413 Amsterdam Ave
Saravanaa Bhavan opened up a few years ago on Lexington-- on the Indian strip in Manhattan. I have reviewed it earlier, it has remained vastly popular, though with food that has been uneven over different visits. Their success has prompted this global chain to open a second restaurant on Amsterdam Avenue.
We were there last week with A&U, and S who was visiting from B’lore, old friends with plenty to talk about, children jettisoned to college (except our youngest), taking in a cloudy Manhattan afternoon and its assortment of sour faced New Yorkers enmeshed in a buzz of their own activity.
The dosas come on an impressive stainless steel plate with 4 depressions at the head of the plate, containing 4 different dips –sambar and a couple containing lentil and coconut pastes. They were a disappointment- too oily and crusty. They should have taken lessons from the Pakistani cook who runs the Dosa truck near Columbia. Only in New York, will you get a guy from Lahore who can concoct a better dosa than a pedigreed chain from Madras. The idlis were fresh and the sambar wholesome. The South Indian coffee was a tad watery, though, after years of Starbucks, this may be my own perception problem. We had badam halwa for dessert—ground almonds cooked in ghee (clarified butter) and honey. It felt like a full frontal slap with a gob of fat, while someone pours a bucket of honey over your head.
Saravanaa Bhavan, named after the Lord Muruga, started out of Madras around 1980 and is now a worldwide chain with outlets in France, UK, and Singapore among other countries. The enterprise has a sweatshop reputation in India for making its employees work long and hard hours, and its founder, who built the business starting from scratch, was given a life sentence recently for committing a murder driven by unrequited passion.
Anyway, the Upper West Side now has a sit in South Indian place, and dosas are getting as common place as tandoori chicken (almost). This is good news. But the Lord Muruga would have been better served by the man from Lahore that afternoon.