“Eating is an everyday eventuality but experiences, yes they come across occasionally!”
Chronicling this particular quest of his, the zoman was forced to try his hand at a quote. It isn’t something the zoman usually does, but then again, this wasn’t the usual in any way whatsoever.
To say, I’ve spoken about a restaurant would mean tarnishing everything I was made to believe about the place, so I’ll describe this more like describing a person.
But before I get there, I must thank the teams at Carpe Diem and Savya Rasa, for the experience that was dished out to me.
For most guys, one of life’s greatest fantasies is that ever elusive romance. She’s perfect in every sense of the word and steps into your life for a fleeting moment. She vanishes after touching the deepest realms of your heart, leaving you hankering for just a glimpse. All you want, is her forever, but she’s an experience that you can’t have forever and can’t have every day.
If any of this makes sense, it becomes relatively easy to understand how immensely impressed my Savya Rasa experience has left me, and how the remainder of this post is going to play out.
I will intentionally not delve into the intricate details of Savya Rasa, since that’s pretty much putting an anti-climax to what might naturally unfold when you visit the place, but here’s an experiential recount of my Savya romance!
Thanks be to Starbucks for being an ideal mile marker to this place. If you can get to the KP Starbucks, getting to Savya shouldn’t be a problem at all since it is right behind.
The place is built with and run with a lot of love for the culture of southern India, and this shows throughout your Savya experience.
Savya Rasa, is what defines experiential dining to me, at least in Pune, and leaves no stone unturned to give you a cultural experience of Southern India.
At a place like Savya, the culture and heritage of the southern regions is the underlying commonality and all the elements of your typical restaurant experience align with this theme. To put it simply, the service and the food aren’t unique aspects at Savya, but a part of the overall ambiance itself.
Unlike other fine dining establishments, Savya shrugs itself off of the flash & glamour and relies entirely on being elemental. The finesse at Savya doesn’t come from it being a posh place with great skill being put on show, but from its elemental presentation of the cultural aspects of a region.
To add to it, Savya is divided into sections on separate floors and does a wonderful job at giving diners a lot of space to themselves.
The team at Savya, are extremely proud of what they are putting on show and are at par with the finest of establishments that ply anywhere you’ve been to.
The thing about experiences is, they need to be had exactly how the provider envisions them to be. Telling someone that this is how something is supposed to be had, is a tough job for the service team and it only got more arcane since many of my co-diners were actually experts and had quite their set perspectives.
Shout out to Dennis, who got me to try a few things that I clearly said no to, and I loved them so much that I’d visit Savya just for them. If he’s around your table, I don’t think you’ll ever have something that’s sub par.
FOOD & BEVERAGE
There are those rare instances when you encounter an eatery with a midas touch. Everything they dish out to you just seems to hit the sweet spot and your biggest dilemma is how to sound critical without giving off the feeling that you’re a teenager with a puppy crush on the place.
While I was expecting the food to be great, it was the cocktails that came as a sweet surprise and for that reason I’ll begin with them.
FILTER KAAPI MARTINI
When JK Rowling came up with her Harry Potter series, she managed to convert even the most discerning readers into fans of the franchise. Apply that kind of thing to cocktails and that’s what this concoction can do to you.
Vodka pairs beautifully with sweet stuff and the coffee in the drink sort of cleared the palette for the sweet to be more pronounced. It’s a bartender’s delight to be able to serve a drink where every component of the overall construct beautifully balances or enhances the others.
This was a vodka lover’s delight!
CURRY LEAF MOJITO
I was half expecting this to be a masala over dose, but the curry leaf steeped so mildly in the drink that you could only make out a hint of its flavour.
To all the makers of a mojito I urge. Try this once and I’m sure you’d not regret the decision.
This concoction was like the 9th grade physics lesson on Sine waves, but only taking place in my mouth.
It all starts when the whisky is slowly sliding down your mouth into your throat that you are woken up by the sharpness of the bitters. This is immediately followed by the natural sweetness of the betel leaf cooling things down, only for you to be brought back on your feet by the sharp flavour of the cloves.
Now imagine all of this happening to you in a matter of seconds as you let that large’ish gulp pass down your gullet.
