Narayanni’s

I can’t say I had ever tried South African food until last night, which, as I quickly discovered, has been a deplorable loss on my part. I’ve been completely missing out.

Narayanni’s, a Whyte Avenue staple since 2010, serves up some of the finest curry I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. While the food is primarily Indian cuisine (as a result of immigration in the late 19th/early 20th centuries), it comes with a delightful South African twist: fewer dairy-based items, roti instead of naan bread, and a subtle European spin on items like the braised kale and cabbage. It’s the kind of cuisine that will leave you feeling content and full–warm and fuzzy–without weighing down your stomach with starches.

The restaurant itself is really hard to miss, once you know where you’re going. Just head one block south of Whyte at 101 Street and you’ll find yourself in front of a bright red door and panel, with a huge sign right above it. Inside, Narayanni’s is homey and comforting, with relaxed ambient lighting and the friendly murmur of other guests filling the spacious room. The buffet stands at the centre, with dishes lined in a circle around a barista used to make their signature hot chai drinks.

They have a neat selection of South African wines by the bottle, giving diners the authentic cuisine experience. We were recommended a bottle of the Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon (2010) by daughter and Front of House manager Youmashni Naidoo; to our delight, it was amazing. Similar to a full bodied malbec but with less powerful tannins, this wine paired beautifully with the spicy curries on the menu. The only danger lies in the wine’s drinkability–we had polished off the bottle before we knew it.

The food–oh, the food–was delightful. It’s strange to enjoy a meal that’s both hearty and filling and yet not feel sluggish afterwards. The majority of Narayanni’s menu is dairy free, many items are gluten free, and vegan options are abundant (they even offer a vegan buffet on Tuesday nights). My favourites were the chicken curry (moderately spicy), the grilled masala chicken (tender and flavourful), and the braised kale and cabbage (surprisingly spicy).

While Narayanni’s has only opened for dinner in the past, Old Strathcona residents and employees can now rejoice in the fact that the restaurant will be open for lunch Tuesday to Friday, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The lunch buffet features four gourmet South African Indian courses: home-cooked soup, salad, chicken curry (local, free-range, hormone/antibiotic-free), and three vegan entrées for only $12 a person. If I worked anywhere near Narayanni’s, I’d make this lunch buffet a weekly routine. For the quality of food you’re getting at that price, you’ve really got no excuse.

One of the things that makes Narayanni’s such a genuinely friendly restaurant is that it’s completely family owned and run. The Naidoo family, also the proprietors of Whyte’s Block 1912, are the brains behind Narayanni’s South African Indian cuisine. In one of my tweets during the visit, I likened the restaurant’s chicken curry to my own mother’s excellent curry–unsurprising, really, since the curry at Narayanni’s was cooked by the mother of the Naidoo family and co-founder of the restaurant, Selva Naidoo. We also finished off the meal with some cinnamon-infused rice pudding, prepared by Narayanni’s dessert master and father, Daya Naidoo, as well as cups of regular chai and pistachio chai.

Along with their new lunch buffet ($12), vegan nights on Tuesdays ($15), and lamb items in the buffet on Saturdays ($25), Narayanni’s is currently also holding a spring special on Wednesday nights, offering the dinner buffet at $15 a person, rather than $20. To be honest, even $20 a person for an all-you-can-eat buffet of this quality is extremely reasonably-priced. You’ll be hard pressed to find the same quality of food at a better price at any other Indian restaurant in the city. At $15 a person, it’s a bargain!

My experience at Narayanni’s was excellent and beyond expectations. The friendly, welcoming atmosphere, the unbelievable food, the clear passion each member of the family has for the business they’ve created–every aspect of this restaurant appealed to me. They’ve made it very easy for me to give a rave review because, quite simply, Narayanni’s is wonderful. And I cannot wait to go back.

Narayanni’s
10131 81 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
(780) 756-7112

5/5

Brunch at Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse

If I’m going to be honest with myself, whenever people ask me about my favourite restaurant in Edmonton (which they do a lot, since it comes with the food blogger territory), I always say Pampa. I’m not sure if it’s due to my weakness for savoury red meat or my fondness for dining experiences that allow me to eat myself into a coma. Either way, Pampa is always top of mind when recommending restaurants to my carnivorous friends.

I recently had the pleasure of trying Sunday brunch at Pampa for the very first time. We had gone to the restaurant for the Downtown Dining Week special, which unfortunately wasn’t offered on Sundays, but we ended up staying for brunch instead (which offered a greater meat selection, anyway).

All about that rump

Salad bar offerings

A brunch dining experience at Pampa is almost identical to a dinner service, although at a more reasonable price–$29.95 per person, rather than the usual $49.95 for the full dinner. Brunch runs from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. every Sunday, with the regular all-you-can-eat salad bar and five cuts of meat: signature rump steak, top sirloin, chicken drumsticks, pork belly, and pork sausage.

For those of you who have never tasted the delights of Pampa, meal service is run in a Rodizio style–you help yourself to the cold salad bar, sit back down at your table, flip your little card over to green, and wait as gauchos with sizzling meat on rotisserie sticks swing by and offer you a variety of options. They slice the meat from the rotisserie for you right at the table, never giving too much (so that you have room to try everything), but always being generous if you favour a particular cut. It’s indulgent and delightfully salty, thanks to the beautiful rock salt they use to season their meats.

Salad bar offerings

A nice selection of cheese and greens

Salad bar offerings

A great addition to the meat roster was the pork belly. Not for those who don’t like fat on their meat (if those people actually exist), the pork belly was tender, juicy, and covered with a small portion of delicious crackling, adding a nice crunch to the overall texture. These pieces weren’t served on a rotisserie stick but rather on a plate and with a slice of lime.

My favourite, as always, was the rump steak. Ever since they took ribeye off the menu–which was based very much, I’m sure, on the high cost of that cut–rump steak has been my welcome alternative. While the top sirloin is still tasty, it has a tendency to run a bit dry, whereas the rump steak is consistently juicy and flavourful.

Pork belly and lime

Try the ceviche–trust me

Local oils and balsamics from Evoolution

The salad bar offerings are not to be sneezed at, either. My favourites include the whole roasted garlic, sliced pineapple and capicola, a great selection of olives and imported/domestic cheese, and the ceviche (fish marinated in citrus juices). Of course, all of these delicacies are nothing without the accompaniment of a big glass of red wine–thankfully, wine is also 10% off on Sundays and sangria and mimosas are only $7 a glass.

As always, the service was top notch. I’ve never had bad (or even neutral) service at Pampa–each server comes to your table with a wealth of menu and drink knowledge and each Rodizio gaucho is supremely accommodating with their meat. If you’re looking for a particular cut and simply mention it to them, they’ll send it over as soon as possible. It’s perfect–service at Pampa is a well-oiled machine. And, when you’re filled to the brim with meat, you flip over your card to the red side and your server will bring by a visual demo tray of their many desserts (all of which are fantastic, by the way).

Cheesy goodness

If you’re new to the Rodizio experience and aren’t sure if you’ll enjoy it, I strongly recommend trying Pampa for lunch or Sunday brunch so that you get a taste of the experience without paying the full dinner price. The cost of the full dinner is a fairly significant deterrent for many people, so trying the restaurant for lunch or brunch is a good way to dine at Pampa without making the full cost commitment. There’s a parking lot underground that you can reach from the back alley and which offers free parking for restaurant guests (but I believe this is only on weekdays and after 6pm). Personally, I try to get to Pampa at least once every few months for my Rodizio fix. I simply can’t get enough of that rump.

Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse
9929 109 St
Edmonton, AB
780-756-7030
Make reservations online

5/5