Mumbai Food: Vile Parle 5-star thali restaurant is a delight for vegetarians
A new five-star thali restaurant with its thoughtfully served Gujarati and Rajasthani flavours is a vegetarian's delight
The typical veg menu offered by most Mumbai restaurants assumes a vegetarian to be either of these stereotypes: a street food lover who can't get enough of pav bhaji; a paneer fanatic who'll have it in all its achari, kali miri, ajwaini and kadhai glory; a "continental" fare fan who digs cheese; or one who craves to eat chicken but can't, so will settle for soya ki chaap or a mushroom overload in anything. For the rest, thankfully, there's the thali — a home-style platter of food, which though can be overwhelming with its countless katoris, celebrates unsung veggies like gourds, beans and brinjal, even if it needs a little padding from aaloo and farsaan.
But restaurants serving thalis in the city usually price their offering between R350 and R800. So, when we hear of Manuhaar, a recently launched Sahara Star property that serves a blend of dishes from Gujarat and the Marwar region of Rajasthan on a thali, we decide to drop by to check if it's worth R1,711. The cost is certainly not an inhibiting factor, considering the reservations were full the previous night for a Saturday afternoon slot, and walking in keeps us waiting for over 30 minutes.
When we finally get our table, we step inside a noisy space, with a birthday celebration on with gusto. Perhaps a remnant from its earlier modern European occupant, but a novelty for thali restaurants, chefs, or the maharaj and his sous chefs in this case, can be seen at work in the open kitchen. Hospitality, though, is synonymous with thali joints and clubbed with five-star courtesy, the warm staff justifies the name, Manuhaar — to plead with love.
We settle in and start with the digestive drinks including buttermilk, and tangy-sweet jaljeera. And before we know it, the brass thaal before us starts getting loaded with an array of farsaan, sabzis, dal, kadhi, roti, puri and rotla. We bite into the green peas samosa first, and the light but yummy filling takes us back to memories of gorging on the snack at home during winter. But what piques our interest is when the server utters the words "kaju karela", as he ladles the dish in a bowl. A bold move by the chef, given how unpopular bitter gourd is, it packs in loads of flavour, with the addition of cashews only partly masking the bitterness, just how we like it.
The more indulgent options include paneer Mewari, packed with authentic Rajasthani flavours and a far cry from the predictable tomatoes and onion-rich gravies, and gatte ki sabzi, another Rajasthani staple. Guajarat finds its representation on the thali through the dhokla and patra, and Gujarati dal and fansi matar nu shaak in the mains. Another well-made sabzi, we prefer this to the bhindi masala served in the adjoining katori. Next, the masala and plain baatis enveloped in panchmel dal call out to us, and one bite into the biscuit-y wheat balls coats our palate in flavours we haven't savoured for years.
There's a certain attention to detail paid to every dish, no mean feat considering that it includes nearly 20 varieties.
Full but not stuffed, we eye the piping-hot gulab jamun. A tad too sweet for our liking, it's still one of the better ones we have had. But the little glitch is made up for by the cotton ball-soft rasmalai that makes for a perfect ending to a gluttonous meal. A meal we won't indulge in often, but keep in mind for days we deserve a real treat.
Time 12 noon to 3 pm; 6 pm to 11 pm
At Hotel Sahara Star, Vile Parle East.
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A walk through Mohammed Ali Road's Khau Galli