If you love spicy curries, thin Indian bread, rice and an
explosion of flavours in your mouth, Navratna offers a
modernized north Indian experience. Housed within Taj Samudra, Navratna’s polished wooden tables and cushioned chairs offer seating more comfortable than the average Indian restaurant. Its walls are adorned with paintings depicting the Indian kings of old, parading on elephant with royal escorts. An elaborately carved wood panel covers one side of the wall close to the entrance, with an adjoining platform where classical music is played.
The flower arrangement was wholly Indian, with jasmines, the favoured flowers of the Indians, floating on short water glasses. The actual containers from which we drank were a bronze coloured metallic affair, with a unique Indian touch.
Lunch at Navratna was a sumptuous experience. Thali was served and there was a choice of vegetable, seafood and chicken Thali. Appetizer appeared almost out of thin air, as soon as we arrived. Raitha, mango chutney, mango pickle, papadam and Rasam was served complimentary to everyone. Papadam was soft, crispy and surprisingly, very less oily. With some chutney smeared on, it turned out to be quite delicious, although the pickle was a little too sour.
The arrival of the Thali took its own sweet time. However, one of the helpful staff explained to me that this is due to all the food being made fresh. They do not keep pre cooked food and heat it before serving, which is a definite plus for fresh food lovers, although Navratna is not the place for those folks who are looking to rush their meal as the whole preparation takes at least 15 minutes. Indian bread included butter naan and garlic naan which again had the right amount of oil and was soft and sumptuous.
The seafood Thali comes with complimentary dessert, halwa, curd, black dhal curry (dal makhani), another curry of corn and spinach, fish masala, kebab style prawn and rice. This is served with one complimentary garlic or butter naan and carrot halwa. The vegetable Thali comes with black dhal curry, mushroom curry, Began bartha, an aubergine curry, paneer (cottage cheese curry), a fresh milk based vegan cutlet and the dessert, rasamalai, along with one complimentary naan. It fills the air with delicious aromas, which makes ones mouth water.
The raitha, curd with masala, with its strong taste of cumin that rose above the sour flavour, proved to be fitting complement to the rice. Dhal curry was spicy, mushroom was moderate but could have been a lot better, began bartha was tasty but had a tinge of bitterness to it and the paneer was simply delicious. With rice, the combination of the curries was excellent, with their overlapping flavours. They go even better with butter naan and the garlic naan. The flavour of paneer surpasses that of all others, a dish that I would recommend any day. The cutlet was almost devoid of flavour, compared to the curries. But it was remarkably soft and melts in the mouth.
You are up for an overdose of hot spices with the Rasam. My immediate response was to take a mouthful of the rasamalai, the milky sweet stuff with a tinge of almond in it. The halwa, made of carrots was a dry, sugary, delicious dessert. This may not be for those who watch their sugar level, but it would make anybody with a sweet tooth feel like a kid in a candy shop. It would definitely sooth your burning tongue, after the rasam. The mixed fruit juice was too watery and was not exactly the most successful combination, with papaya and melon flavours
dominating over the others, especially considering the price.
The noise level was moderate with old Sinhala and Hindi music playing in the background. There was a soft hum of voices in the air, not high enough to disturb anybody. The lunchtime crowd consisted mainly of people of retired ages and white-collars who could afford a fancy lunch. If you are planning to lunch at Navratna, don’t forget to reserve a table so you won’t have to postpone tantalizing your taste buds due to a full house.