Lately, all I’ve wanted to eat is South Indian food…and fruits, and daal. What’s happening to me?
I’ve mentioned Saravanaas a bunch on this blog. I first ate there with my parents a little over a year ago when I moved to the city, and then I took a friend there for his birthday because I liked it so much. After that I went back a few times but grew disillusioned after a series of cold dosas and started visiting other South Indian restaurants in the area. Then Sandhya told me that I should give Saravanaas another try, but she recommended I go before the lunchtime rush to ensure hot dosas. So last week I went for brunch on Saturday and then this Friday I went again for an early dinner, both off-peak times. Lo and Behold, my food was piping hot.
On Friday we started with these steaming idli, round, pillow-like patties of rice and lentil batter. Excellent. We marveled at their perfect softness that never dissolved into mush upon impact with saliva. These were served with a bowl of hearty sambar and three chutneys- a wet, garlicky tomato and onion chutney, a thicker, milder coconut chutney, and the grassy coconut-coriander chutney. Alongside the sambar was a small dollop of a fiery paste with a gritty texture. Called groundut paste, it tasted of sesame and the tiniest smear of it was enough to add a hot bite to the sambar soaked iddlys.
Next we ordered these suckers, the potato bonda. Despite a deceiving appearance, their skin was not as crispy as we had hoped, and the filling, though tasty, was the same turmeric-tinged potato masala that we would eat later in our dosas. Overall, they were a little boring.
These two scoops of rava kichidi tasted like the upma my mother often makes at home. While she uses ground cream of wheat instead of the longer grains, her method of preperation- roasting the grains and then sauteeing them with mustard, onions, green chiles, peas, and sometimes carrots- is the same as Sarvanaas’s. My mother’s upma and Sarvanaas’s rava kichidi are creamy, savory porridges with roasted, comforting flavors.
Mmmmm. My Mysore Masala Dosa with Onion. I ordered the same dosa for breakfast and dinner because I liked it so much. The cooks at Saravanaas spread a thin layer of the potato masala and and hot mysore spices all around the interior of the dosa as well as spooning a large portion of the potatoes in the middle of the dosa, so that each bite is coated. The raw red onions scattered over the masala are sharp and delicious.
We ordered beer as an afterthought, while waiting for our entrees, and then struggled to finish them, especially because our entrees arrived at the same time as the alcohol. I ordered the Kingfisher for old time’s sake- I celebrated my 21st birthday at the Pizza Hut in Jaipur with my study abroad friends and Kingfishers- but after tasting the two beers side by side, I definitely liked the Taj better.
So, I think I could eat South Indian food everyday while this phase lasts, but I need to find someone who has as high an appetite for the food as I do. I find it so much more palatable than Punjabi food, but a friend disagrees, saying that South Indian food contains too much dry heat for him. I prefer that crispy heat, folded over some potatoes and dunked into sambars bobbing with vegetables and smeared with messy, thick chutneys. Saravanaas for breakfast, anyone?
Idli: $3.95; Potato bonda: $3.95; rava kichidi: $4.95; Mysore masala dosa: $8.95; beer: $8!
Saravaanas is at the corner of 26th and Lexington. (212) 679-0204.