Divya’s Kitchen in East Village offers tasty, vegetarian dishes

Divya's Kitchen is at 25 First Ave. in the East Village. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

It opened in 2016 as the city’s first authentic Ayurvedic restaurant, based on a traditional medical system of India.

Divya’s Kitchen is an East Village restaurant that offers healthy vegetarian food, but without sacrificing one bit of flavor.

It opened in 2016, at 25 First Ave., as the city’s first authentic Ayurvedic restaurant, meaning it’s based on a traditional medical system of India called Ayurveda.

The goal of Ayurveda is to maintain a holistic balance in all aspects of life, including the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. What we eat is an important part of the balancing process, noted Divya Alter, co-owner and chef of the restaurant.

“Ayurvedic cuisine is all about balancing our bodies and mind through food,” said Alter. “It addresses the seasonal changes and individual’s needs for balance by helping us make personalized choices, based on what we need in the moment.”

Seasonal Khichari, a stew with yellow mung, lentils, quinoa, vegetables and cilantro-mint chutney. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

Alter said that key features of Ayurvedic food include always being freshly prepared, which includes not reheating anything; using ingredients in each dish that follow food compatibility based on Ayurveda; and being “pleasant and delicious.”

Everything in the restaurant is made from scratch, Alter noted, from milling flour to squeezing almonds for milk, and juicing 200 limes every day.

“I want our guests to experience true enjoyment and nourishment with our food, feel energized after their meal, and feel more balanced for hours and days after their meal,” Alter said.

Sunflower Beet Hummus. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

Alter taught vegetarian and vegan cooking classes for eight years at the nonprofit Bhagavat Life, which emphasizes holistic living. It was located at the Bakhti Center in the East Village, which is in the same building as Divya’s Kitchen.

Three and a half years ago, the landlord offered Alter the restaurant space on the ground floor, and she and her husband Prentiss decided to open the Ayurvedic eatery.

“We love the neighborhood, and our freshly cooked, home style fits in perfectly,” Alter said.

She has first-hand experience with the health benefits of Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle, she said, when she was helped by them to heal from chronic illness. Alter felt the cuisine was missing from the city’s offerings.

Alter’s interest in Ayurveda began in 1999 when she was living in India for five years. She started in-depth studies with teachers about nine years ago.

“Ayurveda is a life-long study, so I continue to learn and share with others through my restaurant, cookbook, classes, and blog,” Alter said.

The restaurant has gotten positive feedback from the community, noted Alter. “I meet so many people who thank me for providing healthy and delicious food. Some consider our dining room a home away from home—when they don’t have time to cook at home, they know they will find fresh, healthy, and nourishing food at Divya’s.”

Pistachio Fudge, one of the desserts. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

She noted that Open Table recently listed them among the best restaurants for vegetarians in the country, for the second year in a row.

“We’re so grateful to our patrons for their reviews, support, and encouragement,” Alter said.

Some popular dishes at Divya’s Kitchen include appetizers like Sunflower Beet Hummus and Vegan Mozzarella Plate; starters such as Jicama Avocado Salad and Spinach Cheese Cutlets; main dishes like Vegetable Curry in Cashew Sauce and Lasagna; and desserts including Chai Chocolate Truffle and Orange Carrot Cake.

They also offer Ayurvedic teas, and a soothing environmental that feels minimalist yet warm, with plants everywhere.

More information can be found at divyaskitchen.com.

Gabe Herman