We tend to take Saravana Bavan for granted. It’s a Chennai-based chain after all (35 branches in India, a gzillion worldwide), and you know what they say about franchise food. No doubt about it, SB is a formula: the branches look …
We tend to take Saravana Bavan for granted. It’s a Chennai-based chain after all (35 branches in India, a gzillion worldwide), and you know what they say about franchise food. No doubt about it, SB is a formula: the branches look alike, the waiters wear the same uniforms, and the menus are identical. But the place runs like a well-oiled machine, and one that turns out pretty darned good food to boot.
A recent visit revolved around snacky foods. Dining too early to mine the menu’s intriguing after-5pm-only chaat section (bhel, pani, chickpea samosas, bite-sized poori), I cobbled together a meal of smaller bites. I started with gobi 65, crimson red battered and deep-fried cauliflower florets that arrived very hot (already a step up from most versions around town), only lightly greasy, crispy outside and crisptender within, the vegetable’s natural juices lending a bit of sweet caramelisation. With SB’s Gobi 65 so close to hand, who needs French fries? An order of poori turned up two rather larger than snacksized golden brown orbs of deep-fried dough accompanied by daal and a smooth, almost creamy, potato mash infused with the flavour of warm spices.
Two Southern Indian items often overlooked by banana leaf and tiffin eaters are curd vada and rava kichadi. The former comprises a sort of ground lentil doughnut doused with unsweetened yogurt and topped with crispy bits. The doughnut’s soft, crumbly texture and the cool, sharp bite of the yogurt make for a fantastic combination; the dish would be the perfect pick-meup on a steamy late afternoon. Rava kichadi, a mound of turmeric-yellow roasted sooji (coarse semolina flour) dotted with fresh curry leaves, mustard seeds, daal, and bits of carrot and chillies, comes with a surprisingly fiery coconut sambar and thin curry. The sooji itself is almost bready, light, fluffy, and moist, reminiscent of mum’s turkey stuffing (the best in the world) but for the scent of cardamom. Pleasantly mild, it would go down well as breakfast or a late-night snack accompanied by a cuppa SB’s excellent masala chai. Don’t neglect SB’s sweets case; those sugar syrup-soaked orbs known as gulab jamun and the milky helva are especially nice.
While I’m all for standalone eateries, there’s something to be said for a formula, if the establishment in question gets it right. Saravana Bavan definitely does. Robyn Eckhardt
Saravana Bhavan was shortlisted in the Best Indian Restaurant category of the Time Out KL Food Awards 2010. Our food awards are 100% voted for by the people of KL. This way, we guarantee that popularity and consistent performance is rewarded.