Shabree, Parichay Hotel
Fergusson College Road, Pune.
Meal for two:?Rs 400
Why is it that we’re familiar with the Gujarati thali, but have probably never tried a Maharashtrian thali? Good question. The answer lies in the surprising shortage of Maharashtrian restaurants—even in a predominantly Maharashtrian city like Mumbai—which, in turn, is caused by a set of complex sociological factors worthy of a PhD. But never mind, there are a couple of joints in Pune which give you the opportunity to find out what you’ve been missing.
Punekars argue over which restaurant is better, Shreyas or Shabree, but our own preference is the latter. It serves an authentic Maharashtrian thali, with an austere satvik elegance—quite unlike the rather decadent, oleaginous Gujarati thali. An enormous thali was placed before each of us, which included twenty different items, in a delightful interplay of textures and flavours. There was a finely chopped bhindi bhaji; coconutty gobi bhaji; crunchy kothimbir vadis; matki usal, made with sprouts; pitle bhaji, made with besan; Puneri toor dal, lightly flavoured with kala masala; a sweet kadhi; tomato raita; a katori of cool, thick dahi; four piquant achars and papads. The goodies just wouldn’t stop coming: three different types of roti—grainy jowari rotis, hot puffy chapatis and thick, biscuity bhakris, drizzled with ghee. Then, two different types of rice, including a typically Maharashtrian khichdi. And, finally, a wonderfully creamy mango shrikhand. All of which was followed, on our part, by a great big, satisfied burp. Hari Om!