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Southern sojourn

For authentic South Indian cuisine in an ambience of old-world elegance, there’s a new eatery in Gurugram that checks all the boxes

To celebrate the vibrancy and regional nuances of the cuisine of South India, Nikesh Lamba & Japtej Ahluwalia, Directors of the Pricol Hospitality Group, thought of creating ‘Savya Rasa’ as a fine dining destination. The duo aims to bring forth the culture and traditions of South India through the medium of food. Hence after successfully launching the brand Savya Rasa in Pune and Chennai, they have launched its first outlet in Delhi NCR, at Ardee Mall in Gurugram.

“Savya Rasa’s existence is about the celebration of traditional cuisines, packaged in a culturally rich experience. Cultural aspects and attributes have been incorporated into the dining experience to help you rediscover the heritage and history that has helped shape South Indian culture,” they say with lot of pride. And add, “We welcome our guests to indulge in this unique effort that blends traditional South Indian cooking with an ambience that pays homage to the glorious culture of the region.”

Ambience

Walking into Savya Rasa is like walking into a very distinguished, old-world South Indian home. The dining experience is completed by a cultural ambience of understated luxury comprising art, artefacts, architectural elements, and music — all combined meaningfully.

Do not miss handmade, eco-friendly clay tiles from Athangudi, a small village near Karaikudi in the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu. These have traditional patterns and designs which involve intense labour; it takes weeks to manufacture a single piece. The ones used at Savya Rasa are custom-made and inspired by the tale of Annaparavai.

The pillars, door frames and windows are inspired by Chettinad style too. Pillars are made in stucco form to reveal ancient Dravidian architecture; the carved majestic-looking entrance of the door and the windows is made out of Burma teak; the windows are adorned with Belgian coloured glass.

Bhuta masks depicting bulls from the Tulu Nadu region of southern coastal Karnataka are cast in a metal alloy. This is an ancient ritual where a person wears these masks on their heads with elaborate clothing and answers problems or settles quarrels among their followers using powers from ancestral worship. Kalamkari art (tree of life) from Andhra Pradesh is painted in Srikalahasti style using vegetable dye, and depicts five important scenes of day to day life in a village — of weavers, potters, farmers, carpenters and even a wedding in the village.

Painstaking efforts have gone into procuring the ancient coconut scraper from Tamil Nadu carved by craftsmen of yesteryears with typical flora and fauna designs.

Sound of music

Creating a truly immersive and wholesome experience is the music played at the restaurant, primarily of the traditional instrumentals played by well-known artists. There are selected albums of veena by Doresamy Iyengar, violin by TN Krishnan, mandolin by U Srinivas, guitar by Prasanna, flute by the trio Ramani, Thiagarajan and Athul and jala tharangam by Anayampatti S Dhandapani, saxophone by Kadri Gopinath, among many others.

The menu

The team of Savya Rasa has travelled extensively across the South researching and learning from local cooks, chefs, grandmothers and housewives. The years of research have culminated in a menu that brings you authentic dishes from eight regions, each with their distinct cultural identities.

Nikesh Lamba shares, “Cooks were identified from the toddy shops of Kottayam to small restaurants in Karaikudi to messes in Nellore. A year of training, sharing of ideas and hard work led to the carefully put together menu of authentic dishes out of a bank of 600 workable recipes that one now experiences at Savya Rasa. The highest level of care has been taken to offer not only the unique spices and flavours of each region but also to present a wide variety of textures, colours and aromas.”

Meal menu

Begin with a traditional South Indian beverage ‘Vasantha Neer’ — tender coconut water, lime juice, mango, honey, mint leaves — a specialty from Kongunadu; or devour Thengai Paal Rasam  — coconut milk cooked with tomato & tempered with ghee; and Mutton Nenjuelumbu Rasam — tangy & spicy soup made from mutton ribs cooked with Chettinad spices.

Starters include flavourful vegetarian and non-veg options like Malabar Coin Parotta Canopies with a choice of Pallipalyam Kalaan  — pan-fried button mushrooms cooked with freshly ground masala made of turmeric and red chilli powder, finished with coconut silvers. Enjoy Paneer Ghee Roast served on Parotta.

The Kori Ghee Roast on the other hand is a must try for non- vegetarians — a mouth watering delicacy made of morsels of chicken marinated overnight with byadgi chilli spice mix and pan tossed ghee, a classic from Mangalore in Karnataka. The Chutney Paniyaram  — rice and lentils soaked overnight, stone ground into a batter, stuffed with red chilli chutney and shallow-fried in a customised cast iron pan provides two options to choose from  — a spicy red chutney or a tangy green chutney.

Fish foodies can relish the Mini Meen Pollichathu  — mini fillets of seer fish marinated with tangy masala made of tomato, red chillies, onions, and tamarind, rolled in a banana leaf and griddled on a tawa. Venchina Mamasa Koora is a hot selling item here which is a Nellore delicacy  — tender morsels of mutton sautéd with onion, ground coriander seeds and hand-blended spice mix.

Coming to the mains, Kalaan Thirattal, a Kongunadu treat, is a thick curry made with button mushrooms, ground nut, shallots and red chillies to be best enjoyed with Savya Rasa’s special Bun Parotta. Milagu Kozhi Chettinad steals the show: it is a chicken gravy flavoured with crushed black pepper, star anise, edible lichen, coconut and curry leaves. We loved Neer Dosa as it was truly soft and delicious, made with rice batter and coconut oil — a delicacy from the Land of Tulu. It goes wonderfully well with almost anything, but nothing beats its companion, the famous gassi.

Chef Sheik Mohideen’s favourite preparation is Vetrilai Poondu Saadam which is a secret recipe from the land of the Cheras. It is a short grain rice flavoured with digestive betel leaves and fried garlic. Rameshwaram Pocket Rice is also very special as it is a street cart speciality from the coastal town of Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu. It is made with coconut milk rice pocketed in banana leaf with onion pakoda, masala vada, vegetable khorma and mango pickle. The option for non-vegetarians comprises of chicken pakoda, yeral varuval, milagu kozhi and mango pickle. And curd rice, of course.

Round off your meal with the traditional desserts like Kongunadu special Elaneer Payasam (see reciple below) and Badam Halwa.

How can you wind up your South Indian meal without Filter Kaapi? Enjoy the in-house concoction of freshly roasted and ground arabica coffee beans brewed in a custom-made filter from yore. The addition of creamy milk and sugar brings this brew to perfection, served in 100% brass dabra sets. What started as a concoction in Brahmin families of Tamil Nadu, is now savoured all over South India, and therefore finds its due place at Savya Rasa. Otherwise, Nannari Sharbhat made with Nannari syrup, lemon juice; topped with soda and garnished with sprig of mint, is ideal.

Address: Ardee Mall, Sector 52, Gurugram

Timings:  Lunch – 12 noon to 3.30 pm, Dinner – 7 pm to 11 pm

Cost of Meal for two: Rs 1,700

Review done on request