No meat, no eggs, no dairy — but plenty of flavor and spice

Vegan restaurant opens in Highlands Ranch

Rachel Lorenz
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 1/11/23

Total Vegan, a fast-casual Indian restaurant with food that’s 100% free of animal products, is the first of its kind in the area. Possibly first in the nation, according to restaurateur Basanta …

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No meat, no eggs, no dairy — but plenty of flavor and spice

Vegan restaurant opens in Highlands Ranch

Posted

Total Vegan, a fast-casual Indian restaurant with food that’s 100% free of animal products, is the first of its kind in the area. Possibly first in the nation, according to restaurateur Basanta Lamsal. 

The Highlands Ranch eatery opened Dec. 16 in a building that also houses a Noodles & Company and a Panda Express. While it’s not unusual for Indian restaurants to offer a few vegan dishes, Lamsal, co-owner of Total Vegan, told Colorado Community Media that he’s not aware of any other Indian restaurants that are all vegan, all the time. 

“I really think it’s a good concept,” Lamsal said. And one he thinks will resonate with Coloradans’ penchant for healthy living and abiding respect for nature.

The menu at Total Vegan Indian Restaurant features a dozen specialties like nariyel kofta, or vegetable croquettes in a cashew coconut sauce, and daal tadka, a lentil stew. Customers can also create their own entrees by choosing one of six sauces and one of three levels of heat to go over a base of tofu or veggies such as mushrooms, potatoes, cauliflower or eggplant. Lamsal suggests first-timers try the tikka masala, a creamy tomato and onion sauce, over mixed vegetables or tofu.

For appetizers, the samosas, fried turnovers stuffed with potatoes and green peas, are a favorite, Lamsal said. But there’s also fritters, dumplings and a thin, crispy bread called papadam to get a meal started. By replacing traditional cow’s milk with cashew nut milk, Total Vegan even offers common dairy-rich Indian treats like rice pudding and chai tea.

“I never ever thought chai tea can still taste the same with cashew nut milk … but if I don’t tell you, you wouldn’t know,” Lamsal said. 

Total Vegan also has a small selection of juice, beer and wine, including a few brews from India.

Lamsal has been in the Indian restaurant business for 25 years and is full or part owner of 10 establishments. But Total Vegan is the result of “looking at things differently” in the industry he knows so well, Lamsal said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the cost of chicken, lamb and dairy products has skyrocketed. But by offering a completely vegan menu, Lamsal can serve Indian dishes at a reasonable price and not go broke himself. 

Like ingredients, labor costs have also risen. But cutting animal products from the menu simplifies kitchen work and reduces the number of employees needed in the back of the house, Lamsal said. He also made the business a little less labor-intensive by choosing to go with a counter service model instead of a full-service dining experience. With those adjustments, Lamsal said he’s able to run the small, 1,700-square-foot, window-lined eatery with half the workers it takes to staff his other restaurants. 

By serving vegan Indian cuisine while keeping the company’s food and labor expenses low, Lamsal is fairly confident his new concept will be successful. If it is, he’d like to expand and bring the idea to other communities throughout the U.S. someday. 

“We’re very positive, and we’re very hopeful,” Lamsal said. 

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