Nicholas Barahona, Staff Writer
Welcome to Nick’s Picks.
Join me, Nick Barahona, on our journey through the city of Richmond where I review and showcase the different cuisines and restaurants in close proximity to campus, from the lens of a VCU student. I welcome you to an exciting time ahead filled with great deals and good eats.
Today’s review is for the vegans and vegetarians out there looking for a new taste in Richmond. Let’s check out Govinda and the delicious, cruelty-free and affordable meals they are serving to the community.
Govinda is an Indian vegetarian and vegan restaurant that opened about a year ago. Located on West Marshall Street behind the Broad & Belvidere Apartments, it is open Sunday through Friday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Outdoor seating is available at the front and side of the restaurant, and there are a few tables inside. The space is not particularly big, which makes it more of a grab-and-go deal. There is a surprising amount of parking available on the side of the restaurant, which is rare to find in Richmond.
Walking in, guests are instantly greeted with warm hospitality from the staff. The white walls are embellished with images of Krishna, the Hindu God of protection, compassion and love. The restaurant stays true to Krishna’s values, engaging in efforts to distribute meals to the Richmond community and partnering with various humanitarian organizations. I deeply admire this about Govinda: their mission extends beyond serving delicious food.
Govinda is known for its “Govinda Thali,” or just “thali,” which translates to “a plate” in Hindi. A traditional thali comes with a mix of vegetables, rice, bread and a sweet. Govinda’s $8 thali consists of rice, sabji, roti, pakora, dal and halva sweet. If you’re unfamiliar with some of these dishes, worry not — I haven’t had much Indian food, but the staff was extremely helpful in explaining the different foods on my plate.
Sabji is a dish composed of different vegetables mixed together. Roti is the bread of the plate, similar to a round flatbread. Pakora is a vegetable fritter that is often spicy, depending on the vegetable from which it is made. Dal is dried, split lentils. The sweet of the plate, halva, can range from a thick flour paste to grounded seeds and nuts sweetened with sugar or honey.
My favorite parts of the thali were the roti, pakora and halva. I had never tried any of these dishes before, but they were delicious. The roti was perfect for eating with the sabji and the rich flavor of the pakora effectively complemented the other items. The halva, with its crumbly consistency and sweet taste, made the ideal dessert for the end of the meal.
The menu changes daily in terms of the type of pakora or roti you get, and sometimes they serve vegetable pasta along with the rice. What is consistent on each plate is the rice, roti and dal.
Govinda also offers vegetarian cooking programs for people interested in becoming vegetarian or trying out the lifestyle. This includes a 30-day lesson teaching the fundamentals of cooking vegetarian meals that are both affordable and delicious.
Not only have I gone outside my comfort zone with this review, trying a new diet and cuisine, I have also deepened my understanding of Indian culture and the Hindu religion. It is always amazing to see a message or mission taking place behind the plates. This is why I love food — not just for the taste and comfort, but the opportunity to expand one’s worldview.
For an $8 vegetarian plate of food, I was pleasantly surprised in how good the flavor was and how well it satisfied my appetite. Although I wished the restaurant was open during lunch hours, I would not hesitate to come again for dinner. An easy thumbs up and five out of five stars for me.
As always, eat up!
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