Wednesday, July 16, 2008

HSB - Atlanta

Its genuine, the trademark "HSB" is there in the menu card, all the branches are listed in the menu card, and Georgia is listed there on the HSB web page. So to conclude - the Saravana Bhavan in Decatur (Atlanta), Georgia is original. It’s an official branch of Hotel Saravana Bhavan. It’s the big cahuna, the king of all restaurants, the supreme nattamai of sambhar vadai, lord of the 14 idlis, maker of 7 uthappams, the big caraboo of filter coffee, the maanagaram of masala dosai.

Saravana Bhavan is saravan bhavan because of its sambhar. Everything else in HSB takes a back seat. I had Sambhar Vadai and Masala Dosai here in Atlanta and I can assure you Ladies and Gendilman, the sambhar had the HSB stamp on it. The only perplexing thing in this HSB was that the owner, waiter and everybody else spoke (only) in Hindi. The menu had North Indian spellings for Vadai and Dosai (they were calling it Vada and Dosa). Completely Un-Saravana Bhavan like. Maybe they thought the thamizhs would come to a HSB regardless. Apart from these minor cosmetic blemishes everything else was up to normal HSB standards.

HSB was introduced to me by my chitthapa with great enthusiasm many many years ago. He wouldn't stop raving about their coffees. HSB quickly began to take Madras by storm with their Aqua Guard water, clean environment, uniformed waiters and that Manager guy. There was a time when a group of friends and I had Saravana Bhavan kshethradams. We visited every HSB in Madras on a serial basis and compared items. I had my weird preferences on HSB items. Some examples were; I always felt the mixed-chat paratha was better in Radhakrishnan Salai branch. Vadapazhani branch had fantastic Dahi Puris. Something HSB is not known for - but one's got to give credit when it’s due. After eating in every HSB in Madras, the horizons expanded to Kanchipuram and Connought place, Delhi (it’s freaking expensive). Nowadays HSB is a far cry from the 'maleevu vilai unavagam' (cheap & best) it was in the 90s. Nowadays, the operations folks in HSB have found ways to make more money. The size of dishes (and side-dishes) has drastically shrunk and the prices have doubled. I don't blame them. People still flock both the Saravanas and the 2 floors of HSB A/c located 10 yards next each other in Ashok Pillar. There is still a 40 minute wait to get a parcel in T.Nagar HSB on a Wednesday afternoon.

The kshethradam continued in the US. After eating in Lexington Ave NYC ( called Saravanas, since the one called "Saravana Bhavan" was the fake-one and we struggled before getting the correct one ), the bay area and now Atlanta. They have changed the side-dish for Barotta in the US. Instead of the standard issue Korma, they serve anything from a funny mushroom curry to Kidney-beans/Rajma thing. This has completely killed the Barotta dish and made it pretty ordinary. However, their sambhar, masala dosai, and vadai continue to excel and cause orgasm among the taste buds. When people are asked what they like most in Saravana Bhavan, the answer is many times some esoteric dish. Adai Aviyal as a favorite dish always annoys me. Their sambhar vadai and Masala Dosai is pretty much their best dish by a huge margin. Their consistency and quality has always amazed me. Be it Shanthi theater HSB or Central station HSB - the homogenous taste is just awesome. I hope there is a case study created on HSB somewhere.

Side-note1: the Mixed Chat Paratha now popularly sold in HSB was made in a restaurant called Nandhinis. Nandhini is located near T.Nagar bus stand. It’s a sweet shop with a small chat restaurant in the top-floor. Nandhinis also made a pizza variant (full of ghee) that was just fantastic. I used to order parcel of mixed-veggie-paratha and pizza from them. HSB started selling Mixed Chat Paratha long after Nandhini did. But I would recommend this to anybody. This is a fantastic dish. One has to order extra-Raitha and just savor the dish.

Side note2: Some people will say that things have changed today. Yes, there have been some regressions in quality. It is not the same anymore. Nothing ever is. There might also be other restaurants that are just as good or even better, HSB always has had an emotional presence in the minds of thamizh folks.

34 comments:

kutti said...

i think the only HSB u hv not tried is the one in Dubai..... take a trip for that too :-)

Srinivasan said...

