A wholesome meal

Debarati Palit Singh
Thursday, 2 November 2017

Rajesh Rawal of Sapna Thali tells us why the two partners decided to reopen the popular thali joint and shares stories of its glorious past over a sumptuous meal.

Over the years, several of our regular customers have requested us to reopen the restaurant,” says Rajesh Rawal, partner, Sapna Thali. The iconic thali joint on Jangli Maharaj Road, reopened early this month. Rawal runs the restaurant with his son Darshan Rawal. The family had shut the place in 1995. 

When we visited the restaurant for lunch, we were welcomed by smiling attendants. The entrance of the restaurant was lined with colourful cots, giving it a rustic feel.

Over delicious Rajasthani and Gujarati dishes, Rawal tells us that the family shut the place since Darshan got into the spa business. “I couldn’t manage the place on my own. But now we are back due to pure passion for the place and my son is working with me. Regular requests from our customers also motivated us,” he says. 

Sapna Thali was started in 1973 first. Throwing some light on the history of the place, Rawal says, “My ancestors used to run Gujarat Lodge and we used to feed around 2,000 people daily — around 1,200 members and 800 walk-ins. We also supplied tiffin to Mahatma Gandhi when he was imprisoned here because my grandfather was one of the committee members of Nehru Vichaar Samiti. So we are the fourth generation into the thali business.”

Rawal says that the interiors have been changed now and the restaurant now overlooks Sambhaji Park. It looks elegant yet simple with a comfortable seating area. A while into the conversation, the food items begin appearing on our table, one by one, brought in by the polite staff. We love the dhokla served with chutney.

Rawal speaks about the key changes in the business while feasting on the dhokla. “The look and making of the thali has changed. We have also got chefs and staff from Rajashthan. So the taste of the food remains the same. I personally taste the food everyday. If they miss out on something, I tell them. We invited 15 to 20 people to taste the food before reopening so that the quality could be checked,” he says, adding, “I have a meeting with the chef every evening to decide on the next day’s menu and plan accordingly.”

Meanwhile, the main course is served to us. Sukha Aloo, Laal Channa Rasala, Shimla Mirch Besan, Sukha Tindi, Dahi Kadhi, and dal were served with phulkas and parathas. We love the Sukha Aloo Sabji — a mix of sweet and spicy flavour, while the Shimla Mirch Besan is an absolute delight with its medium spicy taste. The Tindi Curry is dry but tasty. The Laal Channa Rasala has a tangy, and spicy taste. The Dahi Kadhi and Tur Dal are sweet but tasty.

We ask Rawal about his patrons’ reaction to the revamped restaurant and he says, “Many of our old customers are coming back. Many of them used to stay close by but over the years, they have moved to the suburbs. They are now coming from Baner, Aundh, Wanawadi and I am happy they are so keen on coming.” He adds, “They have loved the thali and are happy over the fact that the taste is still the same.”

The attendant now serves us Papad Sabji, the highlight of the meal. Simple and tasty with strong flavours of garlic, we can’t stop ourselves from indulging. Rawal says that the health of the customers is their primary concern and hence they do not use baking soda and colour. “Every dish is freshly made. We use less oil. You will not feel heavy after having our food. For the last one month, I am having both lunch and dinner here but haven’t gained any weight.”

The attendant then offers us both pulav and rice but we go with the latter because we want to enjoy a mix of rice, dal and papad sabji. The combination isn’t disappointing at all.

Rawal says that they serve 20 types of items everyday and the menu is different for lunch and dinner.   

The ‘Kapoor Khandaan’ used to have their food here regularly back in the day, he says, as we enjoy the delicious Shrikhand. “Whenever Raj Kapoor ji used to shoot his film at his farmhouse in Hadapsar, we used to supply them food. Their drivers would come and collect the food from here. In fact, Raj Kapoor sahab, Rajendra Kumar ji, Sanjeev Kumar ji, Meenakshi Sheshadri ji were our regular customers,” he says with a smile.

Over the years, several thali joints have opened up in and around JM Road. But Rawal isn’t bothered about it. “We are trying to give our best and rest we have left to god and our customers,” he says. Sapna Thali serves both limited and unlimited thali.
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Sapna Thali, 573/7, Jangli Maharaj Road, next to Sambhaji Park, Pune. Time: 11.30 am - 3.30 pm and 7.30 - 11pm

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