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I first had the good fortune of eating at the original Saravana Bhavan in Chennai over 12 years ago. At that time it was the low cost of quality food that drove me there. But with that initial experience I was hooked, I have since had the opportunity to eat at 2 of their US locations and now the one in Dubai too. What is outstanding is the adherence to quality, hygiene and strict standardisation, so the food tastes the same, no matter where in the world you are eating.
Saravanas Bhavan is a saving grace for many South Indian Brahmins who are posted abroad, especially Tamilians since this is the style of Saravanas Cooking. this is a very similar style to Udipi cooking in the sense that the dishes as named in the menu may seem the same. It is the flavours which differ. this difference makes its most marked presence in the sambhar (lentil and vegetable curry) The Udipi Sambhar has a sweeter flavour to it while the Tamilian one tends to be more spicy.
The only problem with visiting most Udipi and Tamilian restaurants at lunch times is that they will only serve you meals (no idlis, no dosas, no vadas - just meals)
The meals themselves are quite good. Most restaurants will also give you free refills on everything. Saravanas Bhavan is no different. The advantage of visiting Udipi and Tamilian restaurants anywhere in the world, is that you don't have to bother about hygiene at all, as everything is cleaned thoroughly. Part of the cleaning & cooking process of kitchens run by Brahmins (which they used to be and very often still are)
The meals at Saravanas Bhavan are just 15dhs. For this princely amount you can have unlimited quantities of various items. The items change daily depending on what vegetable produce was best that day. There will always be rice as the main item. Some restaurants offer some kind of Indian bread too in the meal.
On the day we ate at Saravanas, we had the following meal. While some items will remain constant, some will change based on availability.
Rasam - a pepper and tomato based thin soup, normally drunk in the beginning as an appetiser and consumed again after the mel as a digestive, sometimes also mixed with rice.
Sambhar - a lentil based curry with vegetables. Always served with idlis and vadas and other snacks.
one more curry on the sour side.
Avial - a curd and coconut curry with vegetables.
Peas kurma - which went excellently with the puris
Potato dry dish.
Buttermilk - to soothes your tastebuds if anything is too spicy.
a sweet fruit salad.
a sweet rice based dish.
Very filling, yet very light on the stomach. You can always ask for ghee to be pured on your rice if you crave a slightly richer taste or just have your last mouthfuls of rice with ghee and salt or ghee and sugar depending on what taste you prefer.
A large bottle of water costs 3dhs.
They have a large variety of snacks which are served in the morning and evening in the 6-12 dhs range. There are even packaged snacks and sweets that you can buy to be consumed at home at your leisure.