Such is Dubai’s taste for thali that popular Indian restaurant Aryaas, which boasts three other locations across our fair city, has just opened its biggest venue to date, opposite BurJuman in Bur Dubai. This said, the entrance is so innocuous that my date and I initially strolled right past it, taking five sweaty minutes to retrace our steps before stepping inside the strip-light-illuminated interior.

The size and stark simplicity of the new Aryaas doesn’t make it the cosiest of restaurants, and it’s certainly devoid of the intimate charm of the other venues around town. We found upstairs marginally more comfortable than the ground floor (ie some of the seats have cushioning) and were greeted with a smile and a menu, which was so extensive I had to ask for guidance. As if on cue, the manager appeared from nowhere to impart his wisdom – rava idli and kal dosa to start, followed by appam, chettinadu paniyara and the special masala.

With such an extensive and detailed recommendation, I wasn’t in any position to argue, though I did insist on adding a ‘Night Meal’ (a South Indian breakfast thali, served at night) to the our order, simply because it was one of the few dishes I was familiar with. With a knowing smile, the manager turned to his minions, repeated our order, and disappeared into the kitchen. Soon enough, they were filing out of the kitchen armed with metal platters laden with rice, breads and colourful condiments.

Each dish was light and delicate in its own right, but together they proved a formidable feast. The rava idli – infused with mustard seeds, channa dahl, chillies and ginger – was a fluffy packet of flavour, while the kal dosa – a soft, stone-baked bread – proved the perfect vehicle to transfer the vibrant palette of chutneys from the shining bowls to our mouths. The manager, again ghosting out of nowhere, informed us that other restaurants serve only three kinds of chutney, whereas Aryaas serves six – the additional three consist of potent crispy garlic, vibrant yellow onion and a searing ginger mix.

Next came the chettinad paniyara, a plate of six delightful doughy rice droplets, and the Aryaas special masala dosa, which was served in four pieces, containing different fillings (sweet potato purée, mushrooms and mixed veg); and a petal-shaped fermented rice flour pancake served with coconut milk.

At this point I understood the manager’s wry smile. There was no need for me to order thali – his recommendations were more than enough for two. Nonetheless, just when I thought I could eat no more, a splendid platter sporting yet more colourful concoctions – from dahl to pickles – clattered out of the kitchen.

It was testament to the quality of the food that we managed to finish everything – even the fluffy white rice finale, which was embellished with a serving of aromatic ghee. Aryaas’s latest instalment may not be the most inviting, but its extended menu and persistently excellent South Indian offerings make it worth wandering away from the fast food franchises of BurJuman.

The bill (for two)
1x Aryaas special masala Dhs30
1x Night meal Dhs15
1x Appam Dhs6
1x Chettinad paniyara Dhs8.50
1x Kal dosa Dhs7
1x Rava idly Dhs8.50
1x Large mineral water Dhs3
Total (excluding service) Dhs78