Of course everyone wants to eat Thai in Bangkok but there are many delicious choices if one wants a break from som tam and tom yum gong. One is Royal India -- a small cafe on Thanon Pan, the soi that runs off of Silom Road just at the can't-miss Hindu temple (Wat Phra Si Maha Umathewi). It's a few hundred feet down the soi, on the same side as the temple, almost hidden behind a streetside glass display case of Indian sweets and shelves of incense sticks and bags of legumes for sale. Simply decorated, no air-con (but many fans), and clean. Open for lunch and dinner.
This place is a gem, with food more varied and much more delicious than the often mediocre (and Bombay belly-inducing) roti-and-dal and Indian curries offered at places throughout Bangkok. Everything tasted fresh and bright and just-made. Our dishes took a while to appear and came out one-at-a-time, with a fair interval in between, which tells me that each was being made to order, by one cook (she looked like someone's mom). We intended to order only two dishes ... that turned into four and then included dessert. We had:
aalu dosa -- a huge rolled crisp/soft "pancake" stuffed with potatoes. The spuds were mashed with enough lumps/chunks to give texture, tasted pleasantly of turmeric, and were studded with lots of black mustard seeds and bits of browned onion. Just delicious.
tomato utthappam -- this was new to me ... a flat steamed (soft) "pancake" made with the same fermented batter of rice and urad dal as the dosa. Topped with tangy topping of chopped roasted tomatoes, onions, and a few green chilis.
Both of the above were accompanied by a small dish of flavorful thin yellow curry and a lovely slightly-spicy and tangy fresh coconut chutney studded, again, with mustard seeds. Whole fresh curry leaves added another level of flavor to both the curry and the chutney.
Two puris (fried puffed breads, wholewheat I think):
1 plain, accompanied by a red potato curry, and 1 studded with cumin seeds, to eat with a chickpea curry. The latter curry was my favorite -- the chickpeas were not soft, still with plenty of bite and real legume-y flavor. Both curries were incredibly rich with ghee -- way more than we needed, I would only order one of these next time.
Sweet lassi -- not as cold as I'd like but yogurt tasted very fresh and refreshingly sour. I would try the salted lassi next time.
Sweets from the case out front: a yellowish square of coconut and milk, an earth-colored rectangle of milk mixed with dal and flavored with cardamom (I think), and a honey or sugar-soaked ball of cornmeal. All were delish esp. the latter with it's grainy/chewy texture contrasted against an almost caramelized sweetness.
Grand total for the dishes, sweets, 4 more sweets to take away, one lassi and two big bottles of water: about US$ 8.50.
Other items on the menu include: more variations on dosa, uttapham and puri, various pakora, chole batura, pav bhaji, various idli, and more that I didn't write down.
While waiting for our food we enjoyed watching the parade of families dressed in their finest heading towards the temple at the end of the soi (a Sunday afternoon).