Thrilled by Thali in Adams Morgan

Jyoti’s veggie thali. Photo by Beth Scott

{First post by new Dining in DC Contributor, Beth Scott}. Despite my best intentions to have a quiet night, I was recently dragged out for a birthday celebration with friends at Jyoti (2433 18th St., NW). After the fact, I’m glad I was, because it was one of the best Indian restaurants that I have ever been to. Jyoti, a small restaurant off the main strip in Adams Morgan would be a good place for a date with its flattering dim lighting, mellow ambiance, unobtrusive waiters, and quiet dining room.

To start, in honor of my impending old age, we ordered lots of wine. The large carafe of cabernet sauvignon came quickly from the large wooden bar and as my friend put it “tasted like something that was served at an Italian restaurant in Mad Men.” It was red, it was frothy, and it was wine. Really, what more do you need?

Before I gnawed my arm off, I ordered the spinach samosa. It was generously sized and the spinach was still chewy, not overly steamed. Sometimes when you get cooked spinach it turns into the texture of rubber, but this was much better. It tasted like something from Julia’s Empanadas, but it actually fit into your hand and you wouldn’t be ashamed of having eaten it when you sober up.

A friend and I split an order of the thali vegetable (photo on right), an assortment of five vegetarian dishes. There were many choices, but we chose the baingan bharta (roasted eggplant), saag paneer (cheese cooked with spinach), aloo hobhi (spiced potatoes and cauliflower), channa masala, (chick peas), and vegetable curry. They came in small bowls, accompanied by a mound of white rice, crispy papadum, and naan. We waited about twenty minutes for the entrees, but our mounting irritation was soothed by the stream rising from the piping hot naan.

The food was delicious, and well worth the wait. The naan was crunchy on the bottom and chewy on the inside – exactly as it should be. The saag paneer had almost more cheese than spinach, and the channa masala had hints of ginger alongside the cardamom. The aloo hobhi managed to do the impossible and made potatoes almost too spicy to eat, but they were balanced out by the cauliflower’s neutral flavor. Still, you definitely want to mix the aloo with the rice and wash it down with the red wine. The mix of flavors and textures make you keep eating, especially since it’d be a shame to waste that wonderful naan.

There are so many amazing restaurants in this city, places that you save up for and talk about years later. Jyoti isn’t one of them, but it’s a good, serviceable restaurant where you can get a table and eat a nice meal without bleeding from the wallet. And sometimes that’s all you need. Especially on your birthday. Cheers!


First Post by new Dining in DC Contributor, Beth Scott

Beth has been living in the District since 2007, after graduating from a master’s program in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She works full-time at a non-profit downtown. A Texan born and raised, she is a lover of barbeque, cactus tacos, and newly-discovered devotee of Greek food. When not exploring restaurants, she’s hanging out with friends, biking around the city, and trying to think up plot points for the next great American novel.

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