Located in the freshly remodeled Patel Plaza is the new Thali, serving up nearly endless dishes of delights. Thali, named for the silver serving platters often used in Indian cuisine, is a long and open space with a red, orange and gold theme. There are tables, a raised platform featuring tables with very comfortable cushions and a seating area that works like the no-shoes-allowed tatami mat rooms in Japanese restaurants. Large parties are welcome at Thali, which also caters for parties that can reach into the hundreds.
The friendly, helpful staff is eager to help diners navigate the style of eating at Thali. Instead of having an a la carte menu, Thali serves up a five-course prix fixe meal for $15 at lunch or dinner. Diners can request more servings of anything at any time because the menu is an all-you-can-eat deal as well. Drinks include water, Coke products and salty buttermilk traditionally used to cool down on hot days.
The first course includes a variety of crispy chips and four different dips: a red and very spicy sauce, a minty green chutney, a dark brown tamarind sauce and spicy pickled vegetables. However, I was advised not to fill up on these, even though I was very tempted to as it was all very good, because more food was on its way.
Thali serves Gujarati cuisine from the western part of India, so everything is vegetarian. The second course includes six single servings of dishes dominated by fried nuggets including potatoes and spices. One nibble is a long green pepper fried almost like a corn dog. All six of them were delicious, and it was fun to discover their unique tastes. In some of these nibbles, the spicy tingle sneaks up on you so diners with more timid palates will want to drink lots of water. A soft, slightly sweet cornbread-like cake made with chickpeas provides a nice counterbalance.
The third course has four bowls of tastes again mainly featuring potatoes, but also including chickpeas, a coleslaw-like mix of greens and peas, a slightly-sweet dip, a bowl of sweetened sticky rice and three types of naan bread. One type is the standard naan with butter, one is a big puffy kind and the other is flat and wheat. The sweet rice was a nice surprise in this course, another counterbalance to the mostly-spicy other offerings.
At the fourth course is another puff of naan, a bowl of plain white rice, a greenish mixture of rice and moong and a creamy soup. I was encouraged to mix the rice-moong mix into the soup, which was a good idea because it was savory, creamy and fantastic. This soup will be especially welcome during the colder months, but even in the height of sweltering June it was delicious.
The final course is a scoop of saffron ice cream served in a chilled bowl. After the spicy, salty, savory delights of the past four courses, this little yellow scoop truly hit the spot and capped off a wonderful meal.
The affordable price, and the fact that diners can choose to eat as much or as little of each course as they like, means Thali is an ideal choice for large parties and special celebrations. A retail counter at the back of the restaurant sells bags of crispy snacks and sweets. The helpful, polite and eager staff makes Thali feel as welcoming as dining at a good friend or relative’s house. Sit back, relax and enjoy a nearly endless parade of Gujarati goodness.
Thali Indian Vegetarian Cuisine
1709 Church St., Suite B
Open daily 11:30am - 9:30pm. Lunch hours 11:30am - 2:30pm, dinner hours 6pm - 9:30pm.