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Nataraj closed and I am very sad. What happened/any suggestions?

I dont know how many others may know this, but Nataraj Indial Cuisine, a delicious indian restaurant on Bloor at Brunny (in the annex) has a "for rent" sign up. I am crushed, as I have gone there every week for years! I always got the chili paneer (which was spicy, sweet, and not chunky besides the paneer) with a subzi naan.

Does anyone know what happened? Is there any way I can find out? If they are moving or opening somewhere else, I would like to know about it! Is there any way to track down the owner or the chef to see what they are doing?

Finally, if anyone knows a place where you can get a good (similar to nataraj!) chili paneer orr saag paneer, I would be very thinkful.

Thank you for all your help!

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  1. I don't know specifics, but there was a disagreement with the landlord about the rising rent cost. I'll try and find out if there's going to be a new location.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sumashi

      To elaborate on what I wrote before, the landlord raised the rent by 66% among other things. As of now, there are no plans to re-open Nataraj any time in the next few months. If there was to be one open, it's very very unlikely to be in the same spot. Sorry to bring bad news to some of you!

    2. Trimurti is owned by some guys who used to work for Nataraj -- I have found the food to be almost identical in taste.

      8 Replies
      1. re: canadianbeaver

        Have to disagree here. Yes, Trimurti was opened by people from Nataraj and the menu was almost identical.
        This occurred maybe 5 years ago and the paths since then have been very different.

        Nataraj plummetted in quality and Trimurti becam my 'go-to' place - and I've praised it many times on this Board.
        HOWEVER this year, there have been downward trends at Trimurti - food quality has drifted down, and after 3 visits earlier this year I stopped recommending it. Meat quality was definitely down and the breads (Naan) were clumsy and almost tasteless. So much so that I re-tried Nataraj (after around a 3 year break).
        The 'new' Nataraj was significantly different (even though the menu was unchanged). Spicing had regained its complexity, but texturally it had changed the most, with the dishes being much fresher and crunchier. Almost a revelation. BUT the servings were certainly noticeably smaller. For me, this was a great improvement - my last 2 visits were very enjoyable - and it seemed as if the new chef had great potential - but, regrettably, I didn't post a new review (although I mentioned it in passing) as I wanted to be sure the new, higher quality was maintained and consistent.

        I notice that all the tables in the now closed Nataraj are still set - so certainly this was a 'sudden event' and welcome any feedback on the destination of the chef (in particular).
        Of course, I'll retry Trimurti (they've impressed on many past occasions) - but, based on other visits this year, Trimurti now resembles Nataraj only during its 'not particularly good' period.

        1. re: estufarian

          It really wouldn't be Chowhound if I posted something that someone didn't disagree with.

          1. re: canadianbeaver

            That's what 'discusion groups' are for. The more opinions the merrier - and help others decide for themselves.

            1. re: canadianbeaver

              True - but I don't think anyone is hurt by an informed and detailed disagreement.

              1. re: trombasteve

                I am not hurt -- I was merely musing that I would expect nothing less but a differing opinion. I understand I come from a different vantage point than most Chowhounders, in that I am in my mid 20s and come from a low income household.

            2. re: estufarian

              What is your go to Indian restaurant these days estufarian?

              1. re: haggisdragon

                It WAS Nataraj - as of last week!
                However, I'll give Trimurti another try.
                Other than that, I've been frequenting Segar (on Bayview) - one of the several (many?) places in Toronto that feature 'Indian Spicing' with more 'western' food (as opposed to 'genuine Indian'). Good layering of flavours (but not truly Indian). To my mind it's the best of the 'spicy' places in that general area that pay homage to an Indian(sub-continent) heritage.

                1568 Bayview Ave, Toronto, ON M4G, CA

                1. re: estufarian

                  Thanks, I read some of the thread you started on Segar. Sounds like a must try.

                  1568 Bayview Ave, Toronto, ON M4G, CA

          2. Have you tried Mt. Everest Restaurant which is just opposite to Nataraj? They are pretty good too. They have Palak Paneer which is similar to Saag Paneer.

            1. I am so incredibly sad too. if it was a landlord dispute, hopefully they can find a new place in the hood to re-open. One of the wing joints is bound to close, no?

              1. I like Banjara a lot - a bit west on Bloor (at Christie), w/ a second location now, on Eglinton east of Yonge.
                I usually enjoy every dish I have there, and they each taste different, versus places where all the sauces seem the same. their naan bread and paratha are also excellent.
                I think the price point would be the same as Nataraj

                796 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G1L7, CA

                2 Replies
                1. re: FresserGuy

                  It might have been simpler if I'd just copied my comments on the '2010 Closings' thread over here. I attempted to review what was happening overall with Indian restaurants.
                  One observation was (paraphrased) 'bulking up servings with rice' - and that's what I found at Banjara. I tried Banjara twice (both times more than a year ago) and had huge servings at a low price. That's one approach that can define a niche - and Banjara seems to fit that profile. Back in my student days I'd probably have been a regular.

