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Finding a great South Indian thali in Delhi

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Much like a fine dining restaurant, at a thaali place, you simply don't have to gesture to the waiter

I have a soft spot for South Indian thalis. It started with Andhra Bhavan, where, many years ago, I had the most delicious food served on a thali. At Sagar, again, my preferred dish was the thali. Then, when Saravana Bhavan opened its first branch in Delhi, I went there often, mainly for the platter, though I must confess the ghee roast dosa sometimes edged the thali out.

I am not sure what explains my fondness for thalis, but I suppose it is the small portions that come in compartments on a well laden steel plate. And then, of course, there is the promise of those dockets being filled by the servers who can always spot an empty plate from a distance.

That’s why, when I heard that my old favourite, Carnatic Café, had opened a branch in Meharchand Market I decided I had to visit the place. A friend had enjoyed a thali at its Gurugram outlet, and it reminded me that I had eaten some nice stuff at the New Friends’ Colony Market branch, but I had actually never had the thali. 'Must do something about this,' I told myself, and landed up at Meharchand Market earlier this week.

The outlet opened its doors on Monday. I went there a day later and found the place squeaky clean and the servers all raring to go. I had a look at the menu (for academic interest), and then told them that I wanted the thali. My co-diner was urged to try out a special dosa, which she did. I thought we’d end with some Bengaluru ice cream (manufactured by their own sister company, Jaatre Ice Cream) but we were so full after the thali that we didn’t venture near the desserts.

The menu is not as expansive as it is in, say, Saravana Bhavan, but it has a very nice mix and variety of dishes. There are, for instance, various kinds of dosas (plain, masala, Mysore plain, rawa plain, butter, paper plain, rawa coconut, ragi masala, podi dosa and so on, with costs that range between ₹125 and ₹195). It has akki roti (rice flour, onion and chillies, ₹225), and Ragi roti (ragi, onion, chillies, ₹225). There are different kinds of utthapams (₹150-180) and rice dishes (lemon rice, tamarind rice, bisi bele bhaat, wangi bhaat and masala rice, ₹180).

We had asked for the Malleshwaram 18th Cross dosa — which was described well (“thick fluffy and crispy smeared with chutney podi and white butter”). But somehow it was a bit too thick, and smeared too heavily with podi, we thought. It came with a nice assortment of chutneys, and a very tasty bowl of sambar, though.

But my thali — aah! — was delightful. The Patravali Oota thali (₹255) comes with the salad of the day, seasonal vegetables, saar, kut, a special rice, gojju, plain rice, curd, papad, a sweet dish and buttermilk.

The saar, a spicy yet light rasam-like dish, was superb, as was the kut — a mix of veggies. I loved the salad — sprouted mung dal with coconut— and the gojju, a pachari type of dish.

The mixed veggies tasted good, and the tamarind rice was tangy and sharp. The papad was hijacked by the co-diner, who also had a portion of rice with her sambar. And the dessert — kesari bhaat — was sublime: sweet, nutty and grainy.

It’s good to know that my warm and friendly relationship with thalis is as strong as ever. I left with a satisfied burp.

The writer is a seasoned food critic

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 1:46:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/finding-a-great-south-indian-thali-in-delhi/article29943450.ece

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