Tuesday, March 2, 2010
2179 Lawrenceville Hwy., Decatur, GA
This first comment I want to make about this place is don't let the website confuse you. The restaurant is not located in a hotel. It's at the intersection of Lawrenceville Hwy and across from Shamrock Plaza.
The second comment I want to make about Saravanaa Bhavan is that it's technically a chain. There are various locations around the world and within the U.S. in California, New Jersey and New York, but the one on Lawrenceville Hwy is the only one in Georgia. I know that I said I don't blog about chain restaurants, but I made an exception in this case because an acquaintance of mine from Tamil Nadu, India highly recommended it. My bad experience at Haveli in Marietta a few weeks ago left me craving good quality, authentic Indian food so I couldn't resist giving it a try with Kyle and my mom last week.
Now, for the food. Are you ready for this?
Possibly the best Indian food I have ever eaten anywhere, which includes a visit to London where they know what they're doing in terms of Indian cuisine.
What was so great about it? Let's start with the vegetable curry, which I ordered per the recommendation of my friendly and helpful server, Rajmohan. It was moderately spicy, with big chunks of potato and a thick, well-rounded sauce. At $8.75 it wasn't super cheap, but well worth the price.
We also tried the butter naan, a large, soft bread with big air pockets akin to cooked pizza dough. It was extremely tasty. I primarily used mine to scoop up big dollops of the coconut chutney. The chutney was milky and cooling at first with a spicy kick aftertaste.
The absolute best think we tried was the vegetable bonda appetizer ($4.25). We were served three mixed vegetable batter-fried small rolls that resembled hush puppies. Kyle and I agreed we could have made a meal out of these. The bonda also came with a small bowl of sambar, a savory chowder/stew made with tamarind that's popular in Southern India. Unlike many Indian restaurants in Atlanta which serve Northern Indian cuisine, Saravanaa Bhavan specializes in Southern Indian food. Trust me, you're in for a real treat.
Kyle ordered the vegetable biriyani ($7.00), a dish that we consider an old standby for Indian restaurants. Oddly enough, this was the most disappointing dish of anything we ordered. Don't get me wrong - it was good - just not as great as everything else. I did like the inclusion of a big cinnamon stick amidst the rice, green beans and other veggies. It was almost as good as the biriyani served at Himalaya on Peachtree Industrial.
My mom ordered the combo 1 ($9.25), which came with another small bowl of sambar, a "mini" (in this case, about 1 foot long) potato filled dosa, more coconut chutney, a few idly rice cakes in what appeared to be more sambar and a sweet orange dessert that we think was made of shredded carrots and raisins. Fantastic. If you want a sampler of several good Saravanaa Bhavan dishes, the combo 1 is the way to go.
The menu itself is extensive. I could (and would, if convenient) order a different dish every week and have enough for a whole year without repetition. There are lengthy (think 2 feet up to 6 feet long) and fine crepe dosas filled with everything imaginable. There are enough curries to make the head spin. There are four different flavors of naan as well as roti and poori breads. There are milkshakes, lassis and madras coffee, along with alcoholic beverages from a surprisingly well-stocked bar in the corner of the restaurant.
A few final notes: Saravanaa Bhavan is all vegetarian and is closed on Tuesdays.
Verdict: A+ The Best Indian food I've had in Atlanta to date.