Oops!: Openings, re-openings, near openings

As any tulip or hyacinth lover knows, it's possible to trick Mother Nature a bit and "force" bulbs to open in the middle of winter. But as Dish learned last week, you certainly can't force a restaurant.

Regular readers may realize that I'm referring to the little taqueria Atomic Burrito, which I prematurely reported as opening on the day the previous issue of The Hook hit the stands: Thursday, March 25. Quelle erreur!

 Owner Andrew Vaughan was as surprised as any of us when key equipment didn't show up as planned, thus postponing the much-awaited opening at least a week. Vaughan says to keep fingers crossed for a Thursday, April 1 opening.

Dish has her psychic side, but in order to avoid another premature call, I waited until now-­ or a good three weeks after the March 4 opening-­ to report on the new, student-friendly Maharaja on Wertland street (just off 14th Street on the Corner).

Though a good chunk of the former Bristles space still remains vacant, young restaurateurs Amit and Shivani Durve have transformed one end of what was a popular area hair-cuttery (which moved to Rio Road) into a quick and colorful Indian eatery.

The fact that I didn't catch on to the color scheme right away says a lot about my relationship to football, but it's also a compliment to the Durves, who designed and supervised construction themselves: orange and blue make fantastic restaurant colors if used in the right way­ wahoo!

 Amit, a UVA Comm School graduate and the son of original Maharaja owner Arun Durve, told Dish he'd been looking for a Corner location since last November.

"The Corner really needed an Indian restaurant, and we designed this Maharaja to be quick and inexpensive for students," he says.

The menu includes appetizers like samosas and pakora, soup and salad combos, clay-oven baked naan with tamarind and mint chutney dipping sauces, rice-based biryani and pilau, and the already popular chicken, lamb, tandoori and vegetarian platters, which run from $4.95-$5.90 and include vegetables, naan, rice, and salad.

Beer should be available by mid-April– until then, why not let a mango or sweet (rosewater) lassi do the quenching? Newcomers to Indian cuisine will like the fact that all dishes are displayed behind glass at the main counter. Amit's wife Shivani, who admits she's a more than a little homesick for bustling Bombay, tries to make up for the relatively slow pace of life in Charlottesville by serving customers with impressive speed. Maharaja is open for lunch and early dinners (eat-in or take-out) from 11am-8pm Monday-Saturday.

Over at the Buffalo Wing Factory and Pub on Elliewood Avenue, workers tell me it'll be another month at least before opening day (owner Osama El-Attari hadn't returned my calls by press time). We won't need to wait that long for another Corner restaurant opening.

As of Monday, March 29, the power was on at the new Tropical Smoothie Café on University Avenue. A food delivery was on its way, tile floors were being swept, and the wicker ceiling fans were trembling with excitement. Don't throw me in a blender if it doesn't happen, but the franchise owners say they plan to open (quietly) on the weekend of April 3-4.


Kluge farm shop re-opens for the season

The great thing about those bulbs is they pop up again each Spring-­ much like the Kluge Estate Farm Shop, which re-opened after a restful winter hibernation on March 16.

In addition to spring itself, this Napa-style winery, gourmet pastry- and prepared-food shop is celebrating its one year anniversary and several appetizing additions. A new menu features the countryside-accented cuisine of executive chef Francis Reynard and also a unique way of packaging his (and pastry chef Serge Torres') gourmet creations: bocaux.

Qu'est-ce que c'est? Picnic-friendly bocaux are basically air-tight glass canning jars in which the Farm Shop will offer daily soups like spicy Virginia peanut and roasted red pepper or cool gazpacho and cantaloupe. The jars can be kept or returned après-picnic (there's a $1.50 deposit).

For hot meals, choices include veal stew, bouillabaisse, and beef bourguignon; and salads such as mozzarella and tomato or lentils with pheasant and hedgehog mushrooms. Since even containers like these bocaux benefit from enhanced packaging, traditional, cloth-lined picnic baskets now encourage visitors to nibble leisurely outside the shop, in the shade of the tulip poplars.

Farm Shop hours are 10am-5pm, Thursday-Sunday.

Shivani and Amit Durve of Maharaja