Only in the cuisines of Southern India and Gujarat in the west have I seen the sometimes leaden lentil transformed into something light and ethereal. Often used as the meat substitute in unpalatable veggie burgers, lentils at Indian vegetarian restaurant Bhojan form the floury foundation for delicate dumplings and fluffy teacakes.
While many people come to Bhojan for the thalis, the signature Gujarat meal served in a mind-boggling array of tiny silver dishes, you can find inexpensive, interesting sustenance on the small plate menu. My dahi balle ($6) consisted of two lentil-flour dumplings surrounded by a swirl of yogurt, coriander and two chutneys flecked with cumin seeds. The crumbly dumplings were a medium for the refreshing cold sauce. My warm steamed lentil cakes, dhokla ($5), were more firm but still delicate, the color of cornbread and topped by a split, slender green pepper. I cut small pieces of each diamond-shaped cake's traditional at festivities in Gujarat's and dipped them first in sweet red tamarind sauce and then in a green mint/coriander chutney. On the back wall of this attractive space, with its green wine bottle lighting fixtures and upturned copper bowls lining the ceiling, the words of Swami Sivananda Saraswati stand out in gold lettering: Serve Love Give Purify Meditate Realise. You"ll feel the loveâ€¦in the lentils.
102 Lexington Ave.
(near E. 27th St.)
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