And yet, Mysore's Hotel RRR serves The Best Thali Ever. David and I came here for lunch on our first day in Mysore. We stepped in around 3pm, which we quickly learned to be peak hour in the restaurant. Soon after entering the restaurant, we were shaken out of our "put-my-name-on-a-list" mode (which makes waiting to eat in a restaurant in New York a very civilized process) and realized we had entered a no-rules zone (not so unusual.) If you try to have lunch at Hotel RRR around peak hour, the only way to sit down is to stand guard next to a couple of tables where it looks like people might be finishing up their meal and hope that the people waiting next to you won't be quicker than you at sitting down. A kind of thali-jungle.
Luckly, we were able to return to Hotel RRR around midday a couple of days later. The restaurant was empty, giving us the opportunity to do a full documentation of the thali meal. You sit at a table with folded banana leaves waiting for use. In the middle of the table are salt, chutneys and chillies to accompany the meal.
Once seated, open your banana leaf and wipe it clean with a little water. David and I weren't too excited about getting tap water on our leaves, but it worked out...Your leaf now looks like this:
Next, create a little assortment of chutneys and chillies on the side, just so:
Next come the dahl (lentil based), the pappad (crispy extra-thin bread on the side), as well as other delicious side dishes: a coconut based cold soup, some potato based soup, tomato soup of sorts and (my favorite) curd. In addition to the dahl, this particular thali served a dish with beans and bananas in it (the little grey-green hill in the center).
And finally, the hot, fluffy rice.
Any of these ingredients can be refilled as many times as you want. There are young men walking around the restaurant with large containers of rice, dahl, and other dishes. They are also able to refill your soups, etc. Really delicious.
The only thing left to do (and the most enjoyble) is to start eating, while using only your right hand. David kndly demonstrates below:
And if you are in the mood for a little sweet after lunch, head over to Indra Cafe' (I am starting to sound like a guidebook due to the extreme exposure to our Lonely Planet.) Anyway, the sweets below are mostly made with condensed milk, sugar, and ghee. I could have eaten the whole store!