-By Rashmi Uday Singh
If crammed, functional thali joints are not your cup of tea, then skip this one. I thrive on the colourful cacophonies of Kalbadevi, and enjoy the hunt for this first-floor spot, ultimately slipping into a large, functional, clean restaurant. I settle down on the well-arranged chair and table, and get down to the business on my plate. Here, we are served VFM pure-vegetarian Gujarati Thali (Rs. 120 without sweets, Rs. 140 with sweets, Rs. 160 on Sundays) and every morsel is a delight! A variety of fresh, delicious and home-made items makes its way to your stomach, so enjoy! There is an extra charge for sweets on weekdays, and on weekends, the thalis are a bit dearer; however, extra farsaan and sweets are thrown in. P.S. If you ever find out how this eatery got this unique name, do let me know. I love it all… starting with the name to the adventure of eating here. However, if traffic-throttled areas and gritty bylanes make you finicky, steer clear. Do remember that on Sundays they are open only for lunch. Puran Poli fans, head here on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Dahi Vada on Wednesday and Saturday evenings.
Review posted this week
Head here when you’re in the mood for an unlimited Gujarati thali but are low on cash
There are are some good options for unlimited Gujarati / a mix of Gujarati-Rajasthani cuisine in Mumbai. Some of the well-known ones are Samrat at Churchgate, Chetana at Kala Ghoda, Golden Star Thali at Charni Road, Shree Thakkar Bhojanalya at Kalbadevi and last but not the least Rajdhani, Panchavati Gaurav and Indian Revival outlets which are scattered over the city. These places not only boast of delectable food but also good ambience and hospitable service. And most people don’t mind paying Rs 275 to 350 for a meal.
But what if you want to satisfy your unlimited thali cravings when you’re low on cash? I suggest you head straight to the no-frills Friends Union Joshi Club, an establishment that’s a little over 50 years old. It may sound similar to a ‘fancy-schmancy’ restaurant but it’s nothing close to that. They serve simple, rustic home style Gujarati food. I call it a no-frills place because unlike the restaurants mentioned above, FUJC doesn’t have A/C, soft lights and music or their staff dressed in colourful traditional Gujarati-Rajasthani costumes warmly greeting customers with smiles. This place has the ambience similar to an Udipi restaurant. But we’re here for the cheap food, remember? So let’s jump to that.
Thali joints have a slightly different menu eveyday, with the most elaborate one on Sundays. My friends and I had gone to FUJC on a Friday afternoon. The variety of food at FUJC is pretty much standard barring the absence of some favourites. The pickle platter placed on the table contained: typical spicy Mango pickle, sauteed chopped Green Chillies, spicy Green Chutney, Red Hot Chilli Paste and quartered Fresh Lime pieces. However, the pickle platter was marked by the conspicous absence of the staple sweet Mango Chunda or Chundo.
The staff begins to fill the thali with salad — diced Cucumber with Tomatoes, and cubed Onions served separately. Next come the veggies, crunchy Cabbage and Green Peas subzi, Rajma in typical Onion-Tomato gravy, Doodhi in a masala gravy and Potatoes in a watery-masala gravy. (I missed their delicous Karela subzi that I have had in the past.) Two types of Dal — Meethi Dal and Teekhi Dal, both were good. Unfortunately, they didn’t serve Sweet Dahi Kadhi, one of my favourites. Then came hot Rotis smeared with some Desi Ghee. Unlike some thali joints, they don’t serve Theplas, Biscuit Rotla or Nachni Rotla with Gud (jaggery) and White Butter.
The farsan/snack component, which should have been served at the begining of the meal was served much later. The lovely, spicy piping hot mini Batata Vada was served with sweet Imli (tamarind) chutney. The Chaas was of the plain salted variety, devoid of Cumin-Black Pepper Masala, chopped Coriander and Boondi. Then arrived at our table Plain Rice, no Khichdi or Pulav options here. And Roasted Papad. (I always prefer Fried Papad especially when I’m having a thali).
As for dessert, they had two options — Aamras and Gulab Jamuns. I chose the latter and boy! glad I did. Two medium-sized Gulab Jamuns stuffed with chopped Almonds and Saffron strands, yum-oh! (FUJC’s Rasgollas are pretty good as well.) However, I sorely missed their Puranpoli, a unique variety in the form of a thick gooey patty/cutlet drizzled with Desi Ghee.
Though FUJC has some staple dishes typically home to a Gujarati thali missing, it’s alright. I mean, where else would you get an unlimited Gujarati thali for Rs 180? (Rs 150 for food + Rs 30 for Dessert). Their food is reasonably good and the price that it comes for, one shouldn’t be complaining.
Favorite Dishes / Drinks: Gulab Jamun and Rasgolla
Review posted more than 6 month ago
Simple and plain ambiance of the Friends Union Joshi Club offers great food. They have Gujarati Thali, farsaan and sweets along with some of the other home made dishes. Living alone in a city is really boring, but if you get good homemade food, you are satisfied enough. Delicious Puran Poli fans, Dahi Vada and other dishes are easily available. Service is quite good too. Staffs are well-mannered and polite. They serve food nicely. A great place to have some good and delicious food.
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