This review is for the bloggers meet that was hosted by Team Carpe Diem on the 15th Dec. Now there is a whole lot of charisma about the place right from its name, to the carefully handpicked recipes, to the artistic and cultural ambience that it beholds. It is an experience, an epicurean journey (as the team Savya calls it), a glimpse into what the southern part of our country has to exemplify and share. The art forms, the life style, the cuisine all recreated right in the heart of the city – Koregaon Park.
More often than not we tend to stereotype things knowingly or unknowingly and when someone says South Indian food it has to start with Idli, Dosa, Uttapa and so on and this stereotype is exactly what Mr. Uday Balaji wanted to break when he conceptualized the thought of creating this mini South India. The whole journey took over two years of sleepless nights and untiring efforts to put this thought into reality. The idea was very clear – due respect to the minutest details of the south Indian lifestyle, cuisine and art forms and bring it together to create an un-paralleled fine dining experience. For over two years the team travelled across states and regions meeting chefs, small time cooks, home makers, grandmothers and capturing the most authentic recipes that the regions boasts. The results were astonishing and not just encouraging. The team discovered a whole new realm of taste, texture, spices that most of us have never been exposed to. They handpicked some of the choicest of these and crafted the menu for Savya Rasa. Their menu as such show cases at least 7 cuisines like: Kongunadu, Chettinad, Malabar, Nasrani, Managluru, Mysuru and Nellore which come from the different South Indian geographies. I came to know that the team also have a few test kitchens at places like say; Coimbatore, where they send their Chef’s to get trained – seriously commendable!
When I reached the place I was greeted by Dennis the captain. The team I saw were all dressed in traditional South Indian attire (veshti-sattai ) and guided me to the tables set for the bloggers meet up ahead. The moment I stepped inside I could feel the warmth of the South Indian Homes that was recreated in those huge rooms. The place right from the moment you approach the main steps outside the lobby, takes you on a mesmerizing South India tour. The walls on the left is painted in red and white like you see for temples which is said to be symbol of Vaishnava. The main entrance steps are beautifully decorated with huge sculptured stones which depicts ‘Yali’ – the part Lion, part elephant and part horse (again a typical mythical creature sculpture found in all South Indian temples) which weigh over 900 Kgs each. The Chettinad pillars provide support to the roof which have hand made kavelu, the hand made terracotta tiles, the Kalamkari painting (more like carpet that covers the main wall in the hall) which uses colors extracted from vegetables, the Pallanguli (game board made in wood with 14 pits) , Aranmula kannadi (polished metal mirror), lamps made in stone, the soft karnatic music, the Tolubommalattam (glass paintings made in leather – Andhra art), the antique household brass ware, the dimly lit rooms, all created a perfect homely feel and were blending into one another so well that we forgot we were still in Pune. The team has ensured that there are no sojourns when it comes to this ride. Loved the ambiance and would rate it a full 10/10.
We were offered flavored water and they had choice from amongst Khus, Tulsi (Holy Basil) and Jeera (Cumin). I tried the khus and jeera and found them a decent start. The khus flavor was luckily kept to a minimal otherwise you could end up having a disaster in the form of a cooler perfume. 😉 . Good thing it was very well balanced.
- Betel Sour: A whisky based drink which uses betel leaf, cloves lime juice and bitters
- Inji Vellam Whiskey: Whiskey , Jaggery and ginger based drink
- Curry leaf mojito: A Bacardi based cocktail with curry leaf and lime to add a dash.
