Sunday, December 7, 2014

Review : The Best Thali in town

One needs a Gps system and a bicycle to navigate the tiny lanes of Kalbadevi to find this gem of a restaurant - Boy is it worth it ! The satisfaction I felt must be the same as Christopher Columbus felt when he discovered America as were the rewards for never before have I had a dining experience like this.

You might miss it unless u look hard. You climb a dodgy staircase ( I cannot lie the corridors smell) until you come to what looks like a local office canteen.

What's amazing about Thakers is not just the consistency and flavor of the food ( perhaps another thali joint might rival it) but it's the humility and hospitality that engulfs you the minute you step in. The manager with folded hands greets you and you are reminded that you are in India a country that prides itself in "Athithi Devo Bhava" as our mantra.

The staff takes special joy in feeding you. From begging you to try everything , carefully explaining the different dishes to coaxing you to have a little more
ghee, just one more bhakri etc. One waiter was so enthusiastic he spent ten mins explaining to us which chutney goes with what and he was rather miffed when I didn't take his advice. He showed his displeasure by trying to force feed me some more Dhokla .
They change their menu daily , keeping in mind the season and produce but the essential format is the same.

You start with some chilled buttermilk. Then a man with an array of chutneys (coriander, red chilli-garlic, kachoomber, raw papaya and marinated greenchillies ) spoons his wares onto your huge thali.

Farsan (appetizers) fluffy white dhoklas, a corn n kand patty and some spinach pakodas (fritters). They come with white coconut chutney and a sour date chutney flavored with carom seeds

The vegetables are served : the Kathol or lentil de jour is Masoor. Sauted Bhendi (Ladyfingers) and Tomato and Pea in a gravy.

The star of the season or should I say the year arrives. Undhyo. For Gujarati vegetarians in India this dish is cooked with as much pomp as the nonvegetarians labor over Khichda or a dum-pukht Biryani and is awaited eagerly as it is seasonal and cooked only during winter time. The undhya/Undhyo is garnished with fresh coconut   and lends itself perfectly to the amazing mixture of beans, Muthia (fenugreek-lentil dumplings) ,herbs,  bananas and root vegetables. This dish is also known to contain fresh green garlic which adds an amazing pungency to this melting pot of wonder.

The gujaratis are known to first eat their Rotis ( breads) before their rice and so the platter of breads is offered to us. Diff rotis made of diff flours is served to us : a biscuit Bhakri .bajra millet rotis, regular paper thin Phulkas and of course their highly recommended Puranpoli . All of it is had with gentle pats of ghee served with a smile.

You barely recover fr this when you are served Dal and Kadhi . Thakers is aware that not everyone loves their Jaggery infused dal so they offer sweet and spicy version of both their Kadhi ( a yoghurt tempered curry) and Dal ( lentil gravy)

. pick and strong recommendation: take the sweet Dal and the Spicy Kadhi
If you can survive this round then you are offered rice or Khichdi 

. A thick Lachko Dal is also offered as is ladles of ghee which is more compulsory then recommended or else you will have a very hurt server.

 They take it very personally when you refuse something and their policy is very strictly against people who waste 

When lunch is over and you are down to loosening your belt to the last notch ( oh why oh why can't we wear our pyjamas here) the waiter comes offering you a choice in dessert. Dessert is the only limited item and one can only have one off it. The choice was fruit custard, gulab jamuns( deep fried doughnut like ricotta balls soaked in sugar syrup) or Shrikhand ( a sweet Greek-yoghurt type dessert topped with pistachio and flavored with saffron) . You pick one only because you have to and because unlike cows humans have only one stomach ....all three were amazing

After this lunch you leave vowing to go go for that evening walk knowing that you are returning home to sleep


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