A Little of This, A Little of That: Gandhi Mahal’s Thali Platters
Despite my deep shame and fear of rejection over this recurring condition, I feel that now is the right time for me to come out. Understandably, my neighbors and Twitter followers may judge me for this, and I only ask for their patience. The thing is, I am a victim of Prolonged Indian Food Fatigue (PIFF).
It’s happened like this again and again: I take the first bite of a pitch-perfect and ethereal entree at an Indian restaurant, and it’s all good. But then, something curious occurs. After my fifth or sixth bite, ennui sets in like a grungy buzzard on my neck. There’s just… so much food left. And no matter how good it tastes, I know that my seventh bite will taste just like my eighth, and so on and so forth. With leftovers in hand, it’s usually easy to tweak the accompaniments or flavors at home, but I usually just give mine away anyway.
This is especially true at Minneapolis’s Gandhi Mahal, where the dinner portions are gigantic — one order is enough to feed two people, and they would be wise to expect to bring home leftovers as well. That is, until I discovered the thali.
Gandhi Mahal’s thali platters are basically PIFF-proof sample portions of their appetizers, entrees, and dessert. They offer two options: the Masu Karma Platter ($15 for one person, $25 for two) for omnivores and the Gandhi Thali ($14 for one person, $23 for two) for vegetarians. Like the casserole, thalis are named after their unique serving vehicle; in this case, the vehicle is a steel tray with multiple compartments. Unlike the casserole, it allows one to try a nice variety of flavors.
The Masu Karma Platter (above, right) comes with a piece of aloo (potato) pakora, a piece of onion bujia, lamb curry, chicken korma, rice, raita, and mango chutney. In place of the meaty bits, the Gandhi Thali (above, left) includes vegetable curry and sag paneer. The staff also brings out a small tray of papadum wafers with tamarind, onion, and cilantro chutneys (below). (Hardcore Indian foodies like to crumble their papadums over the whole kit and kaboodle.)
Everything is just the perfect size and comes out to an uncommonly well-rounded meal. One usually wouldn’t want to eat more than two pieces of pakora anyway, especially with a shared order. And the two sampler entrees are well-chosen: different enough, but complementary if one is inspired to mix it all together. For us, however, there was also fun to be had in optimizing the positions of the meal’s metal dishes. Would it be easier to eat with the rice at the 4 o’ clock position, or would it make more ergonomic sense to have the pakoras closer to one’s heart? Such are the considerations required of the thali fan.
The meal also includes a tiny dish of kheer (above), a light rice pudding served with crushed pistachio. It’s just small enough to be a feasible cap to a big meal, especially after a rallying hot towel session in between courses. If you, like me, balk at having to choose between one or another gigantic dinner entree, then Gandhi Mahal’s thali platters are definitely the answer. And at $23-$25 for two, it makes for an insanely cheap date, 7 days a week.