Arriving around 7pm on a Monday, we were surprised to find a good-sized crowd of after-work types and foreigners, plus a large party of students. They were spread out in Nataraj's airy seventh-floor dining area, which has knickknacks on the shelves, bench seats lining the walls, and a small fountain in the center of the room. Sari-clad waitresses rushed in and out, and pleasingly low-volume Indian music lilted overhead.
We had called the day before to reserve the special course menu, giving the chef, per the restaurant's request, a chance to prepare seasonal ingredients. The set comes with two drinks, three appetizers, three curries, salad, bread, rice, chutney and dessert, and we were a bit worried about being able to finish it all. But seeing as it cost only ¥5,000, we knew we'd be getting, at the very least, good value.
Our meal started with a paneer roll (¥880), our companion's a la carte appetizer choice. A warm chapati (soft, thin bread) wrapped around Indian cottage cheese, the roll was like an Indian curry burrito with an eggy filling. We wished there was more of it to go around, as we did the course menu's appetizers, which arrived together and consisted of deep-fried chickpeas, spicy pickled radish, and masala papadum. Small but intensely flavored, these three dishes had us calling out for a bottle of Maharaja beer (¥600). The papadum in particular was a standout, thin and crispy and topped with tiny slivers of tomato and cucumber.
Our palates were further cooled by the course menu's salad, a refreshing mix of greens, tomato, kiwi and apple topped with a light yogurt dressing. Next up were the three curries. One was the daily special but the other two we were able to choose from Nataraj's list of about 20 offerings. We went with palak paneer (spinach and cottage cheese, ¥1,300 a la carte) and baingan bhurta (eggplant with onion and tomato, ¥1,500 a la carte). All three were served thali-style in half portions on a platter with rice, chutney and bread. This latter was tandoori paratha (baked spicy wheat bread, a la carte ¥600), which was one of six on offer, including three nan varieties. The curries were all fresh and hearty, the palak paneer in particular impressing us with its creamy spinach and large wedges of cheese.
Full but not overly so, we finished off our meal with Indian tea and kulfi (ice cream, a la carte ¥600), knowing that we'd be back whenever we wanted to show off for overseas visitors-and that we'd be keeping the prices to ourselves.