Thali Indian & Thai Cuisine takes its name from the Hindi word for “plate,” but traditional thalis are much more. Composed of small bowls filled with vegetables, dal, yogurt, chutney, pickle and a sweet that are set on a tray and served with rice or bread, they are a meal in themselves. At this Miami Beach restaurant, Thai dishes add to the mix.Owner Denis Nazareth was born in Mumbai. In his late teens, he took a hotel job in Muscat, the capital of Oman on the southwest coast of the Arabian Peninsula, where he made a positive impression on an American teaching at nearby Sultan Qaboos University. The professor arranged for him to attend Western Carolina University, where he studied resort management and lived with a host family. After graduation he moved to Miami. He managed and eventually owned several chain restaurants (Bennigan’s, Nathan’s), but has put his own stamp on this 2-month-old eatery. Indian starters include samosas, pakoras (veggie fritters) chicken tikka and bhel puri, a jumble of puffed rice, chips and chickpea flour noodles tossed with fresh chutney. South Indian dosas (rice and lentil pancakes), chicken gassi (in coconut coriander gravy with mustard seeds) and Malabar grouper in tamarind-coconut curry share the menu with Northern-style kormas, biryani, tandoori and Indo-Chinese snacks from Calcutta like cauliflower in soy tomato masala with ginger and garlic. I tried the Diamond thali with sambar (stewed red lentils), sag paneer (spinach with cheese cubes), roasted mashed eggplant, tandoori shrimp, chicken makhani (with cream) and gulab jamun (fritters in syrup). A friend chose the Thai Buddha thali with hot and sour soup (tom yum), mixed salad, green curry with baby corn, bamboo shoots, sweet potato and basil, mild Massaman vegetable curry, sweet-sour vegetables with pineapple and Thai doughnuts. There’s also pad Thai, gai pa lo (chicken wings and hard cooked eggs in five-spice sauce), beef with peanut sauce and red curry with salmon. The spice is twice as nice at this new spot. Linda Bladholm’s latest book is “Latin and Caribbean Grocery Stores Demystified.”
Mashed Roasted Eggplant (Baigan ka Chokla)
Serve this spicy dish with bread as part of a meal or mix with sour cream for dip.
1 medium globe eggplant, about 1 pound
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 to 1 fresh green chile, such as Serrano, minced (scrape out seeds for less heat)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Prick the eggplant several times, wrap in foil and roast 35 to 45 minutes, until soft. Cool slightly and peel off the skin. Place the pulp in a bowl and mash with a fork. Stir in the oil, onions, chile, garlic, ginger and salt to taste. Mix well. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Source: Adapted from ‘1,000 Indian Recipes’ by Neelam Batra (Wiley, 2002)
Per Serving: 101 calories (58 percent from fat), 7 g fat (1 g saturated, 4.9 g monounsaturated), 0 cholesterol, 1.6 g protein, 9.7 g carbohydrates, 4.5 g fiber, 4 mg sodium.
If you go
What: Thali Indian & Thai Cuisine
Address: 754 Washington Ave., Miami Beach
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily
Prices: Starters $2.99-$6.99, thalis $8.99-$13.99, entrees $7.99-$12.99, sweets $2.99-$4.99