A few weeks ago, A. and I popped down to Whyte Ave after work to check out the Tuesday vegan buffet at Narayanni‘s. I have walked past Narayanni’s several times in the past, but have never gone in, so this was a first for me! To be honest, I had assumed that all the Indian buffet places were the same, so once I found one that worked, I kind of stopped looking for new places – shame on me… So really, I need to thank Narayanni’s for reaching out and inviting A. and I in for lunch/dinner. Unfortunately, I work all the way across the river so lunch is not an option but if you’re on the south side, Narayanni’s does offer a lunch buffet, which includes soup, salad, chicken curry and three vegan dishes for $12! The lunch buffet runs Tuesday – Friday from 11:30 – 1:30, but word to the wise – it’s a cash only lunch, so make sure you hit up the ATM before going.
When we arrived at Narayanni’s we were greeted by Youmashni Naidoo, the daughter and host of this family run restaurant. Youmashni’s mother, Chef Selva Naidoo is the woman in charge of creating the dishes in the restaurant and I really appreciate her philosophy that richness and complexity of flavours in a dish should come naturally from the quality of the ingredients and the skill, craft and love of the chef.
Youmashni was so lovely and took the time to explain that Narayanni’s has a South African influence to their food and they try to use locally sourced ingredients as much as possible. She offered us some roti and chai to start and then let us loose on the buffet. I was curious as to how vegan Indian food would taste as I typically associate Indian food with a lot of cream-based sauces.
The vegan buffet comes with soup (curry soup), salad, 5 vegan dishes and dessert (rice pudding), but alas taking nice photos of the soup and dessert did not happen for me this evening. Please just take my word that both dishes were delicious. We started with this gorgeous salad – it was so vibrant and fresh! I mixed it with a little of the vegan yogurt (tofu based) and thoroughly enjoyed it.
After grabbing some of the curry soup and salad, we started going around the buffet. The first dish was a dhal (lentils) with zucchini. This dish seems quite familiar and is reminiscent of what I would expect to see at an Indian buffet, however, since the dhal is not in a cream-based sauce, it was definitely a lighter alternative. The heat on this dish also slowly creeps up on you, so you are able to get all the flavours of the dish and not just spiciness.
The butternut squash was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The butternut squash was cooked down to this perfect level of softness – it still had some bite but was also not just a pile of mush. What I really liked about this dish was that it wasn’t overly seasoned, so you got the sweetness of the butternut squash.
Another favorite for me was the braised kale and cabbage as it had a little tinge of heat but you still tasted the vegetables. There were layers of flavour and again, the texture of this dish was spot on for me.
As we moved to the mushrooms and chana masala, I was thinking this is another dish I recognize, but again, without a heavy sauce. The chana masala was a bit spicy for me, but I am not very good at handling a lot of heat in food. I appreciated having a chickpea dish since you’re not really getting a lot of heavy food, this helps in providing a heartier option but yet not something that will sit like a rock or immediately push you into food coma territory. I also really liked the addition of mushrooms in the dish, but I love mushrooms in everything!
The last dish on the buffet were the potatoes and green beans, which I liked quite a bit, but could not eat a lot of. The potatoes were helpful in providing that starch element and it was definitely more filling than I anticipated. I don’t know how many times I can use the word flavour in a post, but again, the potatoes and green beans were just packed with flavour and taste!
My experience with the vegan buffet at Narayanni’s was phenomenal and A. and I were both able to go back for a second helping of our favorite dishes (more butternut squash and kale/cabbage please!). Seconds of anything are generally never an option when we go for an Indian buffet, so this was kind of thrilling for us! After tweeting about my meal at Narayanni’s, several of my friends messaged saying that they loved Narayanni’s, especially because they offer lighter but yet (here’s that word again) flavourful dishes. All I have to say was “why didn’t anyone invite me to Narayanni’s before?!?!”
So What Would Argenplath Pay?
The vegan buffet at Narayanni’s is every Tuesday evening from 5:30 – 9:00pm and is available for the amazing value of $15 + tax per person! That’s under $3 per dish once you factor everything available and I would recommend going for vegan night – it certainly helps open you up to some of the different options for an Indian buffet and I don’t think anyone will miss the cream and/or meat in the dishes. Also when your food is not saucy – your instagram/twitter photos look beautiful and so vibrant (priorities?).
The vegan buffet is (like lunch) a cash only affair as it is very busy and there aren’t a lot of staff and credit card machines to hit up all the tables coming in and out. The roti and chai are also not part of the buffet, but rather something you can order on the side. I have heard great things about the pistachio chai, but the regular chai I had was also quite good. Thanks again to Narayanni’s to having us for dinner and we can’t wait to come back soon!