Narayanni’s Restaurant – Edmonton, Alberta

Narayanni’s Restaurant
10131 – 81 Ave
Narayanni's on Urbanspoon

Before Sarah and I left for San Francisco, she told me about a new restaurant located near her work. Built in a heritage building, east of the train tracks on Whyte Ave, and a block south of the main road, Narayanni’s is run by the Naidoo family who you might know as the former Block 1912 owners. Cooking South-Indian dishes with a South-African flair, we finally made our way down last Friday to check it out.

Meeting with Miz J, the three of us walked up to the strikingly whitebuilding and couldn’t help but notice the giant, gorilla sized flower pots contrasting beautifully with the backdrop. Stepping into the restaurant, we were seated by the patriarch of the family in the back corner next to the bathroom. With people constantly barging by in order to clear their internal systems, this seating position isn’t ideal for a private meal, but did give us a full view of the restaurant.

One thing we all found agreeably was the setup. With the all of the main dishes wrapped around a centre island, only a handful of appetizers are situated apart from the mains, and they are easily accessible on a near wall. This circular setup is a nice change from the straight wall of kitchen pans that I often find ends up with people bumping into each other. We of course, started with the appetizers, which included bahja, potato rolls, lambs rolls, watermelon and a coconut, mango and mint chutney. The starters were ok, but we found they would have been better hot rather than served cold/room temperature. The chutney’s were all sharp, bright, and very distinct; a big hit!

The mains are easy to conquer, as there are really only a handful. The table starts with South African naan bread, lemon pickle, and Greek salad before moving into the hot dishes. Basamati rice, savory wheat, vegetable biryani, lentil daal, squash, green beans, cabbage, curried chicken, curried lamb, and finally egg and prawn curry.

The standard rice was cooked nicely, not turning to mush. The savory wheat dish reminded us of cream of wheat, and while it could be a favourite for some people, I found the gritty texture not that pleasing. The vegetable biryani was fantastic with a very aromatic scent and taste. None of us really like the daal dish, which surprised me as I generally find them quite good. The squash was amazing; sweet and perfectly cooked, I went back for thirds of this item. The green beans were average. The cabbage retained some bite, and like the squash made it to the plate more than once. Now I should say, they do advertise that all of the vegetable dishes are vegan friendly as well…for all you who are curious.

The curried proteins started on a miss, as the chicken was cooked well past the point of moist and ended up being like little bouncy balls of dense dry meat. The lamb on the other hand, wasn’t cooked to the point of melt-in-your-mouth tender, but was quite good and had me going back for more. The prawn and shrimp curry was interesting, with the hard-boiled eggs getting a bit firmer than I’d like while the shrimp somehow managed to stay perfectly juicy and plump. It was a shame this dish wasn’t restocked during our visit.

As we sat down, we saw the other two family members running around, with the matriarch checking on dishes and the daughter chatting with customers. When we were finally approached about drinks, we were promised fresh roti and I can’t tell you how disappointing it was to have this hot flatbread forgotten until we were eating dessert. Fail. Speaking of dessert, Mr. Naidoo is quite the character, and makes for an enjoyable and entertaining host. He promised us that we had to have the chocolate mousse, as we would not find it anywhere else! I was almost waiting for him to click his heels as he returned with our closer. Sweet, smooth, and full of Callebaut chocolate goodness, this small dish served as a great finish to the hot and spicy food.

As our bill never arrived, we found ourselves waiting for quite some time as both the mother and father of this family didn’t seem to control this aspect and we had to wait until the daughter returned. The cost at $25 a person, was considerably higher than the buffets Ive experienced with Edmonton’s Little India in my own backyard. The food was good, it was fresh, and it was light when compared with the heavier cream based curries found at so many other establishments, but limited dishes and hit-or-miss service had me wondering if the $80 bill for 3 people was really worth it’s wait. If you do go, I’d suggest trying to hit the lunch buffet which rings in at a more reasonable $14.99.

8 thoughts on “Narayanni’s Restaurant – Edmonton, Alberta

  1. The food does not look bad, though it is strange in its own ways as wel. What’s up with the roti that looks like a square?! Now, if the food wasn’t up to expectations, you can always drop by Vancouver… Given we have a larger East Indian population, I am sure we will find something to suit your tastes. Otherwise, there are a lot of places/cuisines, as well! 😉 Now, the question is: do you like your curry hot or mild?

  2. I used to love just hanging out at Block 1912, nice to hear the owners have moved onto something new. The image of the room made me think they were trying to take things upscale, but alas it was still buffet. Good to know there is more Indian options in E-town aside from stalwarts like New Asian Village or Khazana…

  3. You hit the nail head with this one. I enjoy the contrast that Narayanni’s provided compared to the traditional East Indian i have experienced. I really appreciated how light everything tasted.
    I would give the same recommendation… hit up the lunch buffet and enjoy.

  4. Pingback: Only Here for the Food » Blog Archive » Food Notes for September 20, 2010

  5. A wonderful change from the heavy Indian food at some other Edmonton Indian restaurants. Subtle spicing, local ingredients, a new menu each time you go and very friendly family servers who are proud of their restaurant and very knowledgeable. Vegan friendly and healthy. Beautiful decor as well. One of my favorite new restaurants.

  6. We went two weeks ago. We really enjoyed the ambience – it was a great place for six adults to get together. The food was fantastic, from appetizers and soup right through dessert. I think the price at $30/person (weekend rate; it is $25/person during the week) was very good value. Drinks were also reasonably priced. They had a decent selection of wine for less than the average Edmonton restaurant price. It also seemed like a family-friendly place and we will go back again with our son.

  7. The food has gotten better and better since they first opened. The fact that they source locally and go for organic as much as they can is what gives the food such a lovely flavour and texture, in my opinion. The price seemed reasonable to us because of the quality of the food, and they now serve only organic chicken, which has made a big difference in the chicken dishes. We found the family delightful and charming and appreciate that small, family run businesses can’t be everywhere at once, so waiting a few minutes in such a relaxed atmosphere was ok with us. It’s worth a try if you like locally source, interesting and light tasting food. I confess it’s become one of our favourite restaurants.

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