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Sai Bhavan, Flushing
Holly Avenue

(Scroll down to read the review)
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Address & Telephone No:
Sai Bhavan, Flushing
141-20 Holly Ave
Flushing, NY 11355

Sai Bhavan Near Ganesh Temple
Sai Bhavan, Holly Ave
Reviewer's Summary: Good Food; Average Snacks

Forget the Ganesh Temple canteen in Flushing, NY.

Instead, head for Sai Bhavan Snack & Sweets vegetarian restaurant, a mere three-minute walk from the temple.

Madhusudhan Rao, a former cook at the Flushing Ganesh Temple, opened Sai Bhavan at the corner of Holly Avenue and Robinson Road in December 2006.

We dropped by at this self-serve restaurant around noon on a recent Sunday and found the Kannada-speaking Rao (who hails from Udupi in Karnataka) busy with both takeout orders and dine-in customers.

Even by Queen's standards, the decor at Sai Bhavan is ordinary. The place is spartan and looks more like a Pizza joint.

You order the food at the counter, pay right there and wait for Rao to dispense it in plastic plates if you are dining in.

With the kitchen right behind the cash counter, you can watch your favorite Dosa take shape before your eyes.

We started with the perennial South Indian favorites - Idli and Vada.

The amazingly tasty Idli and Vada rendered us speechless. The Idli was big and light and the Vada crisp. Both came piping hot with spicy Chutney and delicious Sambar. Oh, how we loved that Chutney.

Our appetites whetted by the awesome Idlis ($2.50) and Vadas ($2.00), we proceeded at full throttle to the Dosa, another favorite of South Indians.

The Mysore Masala Dosa ($4.00) we ordered came crisp and delicious with a tasty onion/potato filling and a red masala paste smeared to the inside of the Dosa. Sai Bhavan's Mysore Masala Dosa was beyond reproach.

But Rao's kitchen isn't flop-proof.

The Chutney accompanying the Dosa was cold and rather bland. Rao had no response as to why this Chutney was cold and bland when the Chutney that came with the Idli and Vada was spicy. He just mumbled something unintelligible.

Besides the Mysore Masala Dosa that we tried, Sai Bhavan also offers diners other varieties of Dosas like Rava Masala Dosa, Chilli Masala Dosa, Plain Dosa, Set Dosa and Uttapam.

Sai Bhavan serves South Indian food items like Goli Bhajji (a.k.a. Mangalore Bhajji) that are not easily available at other vegetarian restaurants in the U.S. Our plate of Goli Bhajji came with five deep fried Goli Bhajjis and a cup of fine Chutney.

Upma ($2.00) was good but not exemplary.

Although the menu at Sai Bhavan is fairly extensive, a lot on the menu was not available during our visit.

For instance, Kesari Bath, Chapathi, Pulka and Paratha were some of the items on the menu but not available. Why list food not available?

Hailing from South India, we are completely addicted to Coffee. And the Sai Bhavan kitchen amply fulfilled the promise of fine South Indian filter Coffee ($1.00). We tried the Masala Tea ($1.00) as well and had no complaints with that either.

Sai Bhavan's menu also lists Lassis, Fresh Fruit Juices and Udupi Butter Milk. But whether they are actually available to diners we don't know.

As its name suggests, Sai Bhavan Snack & Sweets also sells a variety of sweets and snacks. We tried a bunch of spicy snacks, a sweet called Badusha and some of their spice mixes.

Our feelings about the snacks and sweets were mixed. The Spicy Mixture and Ribbon Pakoda were good as were the Sambar and Rasam powder. But the Badushas were too dry and not sufficiently sweet. Karnataka Chutney Powder was so-so.

One practice by Sai Bhavan that we found distressing was the absence of an itemized bill. When you order multiple items as well as takeout food and snacks, it's nice to know when you get NYIndia Home how much you paid for each item. But all we got was a credit card receipt.

Its few imperfections notwithstanding, Sai Bhavan is a welcome oasis in a desert of mediocre Indian restaurants in New York. And Rao is easily one of the best South Indian vegetarian chefs in the U.S. we've come across.- ©

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