CUCUMBER AND TULSI MARTINI
Honestly, this is the first time I’ve had cucumber in a cocktail without it tasting like a cosmetic face pack. I was mortified when asked to take a sip of this, but turns out the tulsi did a splendid job in maintaining the overall balance of the drink.
Coming to the food.
VENCHINA MAMSA KOORA
There’s something about browning the onions that works magically with red meats.
To steer clear from being on the sweeter side, the spice blend and the green chillies were given a substantial part to play in the dish.
The mutton was cooked to succulent perfection and like a bride on her wedding night, gave in to, even the slightest touch of the fork.
KOON ULARTHIYATHU (NASRANI)
The first touch of Nasrani on our menu and boy what a beauty! Making apt use of Kerala’s famous black peppers and curry leaves, this pan tossed mushroom preparation was a total heart warmer.
While most eateries would overcook a mushroom in the name of pan tossing it, the folks at Savya ensured that the mushrooms were cooked enough to not seem raw, yet retain some of their moisture. That to me, coupled with the delicate balance of the spices, was what made this dish totally awesome!
Even if you’re a hard-core carnivore, you mustn’t give this one a miss!
CHEMEEN PODI-ITTU VARUTHATHU (MALABAR)
Those who know that south Indian cuisine goes beyond dosa and idli have tried malabari food for sure. At least amongst the folks I know, malabari cuisine is perhaps the highlight of food from the southern part of the country.
Coming to the prawn preparation – prawns, coconut, and red chillies. Even if I stopped here, we’d all know that this triumvirate could never go wrong, let alone the added spices that I wouldn’t even have to mention.
The spice blend for this dish was so perfect that the strong shrimp odour never bothered any of us on the table.
This is hands down the best first course you can ask for at Savya!
CHENIGA PAPPU VADA (NELLORE)
This was my first taste of Nellori food and while I couldn’t flaw the dish in technicality, I wasn’t wowed by it either. Maybe, my benchmarks were set so high that the pappu vadas seemed to fade away in comparison.
You could compare this to a really well made dal wada that’s served in a fine dine establishment.
Then again, Savya’s signature touch of maintaining that subtle yet assertive spice balance was evident in this preparation too.
But would I pay upwards of Rs 200 for this preparation? Not when there’s a whole of lot of awesomeness to choose from their menu.
I was surprised to actually find this on the menu but nonetheless, no matter who makes this dish it tastes awesome. This is a favourite of my mom’s and kind of her house party staple.
One bite of the black lentil fritters and I was in nostalgia lane.
I’m repeating myself almost every time, but the kitchen folk at Savya have either got a mathematical formula or simply god gifted judgment when it comes to the amount of spice in their preparations. It is mathematically precise every time and parks itself perfectly between subtle and brassy, no matter what the dish is.
Absolutely loved this!
KOZHI PODI VARUVAL (CHETTINAD)
A dry and relatively strong chicken preparation. Dry roasting the chicken with the masalas before stir frying it was a brilliant touch. The masalas ensured that the chicken had a nice crust and got perfectly seared on the outside at the same time retaining some moisture within. The second stage of the cooking – stir frying it with onions and tomatoes, was what gave the dish its body, ensuring a superb overall construct for chicken lovers.
Absolutely amazing and a definite must try!
BUN PAROTA (KONGUNADU)
I’ve never had this before and I must thank Savya for the experience. I am simply in love with the bun parota, which is like a quasi roomali roti made from pasta dough.
You must and simply must pair this with the Chicken Chettinad. They’re like the Brangelina of Savya Rasa’s menu.
MILAGU KOZHI CHETTINAD (CHETTINAD)
This preparation is probably as famous as our Butter Chicken or Biryanis, if not more. The Chicken Chettinad is a global favourite amongst Indian cuisine preparations and I’ve seen the mad rush it generates in restaurants across the UK.
The Chicken Chettinad at Savya Rasa, is probably the best that I’ve had in all of my travels across the globe (sadly excluding the south of India, where I haven’t travelled much).
Absolutely nothing, like the run off the mill chettinads, this preparation was a much darker brown colour and had almost no heat to it. The salt and the heat in the dish were so balanced so beautifully that every spice in the dish could be felt individually and at different areas of your palette.
As unique as it was, the dish made for a rousing debate at the table and Dennis proudly laid rest to any of our arguments by playing his “generation to generation handing down of recipes” card. So, this particular recipe comes handed down by over 4 generations of chettinad household cooking and no matter what your culinary connoisseur status might be, you can’t argue with that.
