So let us get this out of the way. Chances are, if you live in the Bay Area, you have been to Saravana Bhavan. It is an iconic south Indian restaurant for local folk and most have made their pilgrimage over the years. Chances are also that you have an opinion about the food here and whats good and what is not. All that said and done, I wanted to make sure I covered all major vegetarian outposts in the South Bay for my blog and this happens to be a prominent absentee. Until today, that is. So here we go. My brief review of Saravana Bhavan in Sunnyvale, CA.
I have been to HSB Sunnyvale probably a half a dozen times, maybe more. Every time, I have managed to get seats in fairly short order. Which in itself is a miracle. The place appears to be full almost all days but it is also cavernous. And the owners seem to have squeezed every little bit of space possible in the area. So expect a maximum 15 minute wait on weekdays and upto 30 minutes on weekends. The restaurant also sells Indian sweets and snacks up front. It is pretty decent and fairly priced by Bay Area standards.
Once seated for lunch, you get to order one of the thalis or go a la carte. For first timers, the executive thali / mini meals is a good bet. The full thali special meals is a sizable offering and pretty heavy. You get to choose between Poori and chappathi to go with the meal offering. If you plan not on spending the rest of the afternoon asleep at your desk, I suggest ordering a dish or two from the regular menu. There are multiple dosa offerings (and occasionally being changed too), uthappam, variety rice, idly/vadai plates and what not. In short, there is something for everybody.
Now for the quality and taste. The food at Saravana Bhavan is very predictable. And that is a very good thing. You know that unlike other Bay Area restaurants which occasionally have a change in management or change in chefs, HSB offers a quality that rarely changes. The taste and quality is above average but never spectacular. In other words, never plan to be surprised at HSB- in a good or bad way. Plan to have a consistent taste and service all the time. I call HSB my safe backup option. If all things fail, there is always HSB. It will never fail me. One minor gripe, the food is relatively spicy – even the curd rice. So be prepared to order idlis and plain dosas if spice is not your thing.
Ambiance: 7.5/10. As pedestrian and uninspired as it could be. Not your idea of a date night meal. And the place is loud. As an Indian, I thrive in such an atmosphere and am used to it.
Service: 8.5/10. Food comes out quick. Rarely it takes them a while to get your order but food comes in pretty fast.
Food: 8.25/10. Always above average. Never outstanding.
Price: 8.5/10. Modest value for money. You can opt for the $14 thali if you are very hungry. Else, $10 should take care of your lunch.
Restroom: 7.75/10. Not the greatest but pretty clean.
Overall: 8.25/10. If you are looking for vegetarian South Indian food in the South Bay and are averse to risks, HSB is your best bet.