for two weeks, they’re already busy turning out hot Nepali dumplings (called momos), tender cuts of lamb and chicken cooked in curry sauces and steaming cups of cheeya, a sweet, black chai tea brewed with milk and cardamom. Everything is made from scratch, like Sarita learned as a girl from her mom, and Om brings back spices every time he returns to Nepal so he can create his own spice mixes.
As Om explains, there are many similarities between Indian and Nepali cuisine — they utilize many of the same spices, while Nepali food tends to be a bit milder. You can try both at Annapurna.
Start your meal with vegetable momos (one of the many veggie options here that won’t have you missing the meat at all) and the extremely addictive cheeya.
We tried the lamb masala, a clay oven-roasted dish with generous hunks of meat in creamy tomato sauce served on rice, with a soft, chewy side of garlic naan bread to soak up the sauce. Fans of heat will like the spicy vindaloo, a tangy, spiced curry sauce with potatoes and meat, which tastes as red as it looks.
If you’re not a fan of curries, try the chau chau, a mild stir-fry udon noodle dish and a classic Nepali staple.
For locals and visitors
As for the name Annapurna, Om said he was looking for something different that would resonate with the mountain community.
“We have owned two restaurants named Nepal Restaurant, and many Nepalis like to name their restaurant Nepal or Everest. We wanted to do something different. We thought of Annapurna because it’s a very popular, sacred and holy mountain in Nepal. It is one of the top 10 highest mountains. Another meaning of the name is ‘goddess of harvest,’ so it’s fitting for a restaurant,” he said.
Along with Evergreen Lodge owner Peter Knobel, the Lohanis hope to bring Himalayan food at affordable prices to the valley. A far cry from the astronomical prices that tend to be found in and around Vail Village, plenty of entrees at Annapurna are made to share and fall in the $14 to $20 range.
Knobel said he’d eaten at Lohani’s Glenwood Springs restaurant before and thought the food was fantastic. When he heard they were looking to relocate, he suggested Vail.
“We have a ton of restaurants in Vail, but this is a different type of food,” Knobel said. “Everyone’s always looking for Chinese or Nepal or Indian food, and the town didn’t have this. I thought it’d be a great addition, especially because it’s economical for locals. We have the Altitude Bar (in the Evergreen Lodge), and a lot of locals go there for football games. This seems like it could fill a similar need.”
Assistant Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.