Atlanta Magazine :: October 2009 :: Spice Routes :: Western India

Spice Routes - Western India

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About Western Indian Cuisine

Gujarat, India’s westernmost state, puts forth one of the strongest culinary showings in the Atlanta area. These four establishments that serve memorable Gujarati specialties are nothing like one another, which reflects the state’s profound diversity. Though more and more Indian Hindus embrace omnivorous eating habits in the twenty-first century, vegetarianism remains strong in Gujarat: Jainism, an ascetic religion that stipulates nonviolence, has centuries-old roots there. (Gandhi, a native of Gujarat, based his political philosophy in part on Jain principles.) Gujarati dishes can be elegantly simple, though others possess a characteristic sweet-and-spicy flavor profile—evidence of the state’s long-established sugar trade. Meat-loving Gujarati Muslims bring an altogether different cast to the patchwork. Read More


Jovial owner Dhirajlal Vallabh waves you to an empty table, and the meal immediately begins. There is no ordering at Vatica. The restaurant serves only a home-style tray of vegetarian dishes, called a thali, cooked by Vallabh’s wife, Sadhana. The array changes daily but typically includes a hillock of basmati rice, one or two hot breads, and small metal bowls containing smooth dal (lentil soup), two vegetable curries, and one of the most finely textured and seasoned raitas (yogurt condiments) around. One curry is always a chunky, thick-sauced potato spiked with cumin seeds. The other vegetable changes daily—perhaps a corn and green bean combo, or eggplant or okra or cauliflower. If you are wary of Indian food for its spiciness, this is the gentlest introduction possible. (And if you crave a bit more kick, ask for the homemade carrot and chile pickles delivered only upon request.) Staffers bring refills on a clanking trolley until you’re beyond sated. 1475 Terrell Mill Road, Marietta, 770-955-3740, Read More


This is unorthodox advice, but ignore the regular menu at Vikhyat. At least a day before you plan to visit, log on to the restaurant’s website and find the page labeled “Gujarati Catering Menu.” Jackpot: It lists more than a dozen dishes whose availability impressed even my Gujarati-food-savvy Indian friends. Call and talk to owner Mahesh Patel to plan your meal. (His wife, Jyotsna, is the chef.) A recent feast that overfed four and cost less than $50 included undhiyu, a mélange of baby eggplants and other vegetables in tangy green curry; khandvi, thin bread made of besan (chickpea flour) and buttermilk that is rolled and scattered with cilantro; stir-fried tindora, an Indian fruit that looks and tastes like miniature cucumbers; karela, bitter melon sweetened and tossed with toasted cashews; and mohanthal, squares of cardamom-scented fudge. Among the many unassuming dining rooms in Atlanta’s Indian restaurants, Vikhyat’s is one of the most spartan, but the Gujarati specialties transform the atmosphere. 3900 Lavista Road, Tucker, 770-270-2204, Read More


You can taste the Gujarati sweet-and-spicy twang in the snacks at Shayona, the new restaurant associated with the ivory-hued, ornately carved Swaminarayan temple in Lilburn. Fresh green chiles top khaman dhokla—moist squares of sponge cake flavored with pomegranate juice. And date chutney is folded directly into dabeli, spicy potato patties on square buns that may well be the precursor recipe to the modern veggie burger. Half the space is devoted to house-made Gujarati snacks and sweets. 460 Rockbridge Road, Lilburn, 404-297-0501 Read More

Lazeez Tava Fry

Lazeez’s cuisine, based largely on Muslim traditions, arguably shares a closer affinity to Pakistani food. But chef/owner Nisar Momin grew up in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city, and the inclusion of coconut and cashews in dishes such as Momin’s green gosht (“gosht” is a word that indicates a meat-based curry) directly echoes that state’s coastal geography and plantation crops. Goat, lamb, and beef preparations dominate. Eating at Lazeez after sampling the Hindu- and Jain-influenced vegetarian offerings at other Gujarati spots attests to how richly different cultures can overlap in India. 4650 Jimmy Carter Boulevard, Norcross, 770-939-1221, Read More