I ate some great food in Bombay last week at three restaurants--two easy to find, one a little more tucked-away.
After a lot of agitation and explaining from me as to what I wanted, one of my brokers (a Gujarati guy) took me out for a great Gujarati thali at a place called Rajdhani. Id have a hard time explaining just how to get to this small restaurant, which is in the Crawford Market area on a pedestrian lane that is insanely crowded with shoppers and merchants. The restaurants card says that its opposite Mangaldas Market, and there is a website: http://www.revivalhotel.com/prop2.asp (the website is a lot fancier than the actual restaurant). Tel. 2342-6919/2344-9014. On a busy day, you may want to call ahead for a table since the place is very small--however, its also very casual and I doubt youd have to wait long in any case. No tourists, not a lot of English spoken, but since this is a thali place you dont need it.
Rajdhani served us a huge variety of vegetarian dishes: cabbage with peas, kadi (sweetish yogurt-based sauce), khichdi (split peas and rice), sweet masoor dal, mung dal, potato stew, potato samosas, a spicy orange-colored dal, various chutneys and pickled beets, kedgeree rice, plain rice, papads, and four different kinds of breads (sweet small wheat cakes, spicy flat pancakes with herbs, whole wheat chapattis, and puffy rotis fresh out of the pan). One thing I hadnt seen before was cubes of what seemed to be idli bread, with sesame seeds. We washed it all down with buttermilk and finished up with rasgulla. Wow. Once again, I had to roll out the door.
The next day, it was thali again at Chetana--this place is easy to find and on the tourist track, although there are plenty of Indian diners as well. Its at 34 K. Dubash Marg in the Fort area of Bombay (http://www.chetana.com/r.htm, 2284-4986), behind the Jehangir Art Gallery. This place offers a mixture of Gujarati and Rajasthani food in its thali plates; theres also a buffet. Some of the dishes from the previous night showed up again, plus something called sevanga roll which was a crispy snack made out of something like chickpeas. I also had a great dessert of dudhi halwa, made from green mango. That was the best part of this meal, although it was all tasty. Credit cards are accepted.
Finally, I made it to Jimmy Boy Restaurant for dinner. This ones been mentioned by others here, and my Bombay friend (who is Parsi) recommended it as well. We went there on a Saturday night, and surprisingly it was almost empty. I was dying to try the whole menu, but after two thali meals in a row, I wasnt able to fit in too much! I had the patra ni macchhi (pomfret steamed in a banana leaf with a paste made from chilis, cilantro, and coconut) and khara bhendi (okra stewed in a rich sauce of roasted tomatoes). The okra dish was stupendous--the flavor of the sauce was positively mind-bending. Finally, I did manage to stuff in a dessert, lagan nu custard. The name means wedding custard, and it was really interesting--a square of egg custard flavored with cardamom and an ingredient called charoli, which is a nut or seed, as far as I can make out (couldnt find an English translation for it). This is the only dessert Ive had in India thats based on eggs.
Jimmy Boy, located off Horniman Circle on Bank Street (2270-0880), also has a tandoori and basic Indian menu, as well as a rather bizarre selection of western-style sandwiches served with potato chips. But the Parsi items on the menu are the big draw. Stick here and you wont go wrong.