When I used to travel to South India for work, one of my favourite things to do was to get fresh, hot dosas (fermented rice/lentil crepes) and idlis (steamed rice cakes) for breakfast. Whether it was my perfectly comfortable three star hotel in Bangalore (the Richmond-highly recommend it) or a roadside shack, dosas and idlis were ubiquitous, generally served with a variety of savoury chutneys. My favourite chutney of all time for breakfast was the gunpowder masala, in part because hey, you could say ‘I ate gunpowder for breakfast’ but mostly because when you mixed gunpowder masala with a bit of peanut oil, it became this crunchy delicious mess that you could smush your idli into before taking a heavenly bite of pillowy blandness covered in bits of gunpowdery flavour explosion.
My husband never cared much for idlis but loves a good dosa. In fact, when we lived in India, half his dinners consisted of ‘teen sada dosa,’ or three plain dosas with lentil soup and coconut chutney. Thank heaven for cheap home-delivery food in Mumbai.
So, now, once in a while we get a hankering for some good dosa, idli and some other South Indian snacky/breakfasty specialties. One such fine day we were out in Missisauga and discovered Sarvanaa Bhavan. Walking in there was like beaming ourselves up into the motherland. The tables, the decor, the dishes, the smells-pretty darned authentic. I knew that Sarvanaa Bhavan is a chain out of Chennai (Madras) India but didn’t quite expect it to be such a dedicated replica of the original dosa establishments in South India! The dosas and all the other food were spot on, and the South Indian filter coffee at the end was a great end to the meal. If you’ve never had a South Indian filter coffee, go for that if for nothing else. It’s basically very strong coffee (the coffee powder itself is a blend of coffee beans and chicory root) with hot milk and sugar, mixed into a frothy goodness. Only, ask for sugar on the side and add as much as you want, unless you like your coffee very sweet.
Since it was afternoon, I also tried the fried lentil doughnuts called medu vada, a favourite from childhood. As usual, my eyes were hungrier than my stomach and I couldn’t finish all the food I had ordered. It didn’t help that the food was all super cheap and raised temptation to keep ordering!
But seriously, if your repertoire of Indian food is butter chicken, tandoori chicken and palak paneer (all of which are delicious and I highly recommend them, but sticking to just these dishes is a pity when there’s such a variety for you to try in Indian food) get yourself to Sarvanaa Bhavan.
There are a few different locations around the GTA. The website is: