My review of Saravanaa Bhavan in Paris

Saravanaa Bhavan is the chain of vegetarian restaurants that originated in Chennai, India and now in many countries around the world like USA, UK, France etc. This is one of the only handful 100% vegetarian restaurants in Paris.

Being a vegetarian and also one who loves South Indian food, I frequent this restaurant a lot. After going there so many times, I felt that I should write a quick post which can help others.

The restaurant is located near the Gare Du Nord area of Paris, which is also known as little India, little Sri Lanka etc. Here is a tip – if you are going to this restaurant on a cold winter day, the best exit from the railway station is the exit going towards “Rue Du Faubourgh Saint Denis” from the Magenta RER station. Even though Gare Du Nord is the main station, you are better off making the indoor walk to Magenta and exiting out from the Faubourg Saint Denis exit.

The restaurant specializes in South Indian cooking. If you know about Indian cuisine, there are many varieties and among the different varieties of South Indian cuisine, the restaurant keeps true to its Tamil Nadu (state in south India) roots. So the best bet to try at this restaurant are items like Idly, Dosa, Upma that are local to South India. The good news is that there is an overwhelming variety of Idlies and Dosas that can keep one occupied for a long time! They also make North Indian items like Chapathi, various North Indian curries etc. As any good Indian restaurant should, they also serve Chinese items like Gobi-65, Vegetable Spring roll, Chilli Paneer etc. I am sure my friends from China will recognize these items (not!). These items are better avoided even though they take up half the menu.

The many varieties of Idly and Dosa has its downsides too. They come with the same sauces, chutneys and sambars. So even though you might be expecting three different things by ordering three different idlies, they all turn out to be almost the same since you will get the same sauces and chutneys to go with them. My suggestion would be to try one idly, one vada and one dosa. If you feel adventurous, you should add something from the North Indian and Chinese menu.

Regarding the beverages to have, the standard mango lassi is too sweet and is best avoided. The fresh juices are really good. If you want to have it the way it is made in Indian roadside juice stands, ask them to add some sugar to it.

The best dessert here is the Falooda. If you can get the sweet pongal, it will be awesome but it is made only on special days. The other desserts like Rava Kesari, Gulab Jamun are available at all Indian restaurants in Paris and should be similarly avoided.

A note about the timing of the restaurant. They are open until 11 pm everyday. The best days to visit are Friday nights and Saturdays. They make special items on these days (rava idlies!). Even though the restaurant tends to be crowded on these days (see the line in the attached picture), the service is really fast. Avoid going there on Sundays (and Sunday evenings especially) since the food seems to be almost spoilt!

If you are interested in the interesting story of the founder of Saravanaa Bhavan, who is now in a jail in India, check out this news.

Some hidden good and bad iOS5 features

Now that I have spent sometime with iOS5, I am finding that there are many hidden features (including apps) and some annoying changes too.


The first of the annoyances have to do with the Twitter integration with iOS. When you read about the integration, it sounds like a good thing (it probably is). But if you are someone who has multiple twitter ids to manage, the management of multiple ids has been taken out of the twitter app into the main settings app. I do not understand why something should be made harder when it was easy to begin with.


Another annoyance is how one has to get rid of notifications. So iOS has copied the Android notification feature. You swipe down on any screen to bring up the notifications and weather screen. So far so good. If you have apps like NYTimes installed, you will find breaking news alerts included in the notifications (breaking news from two days ago? It stays until dismissed or more breaking news comes up on top). You see an “x” on the top which indicates that you can dismiss these set of alerts by tapping on it. NO! Tapping the “x” brings up “Clear”. You need to tap clear to clear the notifications. I wonder why we need a two step process when one step will do. (This was probably done to prevent accidental dismissal of alerts, but it still is an annoyance).  Similarly, the “Mark as unread” in email has become a two tap process.


Now that we got rid of the annoyances out of the way, we can talk about some cool features. One of them is the location based reminder feature embedded in a new app called “Reminders”. You will get this app preloaded when you install iOS 5. You can schedule a reminder to remind when you reach a particular location or when you are leaving a location. The only catch is that you have to choose the existing addresses in your addressbook. You cannot add a new address into the reminder (bummer!). But it does pick up the current address. So you can setup a reminder for when you leave or arrive back at the current location (on the same day or a different day).


The reminder can also remind you if you want to be reminded on a particular day/time. Somehow this is not linked to the calendar.


The other new feature is the option for indenting your email. To get this feature, double tap in your email editor as you would to enable copy, paste functions. The copy, paste functions come up with an arrow pointing right. Tap this button and you will access the “Quote level” option to choose what quote level you want your email text to be.

A new type of vacation rental company

I had to travel to Brussels recently to participate in the Mobile Health Industry Summit. Thanks to my delayed planning for the trip, when I looked for hotels, the prices were pretty high (€100 and up). I also checked AirBnB and I found some good places but they were too far away from the conference location. Now I had to come up with a solution to make this work.


Fortunately, I knew the founders of MorningCroissant. This is a french version of AirBnb. The main difference between these two is that MorningCroissant offers personalized help if we do not find anything on their website that suits us. I was a bit skeptical of this claim since it is difficult to find suitable accommodations. I was also skeptical about finding accommodations outside of Paris, where MorningCroissant is based.


In my case, I did not find any rentals in Brussels. So I thought of checking out their claim of helping us to find the right accommodation. I contacted Laurent, one of the founders with my dilemma. He got back to me in half a day and got me an apartment rental 10 mins from the center of Brussels for €60/night! I was very surprised and impressed.


When I traveled to Brussels, I stayed at this apartment. Turns out that it was even better than I thought. It had awesome views of the city. It was also well connected to the metro and tram stations. The host was very hospitable who offered me maps and directions to the places that I had to go to. All in all a very enjoyable experience.


If MorningCroissant can maintain this level of service to their customers, I am sure AirBnb has a huge threat coming at them. It remains to be seen how they can scale up this personal help to travelers.


I completely understand that this experience can be biased due to the fact that I know the founders. But if they are capable of providing this type of service to me, I am hoping that they can provide this level of service to regular users of their site. This is the main differentiator for them.