Monday, October 3, 2011 at 8:35 a.m.
Let me preface this whole thing by saying that this is not a restaurant review. The "buffet" that's offered in the building behind the Hare Krishna Cultural Center in Coconut Grove (Govinda's dining club, five days out of the week) is not comparable to Jumbo's 24-Hour All-You-Can-Eat.
Sunday, the temple begins a ceremony of chanting, dancing, and music at
about 4:30 p.m. I showed up closer to 7 p.m. yesterday, because for all
my Haribol-ing, I just wasn't up for three hours of demonstrative worship. After removing my shoes, I stepped onto the cool tiles of the temple's
main room. There were a few seats along the perimeter, but it was
otherwise standing room only.
A circle of men in loose-fitting clothing danced excitedly in a huddle. Some played drums or the small hand cymbals called kartals. All were swaying, jumping from foot to foot, even whirling on occasion.
The women, in colorful, flowing skirts and dresses, danced on the other side of the room, eventually forming a line and stepping and twirling in unison. Small children wrapped in brightly colored fabrics wandered freely about.
At 7:15, all in attendance lay prostrate toward icons of Krishna, the founder (Srila Prabhupada
), and ornate deities. There was a short and unintelligible sermon (the speaker system was lacking), followed by a slow march to the feast. I was lucky to be introduced to Sach, a friendly member of the tribe who offered me some insight on the ceremony of blessing food, Hare Krishna dietary restrictions (most consume cows' milk, but abstain from meat, eggs, onion, and garlic), and other aspects of the religion.
The group suggests a donation of just $3 if one would like to partake of the dinner. The meal consisted of basmati rice; a salad of cabbage, olive, carrot, and vinegar; kofta, a dish that resembles meatballs but is actually chickpea flour and cabbage dumplings dipped in tomato sauce and pan fried; a chick pea and zucchini curry; and fresh-made pear-apple juice. It was served lunch-line style from large metal trays. We ate outside at a table in the dim courtyard.
Despite its humble presentation, slopped hastily on a styrofoam tray, the meal was delicious. The kofta made a hearty anchor to the vinegar-y cabbage salad and curried vegetable stew. My fellow diners informed me, though, that the quality of these dinners fluctuates wildly, depending on the chef on duty.
To open-minded, spiritually curious Miami residents, I would recommend a pilgrimage to the temple to take part in the Sunday ceremonies. Many people who make regular appearances are not full-on Hare Krishnas, but people who enjoy "Krishna consciousness." Devotees are extremely friendly and welcoming, and do not attempt to force their beliefs down your throat. They may, however, gently educate you on their faith and urge conversations about spirituality. If you're not up for this, you'd be better off hitting up Jumbo's.
For those who'd like to try vegan or vegetarian food prepared by Krishna devotees without the need to chant, the temple hosts the non-profit Govinda's
dining club five days a week. Go here
for the menu and hours of operation.