Monday, 8 June 2015

'On the Go' dining - Review: Saravana Bhavan, Vadapalani, Chennai

What do I call a quick, three course meal that can get done in under half an hour? "On the Go" dining!

That's what Saravana Bhavan in Chennai offers, according to me.  No, I don't even classify it as casual dining.  Its 'On the Go' for me. 

Here's a review of my 'On the Go' dining at Saravana Bhavan, Vadapalani, Chennai this weekend:

Centrally located, off the 100-Feet Ring Road at Vadapalani & at a stone's throw distance from their headquarters, Saravana Bhavan Vadapalani is always bustling with activity.  

If you are an avid people observer, this place has visitors from across the social spectrum.  Situated as it is, right across the famous Vadapalani Murugan Temple, wedding dates bring throngs of wedding diners here.

Over three levels, offers air-conditioned, non-air-conditioned as well as 'self service' dining areas. 

The self service dining area is the highlight of the 'On the Go' dining for me, with a bustling but super quick billing counter and service counter. No frills, but neatly done up granite topped table counters, offering standing and sitting dining areas. Its called 'self service' because you first walk to the billing counter, browse through the menu & bill, then hand over the bill at the service counter & pick up your food yourself. Its pretty neat and quick and I usually can get done with a meal of this nature under 30 minutes. 

I love the juice bar right across the 'self service' area, on the first floor.

A dozen fresh fruit juices are offered, can be customized, including with & without ice cubes. Done with mineral water & served in very light weight glasses; this time around, I had to remind them to use gloves though (service I notice seems to be suffering under the heavy volumes).

Settled for the perennial staple Sweet Lime because they ran out of fresh oranges by 9 pm!

Juices, compared to the main course, are relatively expensive.  For example, you could get a Dosa for the same price as this juice, which costs Rs.90 (taxes extra). 

All of Chennai will espouse that Saravana Bhavan is the place to enjoy authentic South Indian cuisine.  

Curd Vadai is a good starter for these hot summers.

The curd / yoghurt was fresh (not sour).  And the vadai was well marinated. Would love to see it served frozen cold though :) Liked the fresh garnishing with carrots & coriander.  Again, you can customize the dish (I asked for the plethora of powders - i.e., pepper, garam masala et al - to be kept out).

Every food item (not the juices though) is served on fresh banana leaves, a feature I love. 

I chose 'Poori Masala' for the next course; 

They usually stock fresh batter every few hours & again, one can ask for the pooris to be deep fried or fried just about.  This one is deep fried.

I certainly needed an ice cream to wash down the oily pooris.

Saravana Bhavan pioneered the 'Real Fruit' ice cream range in Chennai. Its devoid of any additives (and therefore can't be even taken away as it melts in under ten minutes). I am a big fan of this range and think it is under marketed & deserves a lot more credit & patronage.  Healthy, wide range & very natural (i often find just milk base & fresh fruits) - the best test of its being natural is, it doesn't trigger allergies or cold or wheezing even when one is otherwise prone to those.  Of course, its easy on calories as well - because how much calories can fresh fruits and milk pack in?   

This is a mini scoop of 'Real Fruit Strawberry' ice cream served with assorted cut fruit salad (marinated in sugar syrup):


This meal cost me Rs.300 for the non-air-conditioned serviced area (with gratuities at ten percent). Had I opted for the 'self service' area (which is also non-air-conditioned, but amply ventilated, with cool breeze, as I sauntered in at 9 pm), the bill would have been the same minus the gratuities.

Location & parking: 4 / 5 

Food: 3.5 / 5 [portion sizes have shrunk as a direct reflection of food inflation in India in the last few years and quality of many items good though one must know which ones to choose & which ones to ignore; accompaniments are no longer as delectable as they used to be - especially the famed sambar].

Service: 3 / 5 [service is taking a hit these days and I am not sure if its because of the heightened volumes especially on wedding dates; I had to remind the use of gloves].

Pricing: 3 / 5 [again, serving sizes have shrunk making many choices expensive for what appears mini servings].

Wanna try 'On the Go' dining?

Cheers :)