The forever humble, forever scrumptious dosa, with the old accompaniments of coconut chutney and sambar, remains M. Mahadevan’s comfort food, though the restaurateur is spoilt for choice not just in India but across the globe, to tuck into a variety of cuisine free of charge.
While in Dubai to set up an outlet of his Hot Breads chain of bakery, he found only one south Indian restaurant serving dosa and sambar, but in the Udupi style more popular in Karnataka. That meant the sambar was not only thin but also sweetened with jaggery, very unlike the thick steamy spicy sambar one finds in Tamil Nadu. “Out of sheer self-interest I nudged Saravana Bhavan to open an outlet in Dubai, which they did reluctantly. While I got my kind of dosa with its accompaniments, Saravana Bhavan gained its first international foothold. The restaurant became so successful that soon there was demand from across West Asia and the US,” he recalls.