The weekends had been the time to obtain on your own at Woodlands. Veg-heads, Hindus, Higher education Park students and fans of South Indian cooking would all collect at the cafe, most likely after temple or as component of larger working day visits to eat, pray, appreciate and shop (even though almost certainly not in that get). They all arrived for the exact issue: owner Anand Poojary’s buffet, a sumptuous spread of far more than 25 dishes, each and every 1 a rebuke to the notion that meat is someway obligatory for any cuisine of great depth and range.
At $14.95 a pop — a cost that would not even cover your foie gras parfait on Le Diplomate’s brunch menu — you had accessibility to a single desk soon after a different of chaats, biryanis, South Indian breakfast staples, flatbreads, curries, Indo-Chinese dishes, desserts and dosas so large they seemed like the kitchen area experienced rolled slender sheets shaved from the trunk of a California redwood. The first time you encounter the buffet, you swear you are going to develop into a standard. Then time passes like a bullet educate till a person day you wake up and know that Woodlands has shut, and you kick yourself for all those people weekends you skipped it for seemingly shinier objects.
On Jan. 1, Poojary closed his restaurant, the one he opened 23 years in the past with the help of a kindly landlord who took a prospect on two neophytes with certainly no working experience functioning a company. Poojary and his business associate finally went their different approaches, and he alone was liable for the increase and slide of the restaurant whose official title instructed you almost everything about its mission: Woodlands Pure Vegetarian Indian Delicacies.
Poojary could have celebrated his 25th anniversary in the exact strip heart if the kindly landlord nonetheless managed the space. But these days are long gone, and Poojary couldn’t negotiate phrases that he appreciated with his new landlord, so he permit his lease lapse on Dec. 31. He experienced hoped to come across a different site. But it’s a scary time to be operating a restaurant, let by yourself striving to reopen a single amid so much uncertainty.
Which is when “this thing just clicked in my intellect,” claimed Poojary, who grew up on a farm in the Udupi district of southwestern India. He determined to function Woodlands out of his sister establishment in Silver Spring, Jewel of India, named for the gold-accented, white-tablecloth cafe in Manhattan where by Poojary got his begin in the American hospitality field in the mid-1990s. With that final decision, Woodlands would turned a peculiar creature of the pandemic: the accidental ghost kitchen area, based mostly on a company with a lot more than 20 years of memories already in the bank.
This sort of a twin procedure is not as easy, reasonably speaking, as opening a takeout fried-rooster idea inside of a barbecue joint in which the owner could possibly have a spare deep fryer to tackle the excess business enterprise. You basically have to have two independent kitchens to run a predominantly North Indian restaurant (Jewel of India) and a predominantly South Indian cafe (Woodlands) in the very same room. More orthodox vegetarians will insist that no animal product, not even eggs, share the same prep spot as their each day bread, and Jains, whose spiritual doctrine of nonviolence extends to the destruction of entire crops, do not want root vegetables to contaminate their kitchens.
Call it karma if you’d like, but Poojary experienced by now shut down his catering procedure at Jewel of India and returned the adjacent banquet place to his landlord, leaving him with a secondary kitchen suitable for the ghostly incarnation of Woodlands. Two cooks from the Langley Park place, Biju Poouathumkundli and Sanjaya Maharajan, designed the move to Silver Spring and now provide as the strong backbone of this takeout operation.
I formally reestablished my connection to Woodlands in late December, ignorant to the reality that Poojary was just days away from closing the bricks-and-mortar place. I purchased a masala dosa, among the other issues, curious to see how the crepe would fare immediately after a quick operate from restaurant to doorstep. When produced from its tin-foil cocoon, the dosa was as compromised as you’d count on, its crispy edges so softened that the line among pancake and potato-onion-cashew filling started out to disappear.
As substantially as I skipped the presentation, and the crackle, of my dosa, I reveled in its accompanying sambar stew and the crepe’s potato mash speckled with mustard seeds, curry leaves, fried cashews and far more, their merged influence as plain as the South Indian sunlight. I had a similar knowledge with the chana bhatura, a northern Punjabi dish typically identified on South Indian menus: Its blimp of fried bread experienced deflated, which detracted from its visual charm, but it remained warm and chewy, the best scoop for the aromatic chickpea curry.
If the offerings on the dosa menu are unavoidably diminished in transit, a great number of other dishes really do not go through any sick effects from hitching a journey to your home. The kitchen excels at rice, erecting sophisticated, absolutely realized entrees out of an component that numerous take into consideration little a lot more than a courier for other, presumably loftier, dishes. The lemon rice is a genuine star, its turmeric-tinted grains augmented with curry leaves, chiles, mustard seeds and tempered split lentils, which present a deeply enjoyable crunch. The bagala bathtub is an A-lister, as well, its rice suspended in a house-built yogurt, at after tart and creamy and savory.
To be truthful, I have turn out to be a thing of a stalker considering that reestablishing my romance with Woodlands. At minimum after a week, I’ll pick up my cellular phone and review its menu, positioning orders with a recklessness that borders on obsession. Pani puri, butter masala dosa, palak paneer, tandoori-charred greens (and fruits!), dal makhani, malai kofta, rasmalai and a lot more have appeared on my doorstep, their initial prevent on the way to my eager abdomen. I inform myself that it’s for the work, but I know the real truth: I just adore Woodlands and cannot wait around for its return to a strip center (or wherever) close to me. Poojary needs that to occur virtually as terribly as I do.
Woodlands Pure Vegetarian Indian Delicacies
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. each day, for pickup and shipping only.
Charges: $3 to $16 for all dishes, which include breads, appetizers, curries, property specialties and desserts.