"A journey into the very heart of food"
If I look back at soon four decades of eating at restaurants in Asia, there are countless amazing food experiences that escape me. However, there are perhaps only a handful where the food, the service, the location and the overall journey set it apart.
Shree Thaker Bhojnalay was such a place.
Read about in an article before I boarded my plane, and reminded by a friend of mine, I made it a point to tackle the legendary spot at my first opportunity. Monday arrived in sweltering waves and I hopped a cab and threaded my way through the market aside bullock carts and three men pushing oversized trolleys under a groaning sun.
I had made an appointment to eat lunch with a traveller from New Zealand who I met by chance at an Airtel store whilst fixing a sim card, and he arrived barely a moment after me, heading up the narrow staircase and into the first floor doorway to heaven. We were greeted by two extremely jovial men and shown to a table. I peered around and noticed the lack of clientele, as I had read there is usually a 45-60 minute wait. Our waiter assured us that Monday's are good days to visit and we were just ahead of the normal lunchtime rush.
There are no menu's here, you pay 600 INR at the counter and take your seat. From then on a dance of mystifying timing plays out in colours unseen, unquenched until now. Bowl upon bowl of brightly coloured curries, chutneys, vegetables, pickles, raw fruits all vy for space on the thali platter, as the different waiters enter brandishing their own custom condiments and proceed to deftly place them in their intended spots under the watchful eye of the boss.
Once all the food was delivered and the necessary photographs rendered, our host set about taking us on a culinary epic that would last just shy of an hour. For me personally I generally hate it when people talk too much during a meal or try to manipulate you to order more or educate you on their philosophy. Shree Thaker Bhojnalay was nothing like that.
Our host simply stood at the table and suggested the most amazing pairings that we would never have thought of: "Try that with a tiny bit of this pickle sauce and a pinch of jaggery", "Throw a tiny bit of dry garlic on that puri and then dip it in this sauce". etc.
How rare it is to be spellbound by a meal. To sit in complete amazement that every single dish tasted fantastic. Nothing was out of place, nothing was off. Each and every condiment and accompaniment served a purpose and was not just there to add bulk. We sat as fresh roti and alternative grain breads were brought piping hot from the kitchen until our stomachs were incapable of further pressing.
It was one long euphoric dance. Our host was the conductor gently steering our spoons where they needed to.
Thank you Shree Thaker Bhojnalay for an exceptional food experience.
These recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively.
"Tastes are subjective, so take everything with a pinch of salty tears"