                  I can't speak to any changes since then, but eating even a small serving of mushy rice doesn't appeal now. And ABSOLUTELY they used a few 'mother' sauces so that diferent styles of dish tasted almost identical. I don't recall the breads at all.

                  Banjara is/was maybe 75% of the price of Nataraj, but several steps down in quality (compared with the recent Nataraj).

                  But I emphasize the disclaimer - no recent visit to Banjara.

                  796 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G1L7, CA

                  1. re: estufarian

                    I went to Banjara recently - but I found it lacking in flavour to be honest. The price point is low, as estufarian pointed out, but there wasn't as much flavour as I usually get from Indian food. Here's my review below

                    Pics: http://www.cookiesandtomatoes.com/201...

                    House Mixed Grill ($14.95
                    )Mix of Tandoori Chicken, Seekh kebab, Chicken Tikka, Tandoori Prawn, Fish,
                    This was a good start of the meal since it had a bit of everything. If you have a larger table, make sure to order a couple so everyone can get a bit of everything (there was only one prawn!) .I especially liked the Tandoori Chicken, but found the Seekh kabob and fish so-so.

                    Butter Chicken ($10.99)
                    I wasn't really a fan of Banjara's version - I found that it wasn't very rich and the flavour was lacking - which was really the overall "blah" factor of this meal.

                    Baingan Bharta ($8.95)
                    Whole eggplant baked in Tandoor, mashed and sauteed with onions, tomatoes, a dash of lemon and fresh herbs. I liked this the best out of all the dishes that we had that night. It had decent flavour & texture.

                    Palak Paneer ($8.99)
                    Not bad, not great. I've had more flavourful paneer dishes. Nonetheless, this was creamy and good on white rice.

                    Lamb Biryani ($11.95)
                    A solid biryani dish - the fried rice was tasty but I would've liked to see more nuts. The lamb was well done - nice and tender.

                    Methi Naan ($3.75)
                    I must say that I'm disappointed as there was no discernible difference between this $3.75 naan and the traditional naan for $1.95. Despite the description, it was not stuffed - there were some herbs sprinkled on top that honestly did not contribute any flavour.

                    Raita, $2.50
                    We also ordered a side of Raita for $2.50 which is a cool yogurt with cucumber, carrots, and cilantro. It's pretty basic, and we got what we expected.

                    For Indian food, I personally think that Little India on Queen Street is far better. Their butter chicken has been my favourite that I've tried so far (compared to India Palace and Nataraj), they have a well-priced lunch buffet, and great dinner options.

                    While we didn't leave hungry, nobody was particularly impressed with our dinner. It wasn't a bad experience - the food just didn't satisfy the Indian food craving. When I think Indian, I think "lots of flavour" and unfortunately, Banjara did not deliver on that front. To be fair, the prices aren't too bad . The service could have been better as we had a hard time flagging them down to order and get the bill.

                    The only time that I would try Banjara again would be for their free delivery over $30. I can see that coming in handy for late night Indian cravings when I'm stuck at work...otherwise I say skip it.

                    Erin =)

                    Little India
                    255 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V1Z4, CA

                    796 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G1L7, CA

                    India Palace
                    257 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V1Z4, CA

                    1430 Gerrard St E, Toronto, ON M4L1Z6, CA

                2. I agree that Banjara is not a good substitute for Nataraj - the food is not bad, but I find all of the dishes taste vaguely the same with lots and lots of creaminess in everything which to me masks all those beautiful spices that should pop out in the dishes. Our new go-to place is Savera on St. Clair near Christie. It is wonderful - each dish stands out and the spices really pop. Dishes are not overwhelmed by ghee and the ingredients are incredibly fresh. The breads are also fantastic. We are addicted to the chicken vindaloo.

                  Nataraj was our go-to for years and then went severely downhill as estufarian has pointed - we tried to love Banjara but we just couldn't. Then Savera came along....

                  796 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G1L7, CA

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Arcadiaseeker

                    Thanks for this recommendation. I have a blind spot for St Clair since the 'big dig' and have totally avoided it wherever possible. I did attempt to check out Savera when it first opened - but it was closed the time I went with no opening hours posted and no menu either. Then the street car was short-turned at St Clair West, so the round trip from St Clair on a failed journey wasted a lot of my time, so I guess I blamed Savera and never bothered to return.
                    Seems like I need to overcome 'my issue with St Clair' and see what Savera is all about.