Bharath,

I'm new reader of your blogs and I find them quite interesting. Keep up the good work.

As far as sambar is concerned, I think Tiruvellikeni Ratna Cafe gets the "nattami of sambar" distinction. In my childhood days my grandpa would take a walk from OVM street to Ratna cafe every morning to have sambar idli vadai. In those days sambar was unlimited. He would shamelessly drink 3 or 4 bowls of sambar.

Here in Dallas we have an imposter of Saravana Bhavan called Madras Pavilion where the service and quality oscillates from ok to worse like Sehwag and Yuvraj's forms.

-Srini

Saraks said...

Their Pongal is impeccable too but Krishna Sweets and Madurai Idli Kadai has beat them, in spite of the strong support from HSP Sambhar.

WA said...

I repeat. Seriyaana saapaatu raaman

Suvarna said...

Can't resist the yummy-ness of this anymore...So I'll give in!
Although I know no one here,let me butt-in to say that I went to Dubai for my first International vacation - alone - and the only thing that breathed life into my days there was this one place,Saravana Bhavan,which I innocuously found myself in after a long stroll.I heard much about this place,that it's awesome in chennai etc...But I had the honour of eating at one of it's joints and went all indulging to ecstatic from boredom - the moment I put the food into my mouth! Guess I first had button idli and plain dosa.Enjoyed the dig sitting silly all by myself there.Then got a friend to take me there again for dinner and had mini-tiffin - where they give a little bit of all.A small cuppa upma, a chweet li'l dosa, a cuuuute vada, and a few button idlis with sambar and chutneys.(Excuse my telugu way of calling them pls!)
Also a teeny-weeny coffee comes with it.Don't havta order it separately!!! And the whole thing was heaven!Loved every bite of it.
Wow.
And yes, like someone pointed out earlier... 'twas in Dubai - BurDubai - somewhere in the middle of the creek, CareFore mall,and Opposite Road to that huge Royal Ascot building?
May you all go there someday!...hehehe...

Cheers! :)

Anonymous said...

I have grown with Saravana Bhavan. I remember going to the Hotel called "Kamakshi Bhavan" in K.K Nagar. yep, that was the name before it became Saravan Bhavan. The owners were our neighbours and it was sheer hardwork that propelled them. They started with a store near PSBB school and one that was right under what is the 1st Saravan Bhavan and they moved in to the Food business.
I still fondly remember their food, the "Alavu Sapadu" the "Unlimited Meals", Barotta Khurma(I consider this to be their best). They were also very ruthless in going after their Clones. "The hotel new Saravana Bhavan" in Virugumbakkam was a classic expample. The Owner treated their employess well and if you had a beautiful wife/daughter/sister a bit too well I should say.But that is for a different post someother day.

Anuradha said...

I totally agree. Saravana Bhavan is the king of all restaurants in Madras, no matter how many other 'modern' restaurants or eateries with international cuisines spring up. A trip to Madras is never complete without a visit to Saravana Bhavan. I'm surprised you didn't mention their basundhi which in my opinion is totally out of the world. Isn't that your favorite sweet item at SB?

~Anu

Anuradha said...

I used to eat at Nandhinees occasionally - it was near my house. However, I never tried the mixed chat paratha :-(. Does that shop still exist in T Nagar?

Sriram said...

For all this gushing, why dont you drive to Vancouver once a while?

Also, to anyone that might be interested - what does it take to open krishna kafe branch in US?

sreekrishnanv said...

Sambhar .. nothing can beat Rathna Cafe ... They Serve Sambhar unlimited and i Drink it before i get my coffee ...

HSB excels in Special Meals ... Free home delivery and past 1 yr my mom will not enter kitchen as a mark of respect for HSB. The best part is they will parcel things separately.. Order 1 kg of poriyal, "1 kg" Sambhar and half Rasam. Make Rice at home and there you go normal Samayal with pappadam.

To that KKNAGAR Saravana Bhavan Excels in this ! next comes Kasi and then Vadapalani !

sreekrishnanv said...

Srinivasan: Even today Ratna Cafe serves Unimited sambhar !

nivi30 said...

My favorite HSB snack is Bread Peas!!!

