Putting a heady flavored twist on comfort food, Nirmal’s offers Indian cuisine with a touch of understated elegance. Meats are marinated overnight and slow roasted to tender perfection. The housemade naan has a toothsome bite and is finished with a light sprinkling of herbs. The vegetables shine, sauces pack a punch, and service is as attentive as it is friendly.
Whether you’re looking for a girls’ lunch spot, like my dining companions and I were, or a snazzy date night, Nirmal’s fits the bill.
Located in Seattle’s Pioneer Square district, the floor itself seems to be infused with aromatics. It is not. The boards were laid just months before the restaurant opened.
“The original floor sank beneath even my 200-pound frame,” Nirmal owner’s Oliver Bangera told us gals, patting his stomach with a smile. “There was no way it could support a restaurant filled with customers. The floor had to be replaced.”
Renovations didn’t stop there. The 1920’s brick walls are a testament to elbow grease. Tabletops are handcrafted from mahogany packing crates. “The crates came from India and we made the tables ourselves,” said Bangera.
Benches, surrounding the restaurant’s expansive communal table and window seats, are built from reclaimed wood. Lighting is kept minimalistic with single bulb sconces and chandeliers. Lofted ceilings showcase exposed rafters. Even a trip to the bathroom isn’t without a dose of intrigue. Accessing the upstairs loo requires passing through a heavy black door, into a pitch-black hallway, and summiting two flights of stairs.
Opened just five months ago by Bangera and his wife Gita, the restaurant is still a work in progress. (Renovations on the upstairs cocktail lounge are expected to be completed in July. With a capacity of just 40, it will feature a bronze bar and plush seating.)
Those watching their pocketbook will be pleased by the generous portion sizes and reasonable price points. (I found rounding out this foodie meal with a Dick’s Deluxe unnecessary.)
At lunch, you might be tempted by the 5-course Thalis. It features a little bit of everything – including dessert ($14 vegetarian / $16 meat). However, if you’re willing to share, I’d highly recommend splitting a few lunch entrées instead. They really are the star.
The sandwiches are wrapped in soft naan and spiked with horseradish ($12). The meat platters feature a trifecta of beef, chicken, and fish ($12). And, the a la carte “weekly special” is a far cry from the heavy handed of coconut milk curry with which most of us are familiar. Rather, its luscious texture seems to come from the vegetables themselves, teased from the slow braise of onions and peppers ($10 vegetarian / $12 meat).
Dinner prices were equally impressive. Chef specials started as low as $20. (According to our server, the specials could serve two.) And, regular menu items start at just $15.
With so many choices, deciding what to order could feel a bit overwhelming. I highly recommend asking the staff for recommendations. Or simply select dishes at random. With acclaimed chef Nirmal Noel Monterio in the kitchen, it will be hard to go wrong.
For more than three decades, Chef Monterio has been honing his skills. Working in kitchens throughout the world, he’s trained in both classical and traditional Indian cooking techniques and flavors. The result is cuisine that flirts with tartness and dances between bright flares of heat and sweet.
The lunch rush starts at noon. If you’re looking to linger, aim to arrive just after 1:00 PM.
Dinner reservations are highly recommended. Dinner service doesn’t start until 5:30 So, if you’re trying to catch the Mariners game, let your server know in advance.
And, don’t get too attached to any one menu item. Chef Monteiro has more than 200 curries in his repertoire and he’s constantly changing his selection.
106 Occidental Ave. S
Seattle, WA 98104
Want to discover more affordable Seattle restaurants?Checkout my full list of Saturday Steals!