For many years, I have heard from local friends who hail from the Gujarat region of India that the best place to sample authentic, Gujarati, vegetarian food in the tri-state area is at Vatan in New York City.
So, a few weeks ago, we decided to give the place a try. As soon as we entered Vatan, the decor and ambiance stood out. Welcoming us into the restaurant was a huge idol of Lord Ganesha. The entire place was set up like an authentic village from Gujarat, with trees, thatched roof huts, and low seating. And just like at a home, you are asked to remove your shoes prior to sitting down for a meal.
A few facts you should know before going to Vatan.
- The food is vegetarian. No meat is served.
- The meal is a set meal. Which means that other than drinks, you don’t have to order anything.
- It is an all you can eat meal, but not a buffet. You get unlimited refills of whatever you like.
- You can ask your meal to be mild, medium or hot.
- If you have dietary restrictions, you simply let them know and they bring your trays pre-populated with food you can eat.
- The meal is not cheap. It is $29.95 per person and drinks are extra.
- The place is only open for dinner, which is a good thing, since you can eat little all day and then indulge in this repast.
Now to the actual meal itself. First, we were brought a tray with an assortment of appetizers. This included green chilly bhajis (green chillies deep fried in batter), batata vada (a spicy potato ball, dipped in batter and deep fried), dhokla (steamed chick pea flour cakes), ragda patties (potato balls with a spicy sauce), dahi batata puri (a yogurt, lentil street food), a chick pea salad, and more. (There is so much, that it is easy to lose track of what was served!)
You can have seconds and thirds of appetizers, but you need to save some space for the entres. The entre tray comes with puris (fried bread) with an assortment of vegetables, plain rice, a rice lentil combo, papad and kadhi. The food is simply yummy and while it is difficult to polish off such a big meal, we seemed to have done justice to the food presented. There was an added bonus for me. Siddhi (with her gluten challenges) and Sathya (with her picky eating habits) both loved the meal and devoured most of what was put in front of them (they brought Siddhi bajra roti, a gluten-free bread).
Yes, there is dessert at the end of this meal: mango ice cream. And if you are so inclined, they offer masala chai and coffee, a perfect finale to a lovely evening.
If you are in the New York city area and craving for an Indian meal that is off the beaten track, Vatan is a lovely discovery.
To learn more about Vatan, click here.