Unlike most fine-dining eateries that rarely exist outside of 5-star hotels in Pune, Savya Rasa is a classy stand-alone restaurant, serving up gorgeous South Indian fare. Loosely translated, the word ‘Savya’ means South, and ‘Rasa’ means cuisine.
Juxtaposed behind a commercial monstrosity – aka Starbucks – in Koregaon Park, Savya Rasa’s aesthetic centers around the theme of a typical South Indian household. Guarding the entrance are two colossal stone Yalis – part lion, horse and elephant – weighing in at one-third of a tonne each. From the patterned floors to the embossed terracotta tiled ceiling, there is a tremendous amount of attention to detail regarding the decor. Featuring ancient restored columns, furniture, artifacts, commissioned art, traditional household items, handmade leather puppets, lamps and even custom-made crockery – no stone has been left unturned. Each and every piece here has a story behind it – ask any member of staff for a tour, and they’ll happily oblige.
The interiors also feature mezzanine seating, two private dining rooms, and an outdoor dining area with a view of the kitchen.
The brainchild of cousins Vikram Mohan and Uday Balaji, Savya Rasa’s menu showcases the best regional and household favourites from the regions of Kongunadu, Chettinad, Nasrani, Malabar, Mangaluru, Mysuru & Nellore. They spent a year travelling and curating recipes for the menu, and it shows. There are a total of 85+ dishes on the menu, more or less depending on which ingredients are in season.
Every chutney, masala and marinade is made in-house at their central kitchen in Coimbatore, and then shipped fresh to the kitchen in Pune. The standards for food are very high here, and if the Chefs are not happy with an ingredient, that dish will not be served until they find suitable produce.
It can be a bit daunting to get through the many different sections and names of dishes on the menu, on your own. What I usually do, is ask the staff to recommend whatever is freshest on that particular day. This has worked out for my family and I so far, but in case you’d like to order on your own – here are a few dishes I particularly enjoyed tasting.
Uppu Kari (Chettinad) is a dish of mutton stir fried with red chillies, cashew nuts, curry leaves and shallots. Spicy, but oh-so-delicious! Sainu Thatha’s Kozhi Kebab (Malabar) are succulent pieces of skewered chicken, grilled & delicately flavoured with crushed pepper & coconut milk. I loved the subtle flavours, and would definitely order this again. Curated from the household of Malabari homemaker Sainu Thatha, this is an Arabic influenced dish. The Royala Iguru (Nellore) is a family favourite of marinated prawns with red chilli paste, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, onions, lime juice. It’s a Reddy delicacy, and one taste will leave you wanting more.
Biskuthambade (Mysuru) are vadas made of dehusked black lentil, ground in a batter with green chillies, coriander, curry leaves, with a mild flavour of asafoetida. They are deep fried until crisp on the outside, but are soft and fluffy on the inside, and served with coriander chutney. Urali Podi Varuval (Kongunadu) is a dish of pan tossed baby potatoes with coarsely ground powder made of roasted lentils, red chillies, asafoetida & curry leaves. Koon Ularthiyathu (Nasrani) is made with fresh button mushrooms, tossed in a pan with crushed black pepper, cumin, onions and curry leaves. Scrumptious!
Accompanying our main course were two starchy dishes, meant to soak up all the goodness of the gravy dishes. Idiyappa Idly (Chettinad) are gently steamed fine vermicelli made from ground rice, moulded like an Idly, and Kambu Rotti (Kongunadu) are similar to parathas – made with ground finger millet, flavoured with chopped shallots, green chillies & curry leaves. I enjoyed trying both, but personally preferred the latter.
Milagu Kozhi Chettinad (Chettinad) is a chicken gravy dish, cooked with crushed black pepper, star anise, edible lichen, coconut & curry leaves. It packed a punch, but I don’t know if I would order this again.
Gutti Venkaya Masala (Nellore) was the dark horse of this tasting, for me. Baby aubergines stuffed and cooked in a gravy of dry roasted and powdered spices with a mild flavour of tamarind, are a Kamma household specialty that goes with rice or bread. Aubergines are not usually my veggie of choice, but the gravy was spectacular and I couldn’t help but reach for seconds!
Chepala Pulusu (Nellore) is a Seer fish curry, made with cubes of the fish simmered in a thick gravy of tamarind, chillies and tomatoes. A dish from coastal Andhra, I loved the different, tangy flavour of the curry – the only thing I could fault this dish for, was a slight overcooking of the fish.
Saiva Veral Kozhambu (Chettinad) is an unusual dish, also known as a ‘mock fish curry’. Ground green lentil cakes are used in place of fish, cooked in a tomato and tamarind gravy. This dish was invented by fishermen’s wives, for when they accompanied them on fishing trips. Traditionally, women in the south are vegetarian, while the men were meat-eaters.
Nei Choru (Malabar) aka ghee rice, is lightly flavoured with cardamom, bay leaf and (obviously) ghee. A fragrant accompaniment to any main course dish, I thoroughly enjoyed pairing it with the curries.
It’s no secret that I love biryani, but the Kongu Mutton Biryani (Kongunadu) at Savya Rasa took my appreciation for the rice dish to a whole new level. Made with tender mutton pieces slow-cooked with coconut milk, spices, and served with a most delicious coconut yogurt raitha – I know I’ll be making another visit just for this! The vegetarian version (though slightly different) is the Vethalai Poondu Saadam (Kongunadu) or Betel Leaf Biryani. Using short grain rice, digestive betel leaves and fried garlic – this ‘secret recipe’ from the land of the Cheras is more palatable than you’d think.
Godhi Huggi (Mysuru) is a beautiful dessert made from broken wheat cooked in coconut milk, sweetened with unrefined jaggery, with cardamom undertones, and garnished with caramelised coconut slivers and white sesame seeds. Known as the ‘ambrosia for the Lingayats’ it is extremely comforting, and something I’d gladly eat again.
Karuppati Halwa (Kongunadu) is a gelatinous sweet, made with reduced black jaggery syrup, rice flour, ghee & fried cashew nuts. Subtly flavoured, it will melt on your tongue. Definitely a must-try if you’re a dessert lover!
The Elennar Pudding (Malabar) in my opinion, is the original ‘Raindrop Cake’. Tender coconut water set with china grass (jelly) – it is a Thannur delicacy, and a favourite of my mother’s.
Paired with the food, Savya Rasa have also created their own range of South Indian inspired cocktails. Made with premium alcohol, each drink carries a distinctly southern flavour. My friend and I decided to try the Curry Leaf Mojito (Rum) and the Inji Vellam (Whiskey). I loved both of them, and would recommend either. If you’re less inclined towards getting your drink on, try their Infusion Water – with tulsi (basil), cumin or khus. They’re quite refreshing, and have ayurvedic properties that aid the body in digestion.
Presentation is more on the rustic side, but the food does NOT disappoint. Prior to being invited for this tasting, I had visited Savya Rasa twice before with my family. Let me just say that they are extremely fussy eaters, but everyone left the table with happy (and full) bellies. Forget everything you think you know about South Indian food, and dive into a culinary wonderland at Savya Rasa!
You can find Savya Rasa through their Facebook Page, which also features incredibly detailed posts about their fare, as well as fun facts about the curated art that fills their space.
For more deliciousness, find me on Snapchat: blehlovesfood or on Instagram @blehlovesfood!