I’ll tell you, friends, this was not the meal that I was hoping to find. It was very, very good, and calls out for investigation from more people who love unusual flavors and unique foods. Well, I knew going in that a vegetarian Indian restaurant was unlikely to replace the dearly-missed Moksha in my affections, and this didn’t, but it was a very different and very positive experience all the same. This is definitely a restaurant that Atlanta’s foodie community should quit overlooking and come visit.
For one thing, Vatica’s owner is by leagues the most engaging, friendly and welcoming host of any Indian place that I’ve ever visited. Having done just a cursory bit of research into what I could expect here, I explained to him that I knew virtually nothing of vegetarian Indian dishes, but that I understood this place specialized in something called thali, which is basically a buffet brought to your table. He told me that he’d make me a very good thali and tell me all about it.
About five minutes later, I had a huge circular tray in front of me, with small bowls of a variety of foods. He told me what each was. My meal included rice, a spicy stew called dal, potato curry, lentil curry, sweet potatoed curry, an onion yogurt called raita, a pita-like bread called roti, the delicious, thin spicy wafers called papadam, a potato and onion samosa and a little fruit cup. I apologized for inconveniencing him, but I’m actually allergic to sweet potatoes. So those went, and he brought me a small bowl of curried squash instead.
This place definitely has it down right. That sounds like a heck of a lot of food, but everything was in very sensible, small portions. If you’re looking for a broad sampling of flavors, you can do pretty well here, getting ten different things for nine bucks and change. I was most taken with the dal and with the potato curry, but everything was very tasty. I was further surprised when, about halfway through my meal, another fellow came by with a tray to refill whatever I wanted more of, so I had second helpings of the dal, the potato curry, the lentils and another couple of papadam wafers.
Honestly, this was a good – no, a very good – lunch, but I also realized as I ate that really, what I’ve come to expect, unfairly, from Indian cuisine is really tasty meat in a really spicy, scorch-yer-tongue sauce. This was one heck of a good meal, but not at all what I was looking for. I wonder where my ongoing search to replace Moksha will take me next?