If you’re ever feeling under the weather, there’s nothing like a steaming bowl of peppery rasam to put you right. In south India, depending on location, you would be prescribed any of the various kinds of rasam — from the staid tomato rasam to the tangy lemon rasam, the pungent garlic rasam to the mildly sweet pineapple rasam. In Chettinad, to combat the sniffles, you might be offered some mutton rasam. At Savya Rasa in Gurugram, where they tell us that this particular rasam is made using mutton ribs, the hearty, spicy concoction placed before us hits exactly the right spot.
Of course, “non-vegetarian” rasams are hardly a shock anymore. Ever since Meenakshi Meyyappan of the iconic hotel, The Bangala, in Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu, introduced gourmands around the country to the Chettiar specialty known as the Nandu (crab) rasam a few years ago, “non-vegetarian” variations of well-known south Indian dishes have become increasingly popular. This is in keeping with the fine dining trend of putting the spotlight on sub-regional Indian cuisines, many of which feature dishes that would, in the mainstream, be considered inauthentic or, worse, forbidden.
So Savya Rasa’s attempt to unearth the diversity that is usually hidden under the vast umbrella known as “south Indian food” is laudable. We are told that the restaurant team made many research trips around the five states down south before the menu was finalised and it shows. Indeed, it becomes a little hard to choose from the tempting and unusual options presented before us, but we soon order the opening courses. Besides Mutton Nenjuelumbu Rasam, these include Thengapal Rasam, a mild, soothing broth made of coconut milk, Senai Vadai, vada made of elephant foot yam, and Narukattu Gola Urundai, roundels made of finely pounded mutton that are tied with banana twine and deep fried, twice. While both rasams were excellent, the two fried items were slightly disappointing — and not because they didn’t taste good. Indeed, the Urundai, which is a specialty from Neikaranpatti near Pazhani in Tamil Nadu is especially nice — crisp and rich — but it felt very heavy on the palate when had with the accompanying coconut chutney. What it required, as did the Vadai, was some lifting by bright, acidic flavours, like those found in tomato chutney.
The rest of the meal was a lot better. The main course included a Kongu Nadu mutton curry called Pollachi Kari Kozhumbu, and a Mangalorean curry called Batata Pathanja Gassi that combines potato and green grams in a coconut gravy. The former was richly spiced and hearty, with the mildness of the Gassi serving as an interesting counterpoint. We had these with a “bread basket”, that included bun parotta — a fluffy, delightful street specialty from Madurai — Neer Dosai, Kal Dosai and Godhi Roti, which is a thick wheat roti flavoured with shallots, green chillies, curry leaves and fresh coriander. The highlight of the meal, however, came right at the end, with another Chettiar specialty, the Kavuni Arisi Halwa. The halwa sublimated the nutty flavour of the black Kavuni rice into the richness of milk and caused us to thoroughly ignore the other dessert we ordered. This was an insipid Elaneer Payasam; in good versions of this payasam as found in its native Kerala, you are likely to find delicate slivers of coconut meat. The one we had at Savya Rasa, made by setting tender coconut water with china grass, unfortunately, did not live up to the full, rich potential of the coconut.
Meal for Two: ` 2800 (including taxes)
Address: Savya Rasa, 3rd floor, Ardee Mall, Sector 52, Ardee City, Gurugram