When my life first intersected with the Savoy’s brand more than 20 years ago, it was called Savoy’s Health Cafe. Stuffed into a bedraggled nook in a strip mall across 50 Ave. from the as-yet-unrehabilitated Southgate Mall. A scuffed but hospitable room of no more than six tables, Savoy’s traded in delicacies that I didn’t know back then to be South Indian—mixed in with soups, sandwiches and fresh-squeezed restorative juices.
When I noticed Savoy’s missing from its familiar spot a couple of years back, I prematurely presumed them moribund, not knowing then about the mysterious mechanics of South Indian restaurant distribution in Edmonton. A new South Indian restaurant called Kerala had sprung up in Savoy’s old space, displacing Savoy’s into the former Mill Woods premises of a South Indian restaurant called Kathir, thus displacing Kathir to a new location on Stony Plain Road. That’s just how these things work.
In its new home on 34 Ave., Savoy’s has put a light gloss of middle-brow restaurant esthetic over Kathir’s somewhat convenience store-like ambiance. It’s amazing what a coat of paint and a few exotic-imitation wall hangings can do. The thing you’re most likely to notice, though, is that Savoy’s is busily entertaining a stream of eat-in and take-out customers. Obviously, they have a bit of a following.
A good chunk of Savoy’s menu is taken up by dosas—a light, crisp, comically large crepe enfolding your choice of filling (curried potatoes and/or veg being standard) and served with chutney and a hearty lentil soup called sambar. They also go in for the many South Indian iterations of rice-flour batter with adorable names like appam, idli, puttu and stringhoppers. You can also still get their fresh juices for $5—my favourite was always the Energizer, with apple, orange, carrot, beet and ginger.
Knowing their dosas to be top-notch, but in the mood for a more substantial evening feed, co-diner and I took three blind stabs at the entree side of the menu—though I’m not sure I understand the allure she saw in an item called simply “veg stew” ($9.99). Palak paneer seemed to me a good yardstick for their meatless fare, and the menu deemed the mango fish curry ($12.49) a house specialty. We also got some parathas ($1.70 ea)—flaky panfried bread akin to Malaysian roti canai.
The veg stew was indeed non-descript—diced carrots, beans, peas and cauliflower in a barely fragrant white sauce—but how could it seem otherwise next to the palak paneer, its cubes of unripe cheese engulfed in a dark green pool of velvety pureed greens redolent of cardamom and clove? The fish curry featured big firm chunks of kingfish and lime leaves in thick orange gravy made with mango and coconut milk, though the resulting flavour was pleasingly savoury. The paratha was delicious but useless for picking up food given its own propensity for falling apart, so we had to order rice to sop up the rich sauces.
A prior visit also introduced me to Savoy’s Sri Lankan side in the form chicken kothu paratha, where a whole-wheat version of the flatbread is chopped up and fried with chicken, jalapeno peppers and other potent spices—if you’re also looking for something nice and filling.
The new Savoy’s seems to augment all the best qualities of its old rinky-dink location. If you like your Indian food unfussy, affordable and extremely well made—promptly and courteously delivered to your table, at that—you almost couldn’t do better.
Savoy’s South Indian Kitchen
9621 – 34 Ave., 780.989.9797