I did 2 things differently last night that I normally wouldn’t have done when I visit a restaurant. Number 1, I didn’t read Urbanspoon reviews and comments. Number 2 (which is probably the more important one) I didn’t even read the name of the restaurant until I finished eating!
The first I wouldn’t call a mistake because I do find we all rely a bit too much (or at least I do) on others’ reviews and judgements before making our own decisions. More often than not, I’ve disliked restaurants that have so many votes and likes that I wouldn’t be surprised if the restaurant paid someone to write them. I let some of these reviews bias my expectations which is lethal mind you because when a meal doesn’t live up to hyped up expectations, it’s more likely to disappoint which leads to a suboptimal experience.
I hopped on Urbanspoon on the way home after having a great meal at this restaurant only to find that they have 54% likes! Now if I had seen these figures before the meal, I may not have dined there at all.
The second was a mistake on my part. I was on the phone chatting to my brother about how grotesque Prometheus the movie is and how thankful I am that I had watched Pixar’s new movie Brave instead of it that I didn’t bother reading the restaurant name as I followed Yuye through the doors. As this wasn’t a normal occurrence, it didn’t even occur to me that I didn’t know the name nor did it occur to me that I should find out. I only just realised after the meal that the name of the restaurant “Nataraj” referred to the Indian God Shiva in a dancing pose which is a very well known statue in India and also forms part of the classic Indian dance pose. If I had known this before the meal, I would have tried the curry on the specials board!
But the cafe itself was quite modern and didn’t feel at all like an Indian restaurant. The menu consisted of modern Australian and mediterranean tapas dishes along with sandwiches and mains. The tapas dishes really stood out for me but after much thought, I went with the char-grilled chicken breast on honey roasted eggplant, capsicum and chickpeas with tahini dressing ($24.50). I admit, I wasn’t as taken with this dish as Yuye. I know it’s meant to be char-grilled, but because the dish was slightly bland, the bitterness of the burnt chicken flesh jumped out at me. I would have been fine with it if it had a bit more taste. The eggplant was a bit too soggy and frankly wasn’t all that honeyed, although I did think the chicken was cooked well (with only a small portion a tad overcooked).
Yuye changed his mind at the last minute and decided to order a club sandwich ($16.50) instead of tapas dishes. It looked quite impressive when it came out but in my opinion, it was also a tiny bit on the bland side and lacked that bit of flavour. Maybe a bit more mayo or salt and pepper would have done the job. The bread was quite fresh and soft though and the egg was cooked well.
At this stage, you might think we had a bad meal, but you are wrong. Although the mains were average, the eggplant chips we ordered ($12.50) totally blew us away. I just couldn’t stop exclaiming ‘this is beautiful’ in between mouthfuls of this crunchy crusted, soft gooey centred eggplant morsels while nodding in approval. It was eggplant paradise when coupled with their creamy sweet chilli mayo. To top it off, it wasn’t all that oily as well.
My iced coffee wasn’t bad either. It was rich and creamy with just the right amount of ice cream. Although I was totally kicking myself for not ordering a latte or cappuccino because I was SO craving for a coffee! I’ve been quite coffee deprived lately.
If I had known the restaurant name was Indian influenced, I would have tried the curry and now I’m left intrigued at how good that curry would have been. This might mean a revisit is in order, along with a second dose of those delicious eggplant chips. I didn’t mention that the service here was fantastic. Both the waiter and waitress were attentive and noticed we had swapped seats with each other. The waitress always had a big smile on her face and seemed like a lovely person. I must have secretly made her crazy though, although she didn’t say anything, because not only had we changed seats, every time she walked by, we had changed our dishes with each other! We just like to share that’s all.
If you’re in the area, don’t be put off by the bad reviews Nataraj has on Urbanspoon. I’ve learnt after this experience (and many before) to take those reviews with a grain of salt since every single review is based on a person’s own opinions and experiences (very much like all my posts on this blog) at the time of dining.
Question time: Are you one whose dining choices are heavily influenced by other people’s reviews or do you just walk into a restaurant because it looks attractive?
Phone: (03) 9882 6872
213/215 Camberwell Rd, Hawthorn East VIC 3123