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In the Mood / Thali

May 15, 1997

The individual-sized serving of a complete Indian meal is called a thali. These miniature feasts take their name from the charming, specially designed stainless steel dish sets they often come in.

* Chameli: Well worth a trip to Rosemead from any place in the Southland, this North Indian vegetarian restaurant offers a classic meatless thali with pakora (vegetable fritters), basmati rice, plain naan, dal, mattar paneer (a curry of peas and freshly made cheese), bartha (a smoky mashed eggplant) and raita (yogurt with cucumbers). (Thali, $8.99.) Chameli, 8752 Valley Blvd., Rosemead, (818) 280-1947.

* All India Cafe: The newest Indian restaurant in Pasadena dishes up an alluring assortment of thalis. The vegetarian thali comes with a choice of two curried vegetable dishes, the non-vegetarian with a choice of lamb or chicken curry; there are also two tandoori thalis. Each includes basmati rice, raita or kachumber (a chopped tomato and cucumber salad), dal, naan and Indian pickle on request. (Thalis, $8.95 to $9.95.) All India Cafe, 39 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, (818) 440-0309.

* Madhu's Dasaprakash: The Cerritos branch of this Southern Indian vegetarian restaurant serves a thali with dal, sambhar (a spicy lentil "sauce"), balya (fried vegetable), poori (a deep-fried flat bread), basmati rice, a sweet (often a delicious pineapple pudding) and delicious homemade yogurt. The Santa Monica branch also carries a North Indian thali: salad, dal, three curried vegetables, raita, a vegetable pilaf, poori and a sweet. (Thalis, $7 to $9 lunch, $9 to $11 dinner.) Madhu's Dasaprakash, 11321 E. 183rd St., Cerritos, (310) 924-0879; 12217 Santa Monica Blvd., #201, West Los Angeles, (310) 820-9477.

* Bombay Cafe: Thalis make particularly good lunches, and chef Neela Paniz offers a wide variety, including a vegetarian thali, two tandoori thalis, a salad thali, a frankie thali (a "frankie" resembles a burrito) and a lamb or chicken curry thali--each a little different. At dinner, only the vegetarian thali is on the menu. It includes two vegetables, dal, rice, raita, kachumber and naan or chapati. (Thalis, $7 to $10.) Bombay Cafe, 12113 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 820-2070.

* Chandni and Samata: These three vegetarian North Indian restaurants (two Chandnis on the Westside, Samata in the Valley) offer a classic North Indian thali with mixed vegetable pakoras (fritters), basmati rice, dal, mattar paneer, alu sag (stewed mustard greens with potatoes), raita, a choice of naan or roti bread and rice pudding. (Thali, $8.95 to $9.95.) Chandni, 3808 Bagley, Culver City, (310) 839-0482; and 1909 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 828-7060. Samata, 12321 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 761-7696.

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