Children learn from a young age that they can’t have unlimited amounts of whatever they want. They’re conditioned by statements like “Just take one piece of Halloween candy” or “Put that down, you already have a bubble wand.” Eventually, they grow up to politely tolerate vacation policies and one birthday cake per year.
But there’s a place in Kips Bay where moderation is as extinct as woolly mammoths and Myspace. A place where you can take off your shoes, sit next to a wishing well, and mentally flip off anyone who ever told you, “You don’t need twelve lava lamps, sweetie.” It’s called Vatan, and, while you’re here, you can have as many refills of vegetarian Indian food as you want.
At this Gujarati spot, you pay $34 for three vegetarian courses and unlimited refills. Each course comes on a big metal thali with eight to ten different dishes in their own compartments. After you finish your thali, a server will ask if you want more of anything before the next course. This is essentially an all-you-can-eat buffet where you won’t have to stand up to get seconds, thirds, or fourths of mini samosas, sev puri, and chana masala.
Vatan’s allure goes beyond the never-ending supply of Indian food. The restaurant’s space is designed like a life-size diorama of a rural village, complete with murals of children chasing after little lambs. Every booth has its own thatched roof, there’s a fake banyan tree that provides shade in the windowless room, and it’ll take you an embarrassing amount of time to determine if the plastic turtle in the wishing well is, in fact, plastic.
Come here for a fun vegetarian meal in a room that is undoubtedly more extravagant than your apartment. The next time you prohibit a child from eating seven scoops of ice cream before bed, make a note to take them to Vatan someday. They’ll appreciate it.
First Course Thali
Of the eight dishes on this thali, our favorites are the yogurt-covered sev puri, the batavada potato dumplings, and the baby samosas (the servers call them that, which makes them taste better). Regardless of how often you eat at Vatan, you’ll always be astonished that this is just the appetizer.
Second Course Thali
The second thali involves fewer fried things and more stews and soups than the first, and it also comes with a side of rice as well as lentils mixed with rice and vegetables. The sweet rice pudding is the most exciting thing in this round. Dip some paratha into the chutney, then drench it in rice pudding—it’ll be the perfect spicy-sweet bite.
Vatan’s dessert always involves ice cream. You’ll also get a little silver dish of galub jamun and a delicate cup of masala chai. The ice cream flavor changes pretty often (we’ve had both mango and cardamon), and the syrupy galub jamun is one of the best things you’ll eat during the entire meal.