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A visit to Thali Indian restaurant in Decatur

thaliNot too long ago, Kessler reported that Thali, an Indian (Gujarati) vegetarian restaurant, had opened in Decatur’s Patel Plaza. The restaurant’s format is a $14.99 fixed price meal (lunch and dinner) consisting of three courses* and any item replenished along the way.

I came here recently for lunch not knowing anything about the restaurant’s format. I was already busting at the seams from “researching” food stories all morning so I didn’t know what I was getting into.

After sitting down, a serving of crunchy fried rice crisps (papad, papadum) paired with tamarind and coriander chutney was served. The crisps were fresh and a promising start even though they basically seem equivalent to what salsa and chips are in Mexican restaurants.

02-thali

Then a course arrived consisting mostly of vegetable gram flour fritters. I was feeling pretty heavy at this point and my server mentioned that I can ask for “more of anything I see here.” That was the last thing on my mind, especially since I thought that this platter of (mostly) fried items was the only thali served that day. Pictured front and center, and immediate to its left, are dhokla and handvo. They are a type of savory cake made with gram flour. The dhokla is spongier and less dense/oily as the handvo.

Everything else pictured are an assortment of fritters also made with gram flour and stuffed with vegetables. One is a green chile (mirch bhaji or aka chile pakora), and the darker ones are mostly made with flour with minced vegetables lurking in the steamy interior.

I really enjoyed the flavors and varying textures, but unfortunately it was going down painfully in my expanding belly. My server sensed I was not getting any further along so she removed the platter and announced “the second course,” which was quickly followed by a loud thud my bottom jaw made when it hit the floor.

Fortunately, the second course was a sight to behold not to mention a wonderful array of lighter vegetables surrounding a couple of pieces of flat roti bread and a light, puffy pillow of puri (fried bread).

03-thali

I took everything (pictured above) down. The roasted cauliflower with peas were wonderfully nutty from a light char, the lentils (dal, to the right of the cauliflower) tender to the teeth, and the potato curry (next to the dal) — saucey with hints of cumin and a little coriander. However, I did not get seconds of anything.

Feeling proud, I barely started wiping the corners of my mouth when my server emerged from the kitchen area with my third course — a selection of rice dishes and kadhi – a warm butter milk/yogurt concoction.

04-thali

The blurry yellow rice dish up top is khichdi, or rice and mushy dal (lentils) mixed together. Plain Basmati rice is pictured closest and kadhi is to the left of it. Frankly, I tapped out on the previous course but I had no problem finishing the kadhi. It tasted sour from fermentation and was liberally seasoned with nutmeg and cinnamon. I interpreted this as a digestive, and I certainly needed it at this point.

Overall, I really enjoyed this experience. If I knew about the restaurant’s multi-course format beforehand, I probably would have come better prepared (hungry). Now I know, so I will next time. And you should too.

Thali, 1709 Church Street (in Patel Plaza), Decatur. 678-705-1290.

*dishes/items at Thali can change

by Gene Lee, Food and More blog

15 comments Add your comment

Reds

December 7th, 2011
8:26 am

Sounds divine. :)

carla roqs

December 7th, 2011
9:43 am

i would try it.

Liz

December 7th, 2011
11:11 am

I had a chance to experience a traditional Thali dinner while working in southern India – it was one of my favorite meals and so wonderful to have little nibbles of so many different dishes. I’m very excited that this has opened closer to home!

nsk

December 7th, 2011
1:11 pm

So in other words, it’s $15 for buffet food and buffet quantity, but brought to the diner’s table.

Tyrone Biggums

December 7th, 2011
1:47 pm

Good food, and healthy if you avoid the fried items.

Gene Lee

December 7th, 2011
2:18 pm

@nsk – That comparison can be made but the items — particularly the fried ones — do not taste like they have been sitting out all afternoon..

DJ Superstar

December 7th, 2011
3:43 pm

@nsk: That’s a very bad comparison. Mostly because at a buffet place they do not care if the food is hot or not, if there’s enough food or not. At this place, they make you feel welcome and feed you like family.

They will also take time to explain what the food is if you do not know what you are putting in your mouth. Go there once and you will appreciate the feeling and not to mention awesome food.

When I was there, the owner was walking around with the food serving it to the customers, talking with them and what not. It was a good experience!

Sargon (fka Atlanta Native)

December 7th, 2011
3:53 pm

Gotta try this.

Grant

December 7th, 2011
4:41 pm

For those who don’t make it to Decatur often, Vatica on Terrell Mill in Marietta also serves in this style. I’ve enjoyed several meals there.

Gene Lee

December 7th, 2011
4:45 pm

@DJ Superstar – Good points. I should have mentioned that everything tasted as it was prepared with thought and care as opposed to volume-minded like some buffets can be.

I should also mention my server at Thali stated that the restaurant plans to install a buffet soon. No further details were given.

lorielle

December 8th, 2011
12:46 am

Went tonight. LOVED it! Gracious, friendly service and the food was fresh and tasty. I especially loved the dish consisting of tiny okra-like vegetables native to India (Sorry, can’t remember the name, but I was told I could find them in the produce section of the Indian grocery in the same shopping center). Thanks for the tip, Gene. We’ll be back.

rick

December 8th, 2011
6:59 am

Utipi Scott Blvd.Same food ;Half the price

John Kessler

December 8th, 2011
11:04 am

Lorielle — Tindora?

Veggie aka MissP

December 8th, 2011
2:57 pm

Thanks Gene, finally something for the 1%.

lorielle

December 9th, 2011
5:05 pm

John, he might have said that. I googled it, and I could see tindora being the veg used in the dish.

I created a public FB album with the images of 2 of the courses. The dish in question is at about 8:00 in the first image.

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2120684572485.2108497.1106910520&type=1&l=d7dab164d9

This restaurant is one of those places that you think about late at night with cravings. Kind of like Tasty China has been for me in the past.