Nataraj Cafe, Camberwell

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?

Nataraj
Phone: (03) 9882 6872
213/215 Camberwell Rd, Hawthorn East VIC 3123
http://www.nataraj.com.au/

Nataraj on Urbanspoon

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12 comments… add one
  • love2dine June 27, 2012, 5:29 pm

    Lovely! Refreshing and delicious! I would definitely love this!

    Reply
  • CJ at Food Stories June 28, 2012, 12:45 am

    Eggplant chips sound amazing 🙂

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake June 30, 2012, 6:28 pm

      They were amazing. 🙂 I’ve had them at other restaurants before but this was one of the best!

      Reply
  • kitchenriffs June 28, 2012, 1:45 am

    I love reading restaurant reviews! Even when I’ll likely never visit the restaurant (a bit far for me 😉 I’ll sometimes look at reviews, but only if I’m really undecided about a place. And then I look only at the negative reviews to see where the problems might be. Often they’re things that I wouldn’t think twice about (portion sizes too big, too small, too expensive, etc etc). Enjoyed the post.

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake June 30, 2012, 6:30 pm

      Yes I’m the same, reading reviews just makes me more aware of what I can order and what I should avoid. If the restaurant is totally unknown to me and there are other choices, the negative reviews can hinder my visit. This experience though just shows I should listen to my heart more and less to the reviews! I’ve had plenty of bad experiences at restaurants with fantastic reviews too.

      Reply
  • Karen (Back Road Journal) June 28, 2012, 10:41 am

    I really liked your honest review. I think you were actually right on with Urban Spoons rating of 54% because you said “slightly bland, burnt chicken flesh, eggplant a bit too soggy, mains were average. I might still go to a restaurant like that but I would be warned before hand on items I might order. It is people like yourself that guide us to restaurants knowing what to expect.

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake June 30, 2012, 6:31 pm

      I totally agree Karen! If the negatives don’t really affect me and there good reviews as well that make the restaurant interesting, I would still visit. 🙂

      Reply
  • Joanne June 28, 2012, 9:08 pm

    I’m always a bit wary of online reviews because I feel like people with negative reviews are always more inclined to comment than those who had a positive experience, so the overall rating is skewed. Those eggplant chips look downright delicious!

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake June 30, 2012, 6:32 pm

      Oh I couldn’t agree more! I was actually discussing it with my boyfriend in the car on the way home about it and that’s what I think as well. People who have negative experiences tend to want to make it known which is a shame…

      Reply
  • yummychunklet June 30, 2012, 10:22 am

    Glad you stood up for the restaurant despite the reviews. Great photos!

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake June 30, 2012, 6:33 pm

      Thanks yummychunklet! It’s obvious that not all the food was all that great, but I thought the positives outweighed the negatives which is important. 🙂

      Reply
  • Daisy@Nevertoosweet June 30, 2012, 7:13 pm

    Wow i’ve never heard or seen eggplant chips before ~ looks great! I don’t think Urbanspoon ratings are always that accurate 🙂 great work for this wonderful review!

    Reply

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