There is class, and then there is class. In fact, according to Webster’s New World Dictionary, there are ten usages for that word. For Rabbi Chaim Heinemann, director at Cincinnati Community Kollel, perhaps the meaning of the word focused on teaching is the higher order of things cultural, and one reason he visits Amma’s Kitchen on Reading Road.
On the afternoon we visited the vegetarian eatery, Rabbi Heinemann was putting a wrap on a class he held there over a lunch the participants selected from the buffet Amma’s Kitchen offers from 11 am to 2:30 pm weekdays. Kibbitzing about the food, he added: “I also appreciate how they are always so accommodating in helping me secure a corner (of the restaurant) to deliver a class.”
While using Amma’s Kitchen as “a Jewish learning environment” may be part of the attraction for the rabbi and his students, the food is the major draw for Jewish diners-out. If you did not know, the eatery specializing in Southern Indian cuisine also is certified kosher. Rabbi Heinemann put it this way: “Aside from having delicious kosher food, Amma’s Kitchen offers an incredible non-dairy option.”
One of these non-dairy options is a delightful rice pudding that we tried — and loved! The day was a scorcher, in the mid-90s outside, and the cool, creamy, mildly sweet, and soupy rice pudding was that “just perfect” treat on a sultry day.
So, creamy, yet non-dairy? Check out most rice pudding recipes and you’ll see that the ingredient list almost always includes milk or cream and butter as well. Not at Amma’s Kitchen, according to the manager. There the chef uses no butter and substitutes almond milk for the moo-cow variety. Hence, no dairy. My experience is that rice pudding can be cloyingly sweet with heavy milky after-affects. Again, not the Amma’s Kitchen version of this classic dessert item.
While rice pudding may be a small ball in the scheme of things, extrapolate that to the entire menu and one begins to gain an appreciation of what Amma’s Kitchen brings to the table. In a passing comment from one of the women leaving the eatery after attending the rabbi’s class, she said: “It’s great food; vegetarian, clean, fresh, very tasty. I enjoy everything on the buffet, too much sometimes, and I love coming here, class or no class. No name (she did not want her name in the paper) please, just quote me. Everybody I talk to about this place (Amma’s) feels the same way. Really good food, and one of the best kosher options we have. If you’re Jewish and you’re kosher, you’re going to love this place, especially for lunch with the buffet. Lots of choices and so good. There’s not a loser on that table,” she said, pointing to the steam table of the buffet.
On this early afternoon, maybe 1 p.m. or so, there were at least six tables or booths in the general dining room with Jewish diners at them, each cluster with at least one man in a yarmulke. These in addition to the rabbi’s class held in a back section of the restaurant.
According to management, Jewish diners were among the first to return after the buffet was reinstated in 2021 following the strictures brought on by the pandemic. Now, the flow and activity around the buffet, with its hot and cold segments, is very much what it was in those good old days before COVID steamrolled the restaurant industry.
The selections on the buffet change daily, but the most popular foods of Southern Indian cuisine are part of the daily rotation. Dishes such as gobhi Manchurian, which is the spicy, saucy version of cauliflower, are regulars on the buffet. One of my favorites is the eggplant cooked as a stew with other vegetables in a tawny orange curry, called bagara baingan, a mildy spiced dish. Try eating any of these dishes with garlic naan as a scoop/fork. I’m betting if you have a taste for Indian food, you will love these, and other buffet options focused on the cuisine of Southern India.
See you at Amma’s Kitchen!
7633 Reading Rd
Cincinnati, OH 45237