And you are right, the barotta side dish sucks :)

Bala said...

filter coffee in HSB is always a delight.it always takes me to the t-nagar HSB everyday in the morning ignoring the consequence of reaching my office late or missing the pseudo empty pallavan bus.

the speciality is they customize the amount of 'dicoksan' on request.

Nostalgia !!

- Bala

Mambalam Mani said...

For me Madras is as defined by the Saravana Bhavan as it is by the Central station. On a note aside, I went to that 'fake' SaravanAA Bhavan at NY and not the Saravanas. I trusted it to be the original because they had the same HSB symbol too. I wonder how come HSB has not filed a lawsuit till now. And needless to say the food was pathetic.

I said...

Nothing can beat the K.K.Nagar Saravana Bhavan. The difference is slight but it is there. The sambhar is a tad stronger and the parotta a touch softer.

Anonymous said...

wonder why HSB is not opening in Bangalore..?? The sagars and upahaaras are pouring some red liquid in the name of sambhar. The punnakku chutney is also unpalatable.

Terry (What?!) Lee said...

The waiters speak hindi because it was originally a different generic Indian restaurant which was taken over by HSB. Cooks, food and menu are HSB sourced. There are a couple of branches like this - which weren't HSB to start with. Not all of Saravana Bhavan is due to "organic growth" :)

Anonymous said...

**but Krishna Sweets and Madurai Idli Kadai has beat them, in spite of the strong support from HSP Sambhar.**

Never....


jillu

rishg said...

Ok, am hungry now. So is there any restaurant in the Seattle area that ranks close to HSB?

Anonymous said...

You know this not serving of the proper-dish for parrotta pisses me of soo much, somebody should hire arundhati roy make her protest against this!

People serve channa with parotta - blasphemy. Every single time, I am reminded of the small polythene cover that we used to get the khurma in.
The khurma floated in oil, but heck I don't care.

Giriraj said...

HSB is still a "Malivu vilai Unavagam"...

The actual meaning of Malivu=More

Anonymous said...

The parotta kurma is really not what it used to be and I say this despite being a true fan.

T.

The Talkative Man said...

The last time I went to Sorundara Buggers was in 2003 for my visa interview breakfast. It was the only time in my life I spent Rs.39 on a breakfast(dosa, coffee, vada) and STILL came out hungry.

Never endorsed them ever since and the decision continued overseas.

The Talkative Man said...

The other side..

http://avyukta.blogspot.com/2006/02/saravana-bhavan-just-getting-out-of.html

Sriram said...

talkative man, are you talking about Peter's Road Saravana Bhavan? That is one of their upscale hotels, so its expensive.

But the horrendous experience in Saravana Bhavan was with the Pondy Bazaar one. One saturday three of us were loafing around and skipped lunch. Then we got drunk early evening and decided to go the saravana bhavan buffet to do a "full kattu". After we fill our plates, we were asked to weigh the plates. The Rs. 130 unlimited food was limited to 500 gram. Every extra 100 gram that you ate meant extra Rs. 20. We had 500 gram food, watched a movie and went back to that pelita nasi kandar place for actual dinner.

Anonymous said...

Sriram -- Is pelita nasi kandar in Pndy Bazar any good?

Have wanted to go, but never been.

--jillu

Sriram said...

It used to be good. I frequented that place in 2003. Dont order anything exotic though.

Anonymous said...

thanks but isn't everything on the menu Malaysian?

Sriram said...

My friend once ordered mee goreng or some such malay delicacy and didnt like it. The rest of us used to order parotta with gravy. They also had a banana parotta which is a pretty good desert. We used to go there because one of the guys in the gang was a weirdo and insisted on going there everytime. The others conceded because the food was palatable. Thats about it.

Arun Sundar said...

The one is lexington is a shit hole. Not sure when you went there(they were really good in earlier days), but nowadays there is this untold 'desi-racism-by-desis'. They treat you like asses compared to firangis, even after a half hour wait to even get in. They somehow miss to understand 'serving' is as important as the food quality. Jerks! I picked up fight a couple of times and ended up writing reviews in city search. What else can one do? On the contrary, the one in Edison NJ is really good.

Anonymous said...

went there. agree with your analysis of the place.

jm

Laksh said...

Nandini's chat parotta brought back a lot of memories. Thanks!

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