This saivar-kadey vegetarian eating house is a popular stop on the Galle Road in Bambalapitiya for those who want to spend a little and eat a lot.
Although the menu offers hefty servings of typical Indian food like chapatti, string hoppers, dosa, vada and uthappam, they also have large packets of murukku stacked up for sale and an impressive variety of Indian sweets.
After looking at the menu I realized I should have brought somebody with me – knowing Indian restaurants, they were going to serve me obscenely large amounts of food. Bravely, I ordered their Madras Meals, Special Vadai and Special Dosa to get a feel for the menu. The old man at the next table eyed me curiously throughout my visit, probably bewildered by the number of plates this skinny-ass girl was attempting to wipe clean.
The Madras Meals was the most expensive thing on the menu (only Rs. 200) and was basically an Indian thaali, which included a large serving of white rice on a banana leaf, small portions of various curries (parippu, brinjal, murunga, onion dip, leeks, pickle), a papadam of course, and a bonus-vadai. It was tasty and plentiful.
The Special Vadai (Rs. 50) was an extra-big vadai that seemed to be extra-stuffed with vegetables, onions and kadala. It was offered with three dips – sambar, curd, and the third was a very interesting, sweet dish of tapioca (aka kasa-kasa); the vadai and the tapioca made an unlikely, delicious combination.
Sunquick? Or ominous potion of mysteriousness?
I got a bonus glass of yellow liquid with my meals ambiguously termed ‘cool drink’. It tasted like Sunquick, but when I asked the waiter, all he said was ‘that’s a cool drink… it’s what you have after your meal…’ before he mysteriously vanished into the darkness of the backroom.
The Special Dosa (Rs. 170) hadn’t arrived yet and they’d waved away my request to recommend a dish of sweets – because I suspect my waiter, a nice burly middle-aged man with a glint in his eye, didn’t believe I’d be able to eat more than my first two dishes (‘You eat this first will you,’ he said). Well, challenge accepted, good sir.
I was full, but I signaled for the Special Dosa and he raised his eyebrows, impressed, and brought me it. It was a dosa stuffed with masala, served with lunu miris, sambar and chutney, and the dosa seemed to have been bathed in oil. The lunu miris was very well made, tangy and red, but the dosa was way too oily to handle - I could feel my arteries hardening already, and I accepted defeat halfway through. Besides tea and nestomalt, you can order a soft drink to go with your meals. The sweet selection is basically a range of tasty, colourful squares and spheres that are guaranteed to kick your blood-sugar through the roof.
Service & Ambience
The restaurant is small and open to the street, is frequented by school-goers and 9-to-5-ers, and has the same ambience that most saivar-kadeys in Colombo do. It has an affinity for neon signs – there’s a big one outside declaring the restaurant’s name, and a big animated one inside that advertises the telephone number of the place. The place is also a bit rebellious about spelling conventions - 'Kulab Jam' instead of Gulab Jam and 'Barbi' instead of Barfi. The staff are chatty and friendly and will come up to you and ask you if you want more, before placing ridiculously large silver buckets of curry next to you that you can freely serve yourself from.
Saraswathi Lodge is a great place to fill your belly, and your wallet will barely feel the difference - especially if you're vegetarian. The food is good and the service is great – ideal for a stop-over on your lunch-break or when you’re in the mood for some serious sweet tooth.
Brush up on your Tamil if you want the waiter to sneak you an anecdote or a kitchen secret or two.