Ajanta’s New Owners Don’t Mess With Anything

The father-and-son team Rajen Thapa and Pratik Thapa who took over Ajanta want to keep the Berkeley gem just like chef Lachu Moorjani envisioned it.


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Ajanta’s new owners are Rajen Thapa and Pratik Thapa.

Photo by Lori Eanes

Sometimes the best way for a restaurant to change is invisibly. Undetectably. So smoothly and silently that its longtime loyalists can’t even tell.

That’s pretty much what happened a few months ago at Ajanta.

The award-winning and enduringly popular Indian restaurant, owned and operated on Solano Avenue in Berkeley by engineer-turned-chef Lachu Moorjani since 1993, acquired new owners last November when Moorjani decided to retire and travel the world.

Those new owners are father-and-son team Rajen Thapa and Pratik Thapa. They also own North Berkeley’s Taste of the Himalayas, which they launched in 2005.

“We are in our eleventh year of serving Himalayan food to our community,” Pratik Thapa explains. “My whole family values the importance of quality food and hospitality. Being from Nepal, we were born into the culture of treating our guests with immense care and love.

“Ajanta is the best Indian restaurant in the whole Bay Area,” Thapa said. “It has won so many awards and accolades that it was impossible for us to say no,” when the opportunity arose to helm this quietly elegant, ever-welcoming, green-certified landmark, renowned for its fine service, monthly changing menus and sustainable local ingredients.

Given Ajanta’s popularity “and the tradition it has accumulated over the years,” the Thapas decided to alter—well, nearly nothing at all.

“We are going to keep everything the same or better. Before taking over, we analyzed how much Ajanta’s clientele valued the food and Lachu Moorjani’s recipes and came to understand that we don’t want to interfere with any of that. To keep the food quality and preparation consistent, we had to keep all of the previous kitchen and floor staff and we are glad that we have them as part of our team because, without them, Ajanta just isn’t the same.

“Ajanta is a gem of Berkeley and we want to keep it that way.”

As for Thapa’s own personal favorites, “I am a huge fan of our lamb rib chops. I just can’t get enough of them.”

 

Ajanta Restaurant, 1888 Solano Ave., Berkeley,

510-526-4373, www.AjantaRestaurant.com.

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