Indian food is as varied and diverse as the culture itself—with each region contributing its own take on the aromatic essence of one of the world’s most unique cuisines.
Much of the same can be said about Hicksville, which in recent years has become the Indian food capital of Long Island. One of the area’s most popular additions is the south Indian leaning Saravanaa Bhavan, in Delco Plaza at Old Country Road and Broadway. An open and airy eatery, Saravanaa serves strictly vegetarian dishes with a downright explosive flavor collection of ingredients that come together for a deeply rich meal.
While northern Indian food is more popular—at least for now—with its naan, samosas and chicken tikka masala, southern Indian cuisine is more reminiscent of comfort food, based around rice, lentils and stews. This is what’s served at Saravanaa Bhavan—heartwarming and belly-filling, it’s food you can imagine an Indian grandma insisting you eat more of.
Saravanaa boasts an extensive menu of mostly southern favorites—in fact, so much that it’s wise to focus on one section per visit. For this dining trip, the restaurant’s vast dosa offerings warmed the spotlight. A dosa is a crisp, thin, savory Indian crepe made from a fermented batter containing rice and lentils. These long creations are often filled with an array of ingredients, including mashed potatoes, vegetables, cheese and ghee, an Indian take on butter.
Part of the fun of dosa eating—besides eating with your hands—is the collection of chutneys and sambar served on the side for dipping. Chutneys range greatly in color and heat, from mild to intensely spicy, while sambar is a lentil-based stew with a tamarind broth.
With so many dosa options, ordering three at once is imperative. For the uninitiated, start with three basic dosas like the ghee masala dosa, cheese dosa and Mysore masala dosa—these offer the complete flavor spectrum from pure succulence to fiery high impact. Ghee, a south Indian staple, is pure butterfat. In the ghee masala dosa, it coats the mouth in a silky texture that fits perfectly with the toastiness of the dosa. This dosa is stuffed with an Indian take on mashed potatoes, loaded with vegetables and a blend of spices.
The cheese dosa is the must-order dosa for anyone who isn’t sure if Indian food is their cup of tea. Some might call it “Americanized,” but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Melted and stretchy, the cheese brings dosa to a more accessible place, yet still boasts exotic flavors when the spicier chutneys are utilized.
And finally, the Mysore masala dosa brings some much needed heat to the meal. Straight from the high-spice Mysore region of India, this dosa is less crunchy and more robust than others. A thick, red, garlic chili chutney is smeared on the inside of the dosa before it is filled with the masala mashed potatoes. The fiery treat is fine on its own, but it benefits well from the flavor juxtaposition provided by a milder chutney.
At Saravanaa Bhavan, the dosas are large and meals are communal—making the eatery a welcome addition to Hicksville’s growing Indian flavor profile.
Saravanaa Bhavan, 285 S. Broadway, Unit 13, Hicksville; 516-261-7755; www.saravanabhavan.com