To the readers who follow this blog for the crazy eating sprees, I'm sorry for the lack of food posts as of late. If you've ever wandered over to my 30 Before 30 blog, then you already know that I'm currently on day 25 of my vegetarian month, which explains the lack of foodie posts. I have to say, the vegetarian experiment has thrown me into a bit of conflict. On one hand, I get so much joy from trying all sorts of food and it's been sad turning away from a majority of dishes because I can't eat meat. On the other hand, I've never been happier with the way my body feels and looks. The past 25 days of shunning meat and doing Bikram yoga everyday has allowed me to get rid of so much pesky flab, and I'm happy with how toned I've gotten. Moreover, I've never felt so clean and light. My digestive system is definitely much more pleased with me this month than say, last month (see bone marrow madness, Fatty Crab insanity and GETE food coma).
Last night, however, I learned that pigging out is not limited to carnivores. I went for a vegetarian Indian dinner with Amanda and Zoe at Vatan. I knew about the $25 prix fixe dinner, but I had no idea that a meal for one would be hefty enough to feed a family of three. I'd glanced at the menu briefly and thought, oh great, such a great variety of choices. Uhm there are actually no choices to be made because they serve you every single thing on the menu. See that loaded up tray on the right? That was just the appetizer thali. (Apologies for the poorly-taken-with-an-iPhone picture but you get the idea) They served us eight different appetizers: chana masala (chickpeas with onions and coriander), muthia (steamed flour with spinach), khaman (puffed cream of wheat flour cakes), mirchi bhajia (fried hot pepper with garam masala), sev puri (potatoes, chickpeas, yogurt and chutney in crispy bread), mini samosas, batatavada (fried potato balls in chickpea flour batter) and ragda patis (potato cutlet in white bean sauce). My favorites were definitely the sev puri and those little samosas. I loved the flaky crunchiness of the sev puri against the creamy yogurt. The baby samosas had a nice spicy kick and just totally satisfied my yen for something fried and crunchy.
I didn't finish my appetizers because I wanted to leave room for entrees, but it didn't really matter because I was still incredibly stuffed by then. I mean, that platter of apps is already way more food than what I normally consume in one meal. So I was extremely intimidated when they laid down the entrée thali. There were also eight different dishes on this platter! My favorite, hands-down, was kheer, a mildly sweet rice pudding flavored with saffron and dry fruits. In conjunction with the kheer, I ate a whole lot of puri, the puffed whole wheat bread (can you say carbo load?). The slightly spicy papadams were extremely addictive, as well. I just kept dipping the puri and papadams into the various bowls that contained toor dal (boiled lentils in Indian spices), ful-cobi (sautéed cauliflower and green peas), batakanu sak (potatoes in red gravy), chole (chickpeas in tamarind and garam masala), and bhaji (sautéed spinach and corn). I probably didn't take more than 3 bites of each because I was so full. I did wipe out every bit of the kheer though—it's that yummy. Oh and did I mention that they also served us complementary pulao (basmati rice with peas), khichdi (lentils with rice and vegetables), and kadhi (soup with yogurt and chickpea flour). Just in case that platter wasn't enough.
Dessert was a relief because there was just enough stuff on the platter. The homemade mango ice cream was just delicious and that masala chai tea was just what I needed after all that food. There was some crumbled sweets on the side too, though I'm not entirely sure what it was. I pretty much stuck to the ice cream and tea because that was all I had room for.
It was just what I needed on a day when a few co-workers commented that I looked tired and pale. I realized I hadn't been getting enough protein and iron. Coupled with my daily Bikram practice, my energy was just fully depleted. This feast of protein-rich dishes was just what I needed. When I went to Bikram this morning, I definitely felt the difference. I was stronger and had so much more energy.
I would definitely recommend this place to vegetarians looking for a truly satisfying meal. You definitely get your money's worth at Vatan!
Vatan is located on 409 Third Avenue (between 28th and 29th Streets). Tel. (212) 689-5666