I’ll admit it: when it comes to trying new foods, I’m by no means adventurous (some may even call me boring). 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. Saravanaa Bhavan is a chain of vegetarian restaurants that originated in Chennai, India and is now present in many countries. It’s also one of the few 100% vegetarian restaurants in Joburg.
I made a booking for dinner for my boyfriend and I, having no idea what to expect. It was my first time going to an Indian restaurant for a meal (can you believe it?) 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 decor has a minimalistic 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, greeted us with a warm smile and handed us menus.
The restaurant specialises in South Indian cooking, but 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 and there’s lots to choose from.
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. My boyfriend and I shared the small plates of food. The presentation was lovely and very traditional.
As for the different flavours in the spices in the sauces, chutneys and sambars served with each dish - they were 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.
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 sampled some and 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 is really good. I ordered a fresh watermelon juice - 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 insisted that we try one of the 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 the coffees. The coffee 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 and an eye-opener! The service was wonderfully kind and very fast, the owner was on the floor at all times making sure everything ran smoothly, the food came out well and the food itself was 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