- Filter Kaapi Martini: Filter Kappi with Vodka
- Cucumber & Tulsi martini: Cucumber, tulsi and gin
- Brandy Mani: Sulaimani tea, cloves, cardamom, orange and Cognac
- Bydagi Mary: Bydaggi chilli, ginger, lime and vodka
- Apple and ginger Mojito: Green apple, ginger and bacardi
Now I prefer my drinks neat and usually never go for cocktails but when I had a glimpse of what was on the menu I couldn’t help but order a Kappi martini. While there were quite a few cocktails available I had just about three and was so damn flattered that I simply had to order a repeat. I had a Kappi martini which was filter coffee and vodka blended in the most amazing way. The kick just got a bit bigger, simply loved it – a must try by all means and especially those who love their vodkas. Next came in the betel sour on the recommendation of Dennis and boy oh boy did I get floored or what so damn beautifully blended that you could make out the aroma and the taste of the fresh betel leaf that went in. Whisky had never been any better. Another one of my fellow foodie had ordered a brandy mani yet again on recommendation of Dennis as it sported some hot Sulaimani tea as main ingredient. The warm drink was somewhat like a mulled wine and was really very unique to be served warm. Pretty decent but I was way too spoilt with the Kappi and Betel sour and couldn’t have enough of them even after having repeats. Like I have places where I can go for just desserts forget the food; well this place even if I get their cocktails I am more than happy. They were served alongside the starters and sometimes I lost the track of starters when over engrossed in one of them. I rate the drinks (at least the 3 that I had) a good 8.5/10.
We were served with a variety of starters at least one form each of the cuisines so we get to know how each cuisine is special in its own way.
- Venchina Mamsa Koora: Diced mutton with brown onion, curry leaves and selective spices; a typical Andhra dish was loved for its tender texture and mild spices. Superhit for sure.
- Koon Ularthyathu: Koon or Mushrooms as we know them are quiet often used in Nasrani cuisine of South Kerala. The freshly crushed black pepper and curry leaves are what give this dish its unique flavor. This was well received by veggie audience but still not from the elite list.
- Chemeen podi ittu Varuthathu: A Malabar preparation of Prawns from Kerala, this one uses shallots and coconut slivers to garnish. The mild preparation of prawns was decent and quick to be finished.
- Cheniga Pappu Vada: These are small patties made out of Bengal lentils, served with their equally special coconut and coriander chutney. These went pretty well with the accompanying chutney and reassured the fact that the accompaniments are equally important as the main dish itself. Decent preparation and yet something that veg folks could dig into. Non veg lovers had the day taken over because as you can see the non veg dishes were more than veg ones.
- Kozhi Podi Varuval: Yet another Nasrani chicken recipe which is made using podi or powder and varuval meaning dry. This one is a black chicken recipe which uses the famous podi while cooking. This was made brilliantly and the podi used was primarily used to give an amazing crispy texture. It also turned blackish and gave the dish its peculiar color. Loved by all this one went real quick.
- Biskuthambade: A Mysuru recipe this one uses black lentils batter with curry leaves and coriander and a dash of asafoetida. There was also a generous use of translucent onions which made it very mildly sweet. A decent dish again.
Venchina Mamsa Koora
Chemeen podi ittu Varuthathu
Cheniga Pappu Vada
Kozhi Podi Varuval
- Bun Parota / Kambu Rotti: The parota is just to die for. I had been long waiting to have the parotas like I had had in Munnar (Kerala) and none of the places had me serve a decent parota till I bumped into these fluffy wonders. Crispy yet fluffy these layered parotas are just the perfect company for any of the curries that are being served alongside.
Kambhu Rotti: A dish of yore – Griddled fried ground finger millet bread made with chopped shallots, green chillies and curry leaves. Brilliant use of curry leaves to make a Roti. The finger millet or Ragi gives the Kambu roti a very distinguishing texture. This was good but nothing compared to the brilliant wonder called Bun parota. I went on to order 2-3 more of this perfectly crafted wonder.
- Milagu Kozhi Chettinad: Simply said Chicken Chettinad which you are aware of. The taste however was nothing close to what I was used to having. The dish as is served at other places is highly confused for being spicy. By spicy the recipes that you get are made high on spices (overall heat levels goes up) this is in sharp contrast to how this should be served. The dish what you get here is a perfect subtle blend of multiple spices like black pepper, anise phool (Star anise/ karan phool) lichen, curry leaves and coconut. Yup coconut is used to tone down the gravy to some extent. The spices used are balanced so perfectly that nothing overpowers the other and the final product is nothing less than a miracle.
