Every once in a while, I come across a relatively new Indian restaurant in the Bay Area that in a short while has built up a good reputation among the hardest to please. One such is Thali Vegetarian Restaurant, a Gujarati Thali place in Santa Clara, CA. Here is my review from my first trip to this restaurant last week.
It was a Friday afternoon and we landed at Thali Vegetarian at about 12:20pm. That happened to be about the worst time to land at this place for a party of 6. The place is small and hard to locate, nuzzled amongst a bunch of Korean restaurants and shops on El Camino Real. It seats no more than 40 people or so from the looks of it. And it was packed when we arrived. After a good 20 minute wait, we got ourselves a place to sit. Once seated, we were given big empty thali plates with a bunch of small katoris (cups) and waited for a good 5 minutes before food started arriving.
We were famished by the time food arrived. All talk ended as the food was served. Much like Komala Vilas in Sunnyvale, Thali offers unlimited food with service to the table. Pleasant folks at the restaurant promptly refilled our plates and cups many times over before the lunch was done. They moved fast between the tables and arrived on time when we needed a refill.
In the order of arrival, we were served chaas to start with. Then arrived dhokla, aloo tikki (potato patties), salad and achar (pickle). The sabzis (vegetable curry) arrived next with palak paneer, kadhi and dhaal. For bread we had chappattis and tepla. Rice arrived a tad later. We also had papad and for dessert, gajar ka halwaa (carrot sweet). Overall, the food was very tasty. Yes, there were niggling minor issues- the chaas felt a tad watery to me, and one of the dhals felt a tad too sweet. But beyond that, the food was great. The roti was soft and the carrot halwa was just the right amount of sweet. With no reservations, we dug in and the table was quiet for a while as we polished multiple servings of pretty much everything.
We stood up and walked out, very full. The thali price for lunch is $12.99 plus applicable tax. This is on par for the course amongst comparable thali/full meals experiences in the Bay Area. I polled all my colleagues, most of them from North India and one from Gujarat. Everyone was very satisfied with their lunch. That is a testament to the quality of food Thali offered us.
For me, a big fan of DeeDees, this is a good alternative for vegetarian Gujarati food in the South Bay.
Ambiance: 7.5/10. Nothing fancy. Almost bare minimum but for a couple of wall hangings and adornments. The place is a little cramped especially when it is crowded. Running kids would be a challenge to say the least.
Service: 8.5/10. It took a while to get their attention and get a seat. But once seated, food was served promptly and without reservations on the quantity we were consuming.
Food: 9/10. The food itself is great. Loved it.
Price: 8.5/10. As I mentioned earlier, $12.99 is about how much most Bay Area thalis cost.
Overall: 9/10. I highly recommend a trip to Thali. Be prepared to wait because it is a small place and quite popular. Otherwise, well worth a trip.