There are a few days when you wake up dreaming about snow white and end up going on a date with her in the evening. I had a food equivalent of the same dream. I was frantically writing on every wall I found how disappointing Navratra thalis have been and how I am still willing to give them a chance this year. More than the preparation, I had blamed the ingredients, as if the goddess made sure no has a satisfying meal during those days.
Anyway, a generous soul heard all the rantings and invited me for a tasting, to a place that I considered farthest from a Navratra thali. Punjab Grill. The name smells of chicken on a spit. Anyway, there we were and I read the menu card on the table. They had an innovative starters section, but the main course was left untouched in terms of the ingredients. That’s the only way to judge a kosher thali, no?
We had much more than the thali, like a lamb chop, beer etc. But let me focus on the thali here. The first dish on the table was a grapefruit, water chestnut salad in mausambi juice. There were slices of red grapes too. The salad had an unusual punch and was quite a monster by docile salad standards. That’s why I loved it. I was curious why the juice looked white and came to know they had used the juice in a vinaigrette. The oxidation, it was.
Next, was a chaat platter that had raamdana crusted arbi satay, peanut chutney aloo sago tikki and a sweet and sour tandoori pineapple chaat. There isn’t much that you can do with arbi, I grew up where it was a part of the vegetable basket. They had tried to kill the stickiness by sataying it and balance the softness with a crackling topping. Good effort but there is only that you can do. The aloo sago tikki was pretty awesome and I popped them one whole one at a time. The tangy pineapple was a good contrast to the other items and was not bad at all.
As per the main course, the standout item was the chillonji ki dal. To have that in a moderately priced thali itself was a feat. For me, it was the winner by a long way. Creamy, earthy and very fulfilling. I could have asked for an extra helping. The sitafal ki subzi was the next best thing. It should always be cooked with the peel on and the taste of the vegetable should never be asked. The dish met both the conditions. The generic dahi bhalla was given a twist with the bhallas made from kuttu ka atta. A very minor difference in taste profile, but worth trying.
In the desserts, we got lauki ka halwa, sabu dana kheer and chena pie. I didn’t expect anything below average here so won’t mention the kheer etc which were pretty good. What got my special attention was the lauki ka halwa. The lauki was suitably neautralised and it wasn’t overly sweet.
Overall, a perfect dinner platter and a good beginning to this year’s thali trail.