- Gutti Venkaya Masala: A veg prep which uses egg plants with stuffing of dried powder spices. It is also contrasted with slight sourness of tamarind. This one was hot favorite with the veggie lovers and you can imagine why. The ingredients were very well used to create a classic.
- Pollachi Kari Kozhambu: Another mutton recipe this time a Vellalar Gounder specialty made from drumsticks and egg-plant flavored with cinnamon, cardamom, fennel and black pepper. All hot spices just imagine yet nothing will burn a hole in your throat. Loved it.
- Batata Pathanja Gassi: A potato prep for the veggies which uses cubes of baby potato, green gram sprouts and coconut milk to give it a subtle flavor.
- Idiyappa Idly: A rather known dish finally, but nothing that I had tasted previously. This one was made out of absolute fine vermicelli made from ground rice. This was to accompany the different chutneys they had apart from the curries. Basically very lite and a bland accompaniment that can be clubbed with practically over half the dishes. This one just like some other items like parota and bonda were made absolute lite. The focus to a very large extent was given on ensuring that these are very lite, non-oily and puffed at all times. They were just like thermocol balls. Their liteness was certainly their one of the most significant USP.
- Chepala Pulusu: A coastal Andhra dish which uses Seer fish (Surmai) and a thick gravy of tamarind and tomatoes. Anyone who is fond of Surmai absolutely should have this one ordered right away.
- Saiva Veral Kozhambu: Something special for the veggies. This is gravy made from ground green lentils and tamarind and the texture is so given so as to resemble a Veral (fish) recipe. Decent preparation and veggies could appreciate it more; but I would like to stick to my non veg dishes without a second thought.
- Thalassery Meen Biryani: The best biryani by and large that I have had in Pune. Hardly have I had a fish biryani except once or twice but this was hands down winner even against the most sought after mutton biryanis. Simply mind blowing preparation. The texture that came up was hard to believe of that of a Seer (surmai fish). Another must have when you are here.
- Malli Saadam: Steamed rice with a paste of greens – coriander, chilies and curry leaves.
- Kongu Mutton Biryani: One of our fellow foodie couldn’t resist the temptation to try the mutton biryani that the Thalassery Meen Biryani had come out with flying colors. The mutton biryani was a rather spicy variant as compared to any other dish and was super but I would rather go with the meen biryani. Like I said better than most mutton biryanis.
- Obbatlu: Dough balls made of flour and rolled with home made butter.
- Karuppati halwa: reduced palm sugar syrup cooked with a mixture of rice flour, clarified butter and fried cashew nuts. This was a preparation made of natural sugar and a rather mild dessert. I need to make my palette more accustomed to South Indian desserts for; I found them basic and not too appealing.
- Sulaimani: This is a golden tea flavored with cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaf and topped with an orange slice. The variant served to us also had a dash of cognac. Tasted very nice, could feel the strong flavor of the cardamom and could also get the aroma due to the presence of whole cardamoms in the bottom of the cup. Very aromatic, could be a nice way to finish a wholesome meal. Everyone around were sure to appreciate this one in particular.
To sum it up:
- Parking and Facilities: 4/5
- Ambience: 4.5/5
- Food: 4.5/5
- Service: 4.5/5
(Disclaimer: The views expressed are my own and from the single or multiple experiences that I have had with the food joint. While you are free to disagree with the opinion below; please respect the originality and fairness of the content. The opinion/ review is purely based on experience and there is no biased, favored or commercial angle to it. Pardon my knowledge about the south Indian cuisine and if I make spell goof-ups at any of the places. I have taken efforts and used freely available information from net to add on some background to my words and experience along with information passed to us by the staff during a mini tour of the place)