I wouldn’t exaggerate if I said I could wax eloquently and endlessly about the Chettinad I had at Savya and could write a lengthy treatise on how every morsel tickled the inner child in me. Hands down, this is simply the best Chicken Chettinad there is, at least in the western side of the country. And I am more than willing to test its mettle against anybody else’s offering.
You cannot dine at Savya and walk out without trying this. Your culinary understanding, if nothing else is bound to grow by at least a notch or two!
POLLACHI KARI KOZHAMBU (KONGUNADU)
Flavouring mutton with cinnamon and cardamom is perhaps something that almost cuisine does somewhere or the other. Think of the haleems and khichadas of the globe. Well, considering how beautifully they balance their spices Savya did this exceedingly well too.
I was a tad bit bemused by the aubergine addition to this dish. While it didn’t do much to add a better touch to the dish, it didn’t spoil it either. I guess it was more of a filler for volume.
But still, if and only if you’re someone who won’t have anything except for mutton, ask for this. Else, it can be given a miss!
SAIVA VERAL KOZHAMBU (CHETTINAD)
This was the only preparation on the menu that I didn’t enjoy. If you’re a vegetarian then eat vegetarian, why desire a mock fish preparation!
The green lentil seemed somewhat bitter and the tamarind in the gravy only enhanced its bitterness.
I’d say, give this is a miss!
THALASSERY MEEN BIRIYANI (MALABAR)
Packs a mean punch, this biryani!
I was absolutely unwilling to try this out, but Dennis almost insisted that I try it and for courtesy sake I had a bite. That bite though, was enough to change my perspective on fish biryani – something I used to say shouldn’t be made.
They somehow managed to keep the fish flaky yet not take it to the point of it becoming rubbery. The greenish masalas and the accompanying chutney make for such an interesting dish that you’re bound to ask for more.
Not only have I accepted that fish biryanis can be decent, I’m sort of jonesing for more of this on my next visit.
Absolute Grade A stuff!
KONGU MUTTON BIRYANI (KONGUNADU)
A different, interesting, and quite delicious take on a biryani.
A mutton biryani with a somewhat clumpy texture rather than the typical long and separated grains. Though this looked like the ugly betty of biryanis, it tasted nothing like that.
The coconut milk that flavoured the mutton added a touch of subtlety to the clove and cinnamon flavours of the biryani. The heat on the dish was mellowed down by the coconut milk and this made for a decent preparation that you can indulge in, without worrying about the coming day’s bathroom debacle!
MALLI SAADAM (CHETTINAD)
Another testimony to the awesome contained within the simplest of preparations.
Steamed rice (somewhat clumpy) tossed in the green triumvirate paste of coriander, chilli, and curry leaves. I for one, found the tempering unnecessary, but since it didn’t do any harm to the dish I didn’t have a reason to complain about it.
So South India has a naarali poli too and they call it an Obbatlu.
Well, a little bit here and there with the stuffing and cooking, but this is pretty much your Maharashtrian naarali poli. And as we all know, it is quite awesome!
In terms of texture, this was somewhere between the regular sheera and the Bombay halwa. It had a gelatinous feel to it but not rubbery in any way whatsoever.
The best part of this preparation was its mildness. You can have a substantial amount of the dessert without the starchiness of the rice flour getting to you.
In terms of its pricing, Savya Rasa completely nails it. It is pricey enough to make every visit seem like an experience but not as pricey as creating an exclusive club of elites like the Wasabis of the world.
A decent meal for two should cost you anywhere in the 2k ballpark. While the bill amount might not be measly, the value of the experience is worth far more than what’s charged to you.
Seldom, do I see such places that make your visit a time to truly remember. Like the Rolling Stones, with Savya Rasa, the hits just keep on coming.
At Savya, the experience is what truly matters and they make no two minds about it. Everything you come across at this beauty of a place speaks of the rich cultural heritage of India’s southern regions and the food is only an aspect of the culture that is on display here.
If I had to sum up my experience at Savya Rasa I’d say, I went in as a very discerning adult with a highly picky palette but came out as a teenager blushing hopelessly having had his first crush on a girl.
As to the question whether you should or shouldn’t give this place a try. I doubt that’s a question any longer!