Calling your Indian restaurant Nirvana is like our parents having called us, first name – Bombastic – second name, Lover-Lover – you’re setting expectations high. Or risking that nobody takes you seriously. Now, if our parents had called us that it would be a gross case of false advertising (we’re average, at best), while the recently reinvented Indian restaurant in Vienna’s first that goes by the name Nirvana does come damn close to living up to its name.
Nirvana hides away down a passageway in the city centre.
You’ve got to pay attention to a sign that directs you down a passageway, which will lead you to Nirvana…the restaurant, not that ultimate state of happiness Indian religions speak of.
While it’s got the nondescript front of an accountant’s office, the place lets off a warm, inviting glow from the inside-out.
It’s been a lunch haunt for the business crowd for years, but a recent menu makeover – including fun and original soulful twists on Indian cuisine – has Nirvana reaching for the prize as one of the most surprisingly original Indian dining experiences in town.
Curries are only the beginning here. Fresh, original takes on Indian street food is where the Nirvana menu excels in introducing you to the rich cuisine from all over the country. With most Indian places specialising in one region, this turned our travel-loving tastebuds on.
Vrunda – wife, mother, talented cook and one half of Nirvana’s couple outfit – mixes philosophy and food at the table, explaining the thoughts inspiring the food on our plates.
‘ Today’s world is all about fusion – my kids live here in Vienna and speak many languages and live out so many cultures – it’s all about fusion…and so is our menu.’
Vrunda charms with the food, while her husband Pawan is on the floor charming the guests with an honest warmth and charisma. It is obvious – this is their passion, their livelihood, their lifelong project in which they invest their hearts. Only good things can come from this. especially when somebody in the mix has a way with flavours as Vrunda.
The restaurant has been around for years, but changes were needed, according to Pawan, as guests tastes were changing.
So changes came.
This led to dishes like the Gunpowder Gambas making an appearance in the menu – jumbo prawns powdered in some heavenly mix of spices involving lentils, mustard seeds, curry leaves…it was explained to us, but the details became irrelevant somehow when we started stuffing the 3rdone into our mouth in a fit of ignorant bliss.
These can be located in the ‘must haves…’ starters section of the menu.
Pay attention and do as the menu says. They ARE a must have. Alongwith the Mumbai S.P.D.P – crispy balls filled with chickpeas and potatoes, topped with lashings of chutneys. You’ll want to obey the ‘Must have…’ on these too.
It’s love at first whiff when the curries arrive on the table.
The signature curries are the stuff of a recipe passed down generations in Vrunda’s family, and if we could, we’d go back in time and kiss her grandmother for giving us Vrunda and the curries. Each single one is made fresh, from scratch, upon order.
And some of them come with funky names, like the Bollywood Beats – a curry hailing from Bombay.
Tastes funky too.
Funky in a good sense. Not funky in the sense of the dish we made one Sunday from all of the leftovers in the fridge ‘cause all the shops were closed.
That will teach us to plan better.
Vegetarians and vegans are taken care of here.
In a big way.
Even if you typically prefer goat, or cow in your curry, you’ll be missing out if you don’t venture into the veggie dishes. The Indian cheese floating about in the spinach curry of the Palak Paneer made us rethink how we will judge a dish that looks like green sludge in the future.
If you dine Indian for the thrill of the spice, you’ll be delighted here when your waiter asks – medium spice? Spicy? Or Indian spicy? We went spicy with a curry which proved that they’ll take your preferences seriously.
You should cover your table in dishes to share – yes, no stabbing any hands encroaching your plate here. Sharing a meal is the way to go. But whatever you do, leave room for desert. The Gajar Halwar strudel with Indian ice cream is a fusion you’ll want to try.