Chetna, one of the three worthy restaurants of Kala Ghoda (the other two being Khyber and Wayside Inn), has undergone many changes. From the original Chetna, selling masala tea and bhajias and patronised by chess-players and unkempt iontellictuals, to the Chinese Home with its roast duck and garlic prawns, and the present Chtna, providing both authentic and exotic Gujrati, Cutchi and Rajasthani thalis.
It was full last night, the four long centre tables occupied by a large and happy joint family (joint familes invariably are happy, I have observed, especially if they are Gujrati joint families), their young and old celebrating voices rising above the food.
We occupied a small table for two, the only one available, and ordered our usual Chetna thali, conceived in Gujarat, but with certain individual touches of the management. The thalis arrived promptly and the food followed with equal dexiterity. Speed in service is one of the virtues of a thali restaturant, you do not have to kill 20 minutes between soup and entree. And if it is a Gujrati restaurant, things move even faster, since they serve the dessert with the meal and sometimes at the start of the meal.
At the Chetna, last night, service began with the farsans, bland dhoklas and tiny kachoris stuffed with a fiery masala. There was a green coriander and chilli chutney and a sweet chutney, and, on request, the waiter brought a freshly-made garlic chutney. Though for the best garlic chutney in the world, you have to go to the Rajdhani at Crawford Market.
But to return to last night's meal, the papads followed, roasted, not fried, and three vegetables (bought, chopped and cooked the hour before), and gulab jamuns (the choice was between gulab jamuns and fruit salad and I allowed my dinner companion to make up my mind for me).
The waiter kept coming around with a basket of chapatis, medium-thick bajra rotis, and round crisp bhakaris, rotis, and round crisp bhakaris, plus deshi ghee, which he would generously pour on them.
Then I had to decide between tice and khichri. A stranger, sitting at the next table, recommended, khichri. It is silk smooth, he said, though the best khishri is at Thakkar's Club. And with the khichri these was dal, the Ahmedabadi dal with a touch of sweet in it, and kachi, the Gujrati kadhi, minus the Punjabi besan.
On the whole, it was a heavy meal, with several second helpings and a few third. Some of these are still siting in my stomach this morning.