I’ll admit it: when it comes to trying new foods, I’m by no means adventurous (some call me boring, in actual fact). However, recently that all changed when I visited Saravanaa Bhavan, the authentic Indian restaurant in Rivonia.
Let me first give you a little bit of background on the restaurant before I tell you about my experience. Saravanaa Bhavan is a chain of vegetarian restaurants that originated in Chennai, India, and is now present in many countries around the world. It’s also one of the few 100 per cent vegetarian restaurants in Joburg – interesting right? So if you’re a vegetarian or simply love Indian food (or both), you’re sure to love this spot!
I made a booking for dinner for my boyfriend and I, and had no idea what to expect. It was my first time going to an Indian restaurant for a meal (can you believe it?) and no matter how many times my boyfriend told me it would be delicious, I just couldn’t seem to get myself excited. Anyway, we arrived and I was instantly impressed.
Firstly, I must comment on how convenient the location of this restaurant is – centrally situated in Rivonia Junction (next to the well-known Vietnamese eatery, Saigon), it allows for easy access and fuss-free (and free!) parking – that’s always a major bonus, right?
The décor inside is pretty simplistic, but I’m a big fan of the minimalistic décor approach. What I instantly admired and thought was pretty cool is that you can watch the chefs prepare the food through the window to the kitchen. Our waiter, dressed in traditional Indian wear, which I thought was a lovely touch, greeted us with a warm smile and handed us menus.
Okay, I won’t lie, when I started flipping through the menu I got very overwhelmed. To clarify, this restaurant specialises in South Indian cooking. If you know about Indian cuisine, you’ll know that there are many varieties among the different types of South Indian cuisine – and Saravanaa Bhavan stays true to the roots of this way of cooking. There’s lots to choose from, as I just suggested, but the good news is that the big variety is sure to keep you occupied for a long time!
I turned to the restaurant owner, Zara, for some help with deciding on what to order. She was very friendly and helpful, and recommended I try a couple of their most popular dishes, like idly, dosa and upma, which I did. My boyfriend and I shared the small plates of food. The presentation was lovely in a sense that it was very traditional.
As for different flavours, spices and textures in the sauces, chutneys and sambars served with each dish, that was something out of this world! I was hesitant to try some of them, but I’m happy to report that I enjoyed everything. And this only left me eager to try a few more things on the menu – and so I did (I was pretty surprised at how adventurous I was feeling at this point!).
As any good Indian restaurant should, Saravanaa Bhavan also serves Chinese items, like vegetable spring rolls, gobi-65, chilli paneer and so on. My boyfriend and I decided to try a few of these dishes. Again, everything was tasty and enjoyable. At this point I was feeling very much satisfied.
Our waiter then came over and suggested we try one of their fresh juices, which I’d heard are really good. My boyfriend decided against it, but I ended up ordering a fresh watermelon juice – and it was glorious! If you want to have it the way it’s made in the Indian roadside juice stands, ask the waiter to have some sugar added to it.
After gulping down my juice, I was ready to try one of their interesting desserts, and once again turned to Zara for some advice. It was a toss up between the Falooda and the Gulab Jamun, but we decided on the latter to share.
The dessert, which was deep-fried balls made from khoa served with sugar syrup, was just delightful. It wasn’t as sweet as I was expecting, which was great – it made for the perfect ending to our Indian dining experience. My boyfriend then insisted that we try one of their traditional teas or coffees, and so we did. I indulged in a tea, which was very spicy but just gorgeous, while he had one of their coffees. I had a sip of the coffee as well and it was as wonderful as the tea – if you love spicy beverages, it’s a must-try!
All in all, I had a divine South Indian dining experience at Saravanaa Bhavan. It was a real treat, not to mention an eye-opener! The service is wonderfully kind and very fast, the owner is on the floor at all times making sure everything runs smoothly and the food comes out well, and the food itself is made with flavourful ingredients and much passion.
I recommend this spot to anyone who enjoys hearty Indian cooking, who’s a vegetarian with an adventurous palette, or who’s looking to broaden their culinary horizons. Who would’ve thought that a ‘boring’ eater like myself would’ve enjoyed something like this so much? I can’t wait to go back!
by Candice May