Originally, we wanted to scour Varanasi’s streets in order to find our first meal after our 18-hour drive. But a tip from our guide’s Belgian friends led us to a quaint, surprisingly quiet spot amid the bustling streets.
We turned right from the hotel and walked past two traffic circles in the direction of the river. Then, to the left, in an alley we would traditionally have avoided, we found outdoor seating and a menu clearly designed by an Indian emissary sent to America to find out what Americans eat. Our guide joined us, where we met up with the two Belgians.
Although traditional Indian cuisine is growing on us, we were delighted to find Phulwari, something of an Indo-Euro-Ameri-diner. Its menu choices fall into the category of “multi-cuisine,” a style of restaurant popular in tourist destinations. However, unlike our dinner at Raffles in New Delhi one night prior (review to come later), Phulwari is a class above. It is not self-service fast food, and while it caters to many palates, it does it well. Greek diner on the side of the road at every exit in New Jersey, eat your heart out.
Traditional thalis sit alongside pizza, cornflakes, and beer in a relaxed atmosphere. The restaurant seating is outdoors-only, situated deep within an alley, covered by netting and string-lighting from above. We ended up dining there both evenings we were in Varanasi, a testament to its quality, as our affection for a traditional thali is growing.
The first night, we had the falafel platter, composed of falafel, tahina, baba ghannouj, and salad (that we did not eat). It was crispy and delicious. We have heard that falafel is making its way quickly to Indian menus, if only to please the high number of Israeli tourists. More on that later.
The second night, we had pizza with eggplant and rich tomato sauce. While it wasn’t anything like Rocky’s, it wasn’t half bad. A little drippy. The Belgians had assured us it was great.
Sometimes, in order to find a little piece of home, it’s best to let your taste buds guide you. We’re waiting to see what other surprises await us.