Published in The New York Times – All you can eat, all over Mumbai
The Gujaratis are best known in Mumbai’s culinary scene for thalis, restaurants offering several courses of all-you-can-eat platters of food with a variety of subtle flavors. The restaurants take pride in leaving their customers full; one has a Web site that claims, “We serve as long as you can eat.”
Thalis are typically served on large, round steel plates (the word thali itself means plate) and begin with a course of farsan (steamed and fried starters). The meal goes on to different types of rotis (Indian breads) with accompaniments of vegetables (three to four types) and dal (lentils), followed by rice. And finally dessert, the most important part of the meal and also the main reason you should head for a thali in Mumbai this season. Aamras – thick and sweet freshly squeezed juice of mango – which makes for the best dessert, is available only in the summer and in some places, is served in unlimited quantities.
Some of the best places to try a Gujarati thali in Mumbai include Rajdhani, with branches all over the city; Chetana (34, K. Dubash Marg, Kala Ghoda; 91-22-2284-4968), which also serves Rajasthani food, similar in many ways to Gujarati cuisine; and Golden Star Thali (330, Raja Ram Mohan Roy Road; Opp. Charni Road Station; 91-22-2363-1983), which is one of the oldest and most popular.
If the idea of a large platter of seemingly unlimited food is overwhelming, then head to the Rajdhani snack outlets, which serve lighter Gujarati bites. Soam (Sadguru Sadan, Ground Floor, Opp. Babulnath Mandir, Chowpatty, 91-22-236-98080) is also known for its authentic Gujarati food and is particularly worth visiting during the times when there is a food festival on. Try the spongy, sweet-sour dhokla or creamy khandvi and in the winter, undhiyu, a thick vegetable stew.