If someone were to ask you for a restaurant where they could find great food, an all vegetarian selection, in middle of town and for under $10 a meal, you’d think they were crazy, right? Well, here in Vancouver, we just say, “That’s easy – head on over to Saravanaa Bhavan.”
Let’s Get this Out of the Way
Okay, the place looks you’re eating at a high school cafeteria. I don’t know why they don’t add some decoration, or make it look a bit better, but this seems to be their thing. Anyway, if they did spruce it up, they might start charging more, or be overcrowded, and who needs that?
And the music? Well, it appears they only have one CD that they play over and over, so if you go here often (and you probably will), you may find yourself humming Indian music in the shower. Even worse, one of the songs appears to be an Indian version of the Titanic song, “My Heart will go on.” It’s really weird.
On to Better Thoughts
Beyond the decoration and music, this place is truly amazing. There is a diverse selection of appetizers, dosas, rice dishes, curries, breads and a bunch of other mains that I don’t know how to classify. Everything is good, and pretty much everything is under $10.
The Best of the Best
The absolute best selections are the two Thali dishes – which go under the names ‘Saravanaa Special Meals’ and North Indian Thali. What you get is a rice dish, surrounded close to a dozen small dishes filled with curries, vegetables, lentils, and yoghurts, along with bread (and sometimes a soup). One is always dessert. These will run you over $10 (shocking, I know), but they are huge – if you’re not too big an eater, it’s possible to share one between two people.
The Best of the Rest
If think that something that good might ruin your taste buds for everything else, there are still other (very good) options. Try the dosas – they are a thin rice and lentil pancake surrounding a filling. They come in two shapes – a long, wide wrap, with the filling clumped in the middle, or flat and triangular, with the filling evenly spread out. They come with coconut, mint and tomato chutney, as well as sambar for dipping.
Highly recommended are the palak paneer dosa (cheese and spiced spinach) and the kara dosa (mixture of spices, vegetables and potatoes). Be careful of the chilli’n cheese dosa. If you’re a bit worried about trying something new, you may opt for this, given the name. But the chillies are very hot… which may be exactly what you are trying to avoid.
If you’re looking for something with enough flavour to make your eyes pop, try the kaima idly or the mixed vegetable Parotta – both are similarly spiced, but the Parotta is less oily. For appetizers, idly (lentil patties) and medhu vada (fried lentils in the shape of donuts) are excellent.
The Best Deal in Town
And it gets better. Monday to Thursday, they have specials on. They change from time to time, but they are more of less a main meal for between $5 and $7. On Tuesday and Wednesday it’s the two thali dishes, so these are the best days to go.
Even without the daily specials, Saravanaa Bhavan would be one of the best valued places to eat in the city. If you can get over the decoration and music (and trust me, it’s easy), you’ll have a fantastic meal at an unbelievable price.