Nimita’s Cuisine recently opened in the former home of Muddy Waters on East Haley Street, where Nimita Dhirajlal serves organic, farm-to-table, Ayurvedic Indian fare. Like the former coffee shop tenant once did, Dhirajlal plans to make her space open for gatherings, events, and entertainment. “We’re creating a community hub where good things happen: music, meditation classes, mixers,” she said. “We offer a peaceful setting with good food and positive happenings that support Santa Barbara’s beautiful culture.”
An ancient form of Indian medicine and nutrition, Ayurvedic cuisine seeks to create optimum balance in the body, and Dhirajlal learned to cook in this fashion from a swami who lives in Carpinteria. A great introduction is the Thali Plate, which includes vegetable korma, tikka masala, paneer masala, toor dal, and basmati rice with mango chutney, and represents sweet, savory, spicy, bitter, and sour flavors. “The Thali is a sampler plate, but it also covers all of the needs of a healthy diet,” said Dhirajlal, who presents her version on a large silver dish with small bowls. “So we have lentils for protein, the vegetables are packed with vitamins and rice for carbohydrates, and the Ayruvedic spices are cleansing.”
I started with the paneer, whose homemade cubes of soft, rich, and creamy cheese are served in a masala sauce of ginger, garlic, and spices in a tomato base — a complete vegetarian delicacy. The korma is a mix of carrots, cauliflowers, and peppers that Dhirajlal described wonderfully as “a bounty from the local farms, wrapped in a cashew and coconut base.” The aroma and brightness of the flavors in my chicken tikka masala made me feel energized instead of heavy and full, and the rice and mango chutney balanced everything sweetly. Lastly, the toor dal brought a spicy, slightly sweet, nutty, and almost cinnamon taste to the table. It was the perfect healthy meal to fill me up after a wonderful El Niño surf session.
Nimita’s Cuisine is open 7:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. at 508 East Haley Street. Call (805) 259-6594 or see nimitascuisine.com.