With Winter coming to a close, we decided to catch almost the last Undhyo of the season and what better place than at the oldest Gujarati eatery in Mumbai? Situated in the heart of the old commercial precinct of Kalbadevi, Shree Thakar Bhojanalay has served many a merchant the authentic Gujarati food he can get in his home. So when Doctor G suggested we have lunch over there this afternoon, we readily agreed.
Located at the end of a higgeldy piggeldy lane that is impossible to walk in on any working day, we decided to take a taxi because even if the business area is deserted during a Sunday, Thakar’s reputation has people coming from far and near making parking impossible ( as you can see from the crowded street on a Sunday morning). So if you want to have a relaxed meal without worrying about whether someone is going to crash into your car or tow it away, either hoof it there if you are any where in the neighbourhood or take a taxi.
So after we climbed up the clean staircase ( must warn you of the faint smell of Eau de Bombay) we came up to the blackboard displaying the special sweet and farsan for the day below the tariff card . We were still early but most days this narrow passage is filled with patrons waiting their turn for an empty table.
Gujerati eateries have a set menu served in the traditional thali. This is fantastic because you don’t have to worry your head about what to order and what not. With chapatis, puris, rotis, rice , daal and kadhi being constant, there are seasonal options in terms of vegetables and the little tidbits or farsan that are a must with every meal. A standard Gujerati thali also has some sprouted beans and today we were served my favourite red chana. The daal of the day made of arhar or pigeon peas as well as the kadhi was available in two variants : sweet and salty ( my personal preference) . The salad was a simple tomato cucumber mix which you could spice up with the different while the chutneys ( red chili, green chili ,chilli garlic and raw papaya and sweet) that were generously served. There was a spicy lemon pickle and a green chilli pickle which I gave a miss but I just couldn’t resist the absolutely yummy spread of vegetables : green okra, a potato and pea gravy, a fresh mango turmeric and paneer in curried yoghurt gravy and the perfectly spiced undhya was balanced with fresh sandesh, moong daal halwa and the refreshingly chilled, velvety basundi jazzed up with fresh custard apple bits.
The specialty of Gujerati food is that they adopt and adapt several cuisines to their own so we weren’t surprised when yummy corn and moong daal bhajias were served as farsan with paneer and spinach rolls and dhokla. We were given a variety of breads – phulkas with or without ghee, bajra rotis, maka rotis, thick atta biscuit like rotis and fried and roasted papads .
We were served in a typical thali with two flat rimmed catoris for the sweets and plain rimmed catoris for the vegetable curries. Unflavoured buttermilk and catoris of freshly set yoghurt were provided on the side. And after repeated servings of everything, came the scrumptious moong daal khichadi, soft and warm and perfect. If you have room for more, there was some bati pullao
The thali would be best described as a sit down buffet where the diner is given options to have all or any of the food that is available.
Sundays are particularly crowded so you would do well to make a reservation because once a table is occupied, it takes quite a while for the customers to leave…….. And remember , once you are seated the waiters start serving immediately so if you are in a group , wait for everyone to come before you sit down at the table.
Thakar’s is clean, with efficient air-conditioning and a spotlessly clean wash room and without any pretensions of being anything than an everyday food place. The food is tasty, the service quick and attentive and definitely worth the trek.
Thank you Dr. G for the lovely Sunday treat.