Nirvana Sweet House, Restaurant, and Hall
#1009-5075 Falconridge Blvd.NE
Calgary, AB T3J 3K9
In a highly competitive world, restaurants are always looking for an edge. Lots of new restaurants try and upscale old ideas, usually to mixed success. Classic cuisines are classic for a reason – they work. They taste good, they have the benefit of being tried and true.
In Castleridge, an area dense with East Indian eateries, there is one that stands out from the others. From the owners of Bombay Sweet House, on the back side of Castlebridge Mall, is Nirvana. While most of the eateries in the area are rustic, simple eateries that have basic food, presentation, and decor, Nirvana provides a different concept. Aiming for a high-end look, they’ve combined traditional Indian decor with a slightly modern, western look. Their goal with the menu is high-end Indian, with traditional dishes and ingredients.
The interior is a mix of modern and classic. One room, surrounded with pillars, is open, airy, and in many ways, cavernous. It is clearly used for banquets, as the vast spacing between tables makes it an uncomfortable dining experience. The second room is a well appointed room decorated in a more traditional “palace-style” Indian decor. This is the room used for service during regular restaurant hours. Spacing is still a bit awkward, but it does the job. I’ll be honest – as clean, nice, and tidy that it is, I don’t like the space. It’s definitely more banquet hall than restaurant. Each table is too detached from the others. I’d prefer a more intimate environment.
The food is your typical tour across India. Dishes that represent Northern, Central, and South Indian dishes. Geared for producing banquets, the ala carte menu is extensive, with roughly 90 items. Prices are actually quite reasonable – a great place to try a wide variety of dishes.
During my first visit, they had a buffet. They’ve since cancelled it, and it’s tough to compare buffet to ala carte service. However, my general impressions of the buffet were that it was good quality, well spiced, and well prepared.
On a second visit, we ordered strictly ala carte. Murgh Makhni (butter chicken), tandoori platter, paneer e shola, saffron pulao, and naan. I’m not a huge fan of butter chicken, but it was pretty decent. Good tandoori flavour, a nice rice butter sauce. A touch dry, but otherwise quite enjoyable.
The tandoori platter was good, but not specifically memorable. A mix of chicken tikka, paneer tikka, tandoori prawn, fish tikka, and kebab, the paneer tikka was probably my favorite. The prawns were dry, the fish tikka was quite good flavour wise, but quite dry as well, and the rest don’t really strike much a chord with me.
The paneer e shola were good, but the chick peas were a bit overcooked, and the flavour wasnt well balanced. Too much bitterness. Rice and naan were standard,
The owners of Nirvana bill it as “one of the finest establishments and first one of its kind in North America taking East Indian dining to another level”. This is a bit overstated, and Nirvana Sweet House is an overly ambitious project that doesn’t succeed on so many levels. While definitely clean, it is a cold, impersonal, and sterile space. The food is of good quality, and traditionally prepared, but fails to meet the billing of taking East Indian dining to another level. If i had to take the girlfriend’s conservative parents for Indian food on a first meeting, this might be the kind of place i’d go. The friendly, albeit slow service is good, it’s clean, and the food is decent. On any other occasion, I’d probably pass. It’s too bad really, as the food is good, and reasonably priced. It’s just not a comfortable place to eat. I’d rather eat at the Bombay Sweet House.