                    1. re: estufarian

                      Definitely worth another try! They also deliver most of the time. Let me know how you like it.

                      1. re: Arcadiaseeker

                        Well, I finally made it to Savera, with mixed reactions (mostly good).
                        This is a tiny place (holds less than 30, so make a reservation) and obviously family run. The good news first, the food was ‘very good’ and the spicing was authentic. Prices were a little higher than Nataraj (no more than $5 per person higher) but each dish was differently spiced, although my ordering spanned the menu – I didn’t order dishes that were similar to each other.
                        My main issue was the boring menu – the same dishes I see in every Punjabi (mainly) restaurant (although they are cooked better here than in most competitors). To its credit, the menu was fairly short (which unfortunately meant limited choice) which allows them to concentrate on the dishes they do well. The lack of choice is compounded by the fact that no beef is served (commentating from the commercial aspect, not on any religious convictions), again limiting the choices. Honestly, I don’t care if I never see another Butter Chicken dish again – but, of course, if I owned a restaurant I’d be sure to have it available. But I wasn’t going to order it!

                        There are some ventures outside the essential Punjabi dishes. They only featured a chicken vindaloo (and I find that this dish really requires a ‘sturdier’ meat – I usually order lamb), so I skipped that.

                        I would certainly return, in theory – but because of the limited menu not too often.
                        This is a worthy addition to the panoply of Indian places – and better than most but, honestly, if I have to drive for Indian, I’d divert to Copper Chimney on Avenue Road, where the quality is also good, but the choice of dishes is greater. Taking the TTC, I would ‘historically’ have been happy to end up at Savera, but since the streetcar renovation disaster I’ve given up on St Clair West entirely – that’s not Savera’s fault, but I’ve been turfed out at St Clair West station too many times and am just not willing to suffer any more.

                        PS I also hear that the Nataraj people are searching for a new place to re-open, so all may not be lost.

                        1. re: estufarian

                          hi estufarian,

                          when you say nataraj people, who exactly are you referring to? if it's the owner, i'm almost 100% sure it's a negative on re-opening... as for the cooks, then that i have no idea :)

                          1. re: sumashi

                            I heard it 'second or third' hand with the rumour originating from the people at Trimurti (who used to be at Nataraj before opening Trimurti).

                    2. re: Arcadiaseeker

                      I also found that Banjara builds flavour by butter-loading sauces, which is why they all taste so generic and greasy. I'm not a big fan of restaurants that do that, especially since I make much more flavourful makhani sauces at home with a fraction of the butter. My analogy is that Banjara is to Indian food as New Ho King is to Chinese cuisine. They have their purpose (i.e. drunken take-out), but there are better options if you want to taste good spice blends.

                    3. I was also crushed (and surprised) by Nataraj's closing. Paneer Jalfrezi was a particular favourite. I have tried Banjara a number of times and never been particularly impressed.

                      Thanks to the replies to your posting, I tried Savera Indian Cuisine last night (815 St. Clair Ave. W, between Christie and Oakwood). Much to my pleasure, I found it to be far superior to Nataraj, hands down. The flavours of the food were much more complex. The lamb was very tender. Medium spice level was assertive, but not overwhelming. The decor was certainly better (not difficult) and the service was helpful and attentive. The pricing is very similar.

                      The only draw backs - the restaurant is smaller and I can see how getting a seat at prime time could be an issue. (I went at 9pm). Also, the location requires driving for me, and I would prefer somewhere within walking distance, but I think the experience is worth the journey.

                      Overall, Savera is now our go-to place for Indian. Thank you for the suggestion! If only they would do delivery...

                      1. I'd really recommend Mount Everest across the street. The owners are nice, and the food is good (not necessarily in that order). The tandoori is really excellent most of the time, and other highlights include the palak paneer, baigan bharta, dal makhani, some Nepalese dish with bamboo shoots and black eyed peas, and the chana masala.
                        Really I haven't had anything on the menu that I haven't enjoyed.
                        The 'menus' for two (veg or non-veg) are also a good deal.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: dannyeh

                          I agree. The only time I've been to Nataraj seems to correspond with estufarian's lower period. So Mt. Everest became my place to go to. It's never disappointed me. One or two of the appetizers didn't do it for me, but the mains were always satisfying.

                          Mt Everest Restaurant
                          469 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S1X9, CA

                          1. re: missmu

                            Agree with the above comments about the great quality and service at Mt. Everest (though they self identify as Nepalese rather than Indian).

                        2. I meant to post this sooner but, I was walking past Nataraj a few weeks ago and saw a sign announcing the opening of a new restaurant in its place.

                          I forget the name.