Narayanni's Restaurant
By Athena Raypold

From Café to Restaurant

After operating the popular Block 1912 European Café on Whyte Avenue for 15 years, the Naidoo family needed a new culinary adventure – one where they could feature Selva’s beautiful South African Indian cuisine, one where Daya could still create delicious desserts and pastries, and one that demanded less time of the entire family. Daya and Selva’s daughter, Youmashni, says running Block 1912 “was enjoyable but intense. It was from 9 am to midnight, every day, seven days a week. My parents needed a change.”

They discovered and purchased the location for their new restaurant, Narayanni's, in the Arndt Machine Shop Building on 81 Avenue. But, because it’s a heritage building, transforming it into a restaurant was a challenge. Another issue was how undeveloped their end of Whyte Avenue was in 2006. “People walked Whyte Avenue, but they didn’t get past the train tracks,” says Youmashni. Their traffic solution was to start a buffet that served a la carte quality food and, thankfully, it worked.

For more than six years, Narayanni’s has remained successful, appealing to vegans thanks to Tuesday Vegan Nights and to those with celiac or lactose intolerance, while also attracting fans of unique, clean, delicious Indian style food. They’ve won a lot of recognition from local awards like Avenue’s annual Best of Edmonton. Even though the restaurant is a lot of work, they close two days a week to allow for more family time. Youmashni says, "We even close and go for family holidays, and that is what is very important to us as a family – to have quality time together as a family."

My dad is passionate about food. My mom is passionate about food. It’s part of our family, feeding. When you feed someone it’s such a joy. - Youmasni Naidoo, manager
Narayanni's is located just off of Whyte Avenue, in the Old Strathcona district.
Narayanni's holds a monthly vegan night featuring an all-vegan buffet.

The Goddess of Abundance

Pronounced na-ryan-knees, the idea for the restaurant’s name came from Youmashni. “Narayanni is the Goddess of Abundance," she says. "One day, we were thinking of names in my mom’s kitchen and I said, ‘You know, Mom, why don’t you name it Narayanni’s because your kitchen is always abundant, and it’s your first grandchild; it’s a perfect name.’"

The restaurant even has a star in the ceiling, because the goddess Narayanni sits in one. "It’s not just prosperity abundance or material abundance; she’s the goddess of abundant luck, abundant love, abundant joy, abundant peace," says Youmashni. In addition to the beautiful ceiling star, Narayanni also sits atop the fireplace’s mantel.

Narayanni's is named after Narayanni, the Goddess of Abundance
Narayanni's is located in a renovated historic building just off of Whyte Avenue.

Food is Family

The Naidoos are an Indian family from South Africa. Selva and Daya’s grandparents were brought over, along with many other Indians, to South Africa to farm sugar cane as indentured labourers. Selva’s father passed away when she was quite young and Selva’s mother, a widow with young children “started a masala business," says Youmashni. "She would roast and grind all the spices and sell it, and that’s how she supported her family. And, then she taught my mom to make the masala … That’s why [Narayanni’s] cooking is different; all the spices are roasted and ground in-house.” In fact, Narayanni’s even sells Selva’s unique masala spice, as well as her famous homemade Chai spice, just like Youmashni’s grandmother did.

For the Naidoos, their buffet is less about quantity and more about quality. Daya has always been a firm believer that the food they serve must meet his family’s standards – if they want to eat it, others will too. A creative chef who utilizes only the freshest ingredients, Selva’s buffet offerings often change and evolve. One day, her chana masala is made with spinach, the next, zucchini.

Selva relishes feeding others; she takes such pleasure out of people enjoying her cooking. So much so that customers’ enjoyment outweighs any cost concerns associated with the buffet. “My dad is passionate about food. My mom is passionate about food. It’s part of our family, feeding," says Youmashni. "When you feed someone it’s such a joy. When all the food is finished in the restaurant and she has to cook some more, she’s so happy, even if it’s crazy busy, she’s happy they’re enjoying it.”

Narayanni's has won numerous awards, including Best Indian food from Avenue magazine.
Narayanni's also sells their homemade masala and Chai spices for customers to take home.
Close menu
Subscribe to YP Newsletter