Nirvana Sweet House Restaurant and Hall – Calgary, AB


Nirvana Sweet House, Restaurant, and Hall
#1009-5075 Falconridge Blvd.NE
Calgary, AB T3J 3K9
(403) 590-9797

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.

img_0761

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.

img_0769

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.

img_0770

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,

img_0774

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.

Nirvana Sweet House Restaurant and Hall on Urbanspoon

Advertisements

Mango Shiva Indian Bistro and Chai Bar – Calgary, AB


Mango Shiva Indian Bistro and Chai Bar
218 8 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB T2P 1B5
(403) 290-1647
Open Mon-Sat 11am-3pm, 5pm-10pm

Progress: advancement. gradual improvement or growth or development.

As any city like Calgary grows, there are many changes that occur. Sometimes, this can be viewed positively such as the influx of new people, ideas, and cultures. Sometimes, it can be viewed negatively, say through rising crime or the demolition of old character buildings to make way for new skyscrapers. Whether or not this is progress, is a personal value judgement. So when the building that originally housed Mango Shiva was torn down, to make way for a skyscraper, I figured that would be the end of the slightly upscale East Indian eatery that was Mango Shiva – a restaurant that housed some fond memories for me.

Well, Mango Shiva is back. Moved from their original location next to Cowboys, down onto Stephen Avenue into the heart of the downtown core, they’ve been reincarnated as an Indian Bistro and Chai Bar. Definitely an upscale location, the new room is impressive in a modern sort of way – dark woods, polished surfaces, shiny fixtures. You know, progress.

Now the original Mango Shiva was always a bit different from your average Indian restaurant. Their decor seemed slightly more upscale – everything seemed cleaner, if not a bit eclectic. They used higher quality ingredients, service was a bit better, and of course, prices were slightly higher as well. But it was always a safe choice. You heard few complaints about Mango Shiva.

The new Mango Shiva has taken the original concept, and accelerated it by ten. Not only is the decor very modern, but service is excellent, the ingredients are very fresh, and of course, the prices are slightly higher. Menu items have a modern interpretation to them. Progress.

I was there on a Friday for lunch, and I showed up right as they opened. “Do you have a reservation?” i was asked. Whoops… didnt think i’d need one. The realities of downtown dining that i’ve forgotten. I was politely told they were completely booked, but would be happy to serve us at the bar. Works for me.

Everything is ordered ala Carte, same as usual. The bartender, who was our server, was patient, polite, and friendly. Finally, my dining companion chooses the butter chicken – a choice i’m thrilled with, because i get to try it without having to eat an entire order myself – I am, after all, not the biggest fan of butter chicken. I choose the lamb chops. We get a couple orders of naan and rice as well.

Butter chicken ($17) is a good staple to use for comparison from restaurant to restaurant, as it’s as ubiquitous as pho sate, or ginger beef. The Butter Chicken at Mango Shiva is good. Not done in the traditional way I am used to, their modern interpretation has all the great elements of butter chicken – the richness, the depth of flavour, and the tenderness – just highlighted differently. They used whole pieces of chicken, that have been clearly marinating for a long period of time. There is an excellent balance of flavours – pepper, cumin, citrus, coriander, garlic and ginger, with the pepper, cumin, citrus and coriander flavours being most dominant. Not a lot of heat though. The sauce has a nice depth of flavour, and a heavy dose of butter/ghee. It’s definitely a thicker, more tomato-emphasized sauce, but together, they work well.

The lamb chops ($22) are good as well. Tender, though with a slightly dried out texture, the cardamon, cinnamon, pepper, garlic, and cumin flavours blend really well with the slightly lean cuts of lamb. Topped with a dizzying array of vegetables and nuts, the lamb is combined with a forgettable sauce, though still satisfying. The toppings bother me a bit as well, as they take away from the lamb. They seemed to be placed without any specific purpose or reason.

The rice ($2.50) and naan ($2.50) are decent. Nothing exceptional, nothing noteworthy. Fairly small sized servings for the price though (two orders of naan pictured).

Overall, Mango Shiva is a newer, updated version of what they’ve always done; good service, good modern interpretations of classic Indian food. Everything about it is very safe and familiar. Of course, the drawback to this is the food, while good, is safe and familiar. If i was to classify Mango Shiva as a restaurant, I would say it is the place to go when you are craving Indian, and on a blind date, corporate lunch, or taking your significant other’s parents out for dinner. It’s a nice room, nothing too adventerous, and you know what to expect. You won’t go wrong. While I generally prefer to be more on the risk-taking side of dining out, especially when talking about Indian food, there is certainly a reason, and a need for this kind of dining. Mango Shiva fills this niche quite nicely. Not exactly progress, but a good thing nonetheless 🙂

Mango Shiva Indian Bistro & Chai Bar on Urbanspoon