Though BiteClub didn’t initially grasp the concept for the ‘Indian Fusion Sanctuary’ that recently opened on Mendocino (in the former Tahini Grill space), you can now count us among the believers.

Taking inspiration from India, Italy, China and California, Nirvana’s owner/chef/front man Neil Advani has created a mind-bending menu of fusion curries, kabobs, tandoori and nan in a calming temple-like space. Like Scallops Tamateri (tandoori baked scallops with a tomato puree); Crab Lajawab (crab cakes in mango sauce), Italian curry (with olive oil, tomatoes, sweet chutney, oregano and alfredo pesto) or nan bread studded with rosemary and garlic. Unconventional? Truly. But with Indian-fusion dishes sweeping through major cities like London and New York, SoCo can count itself among the culinary vanguard. Or something.

But the soul of the restaurant is what really shines through. Advani hand selects everything “from the traditional round copper plates to the imported Indian mango puree for his saffron mango lassi. Advani doesn’t miss a thing, and if you give him half a chance, he’ll be happy to tell you about what’s in today’s chicken, how he selects the special Darjeeling tea, or give you a taste of the Bombay cumin mint salt spice drink (a native favorite) on the menu. Even the little things, like the complementary nan bread, are small works of art–puffy and shining, rather than tired and sagging. The recipe, “from the Bible of Indian breads,” takes years to master. But it is so worth it. Every bite.

Namaste.

Best bet: Want to give Indian fusion a try? Check out the $8.95 lunchtime buffet, one of the best Indian meals we’ve had in SoCo.

UPDATE 3/8/07: BiteClub has recently been informed from numerous sources that service continues to be a problem at Nirvana. We’re willing to overlook some opening jitters, but feel it is only fair to advise readers of the situation.

Nirvana Indian Fusion Sanctuary, 420 Mendocino Ave., #100, Santa Rosa, 707.575.3608. Open daily for lunch and dinner. In the evenings, live entertainment includes Indian musicians and belly dancing (call ahead and check which nights).