New restaurant, new taste for Auburn

AUBURN — Other restaurants have come and gone in the high-profile spot downtown, but two Nepalese businessmen are introducing food that corner hasn’t seen yet.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Business partners Pramod Shrestha, left, and Nabin Naral had a soft opening of their new Arabian restaurant, Narals, on Friday night at the corner of Court and Main streets in Auburn. The eatery will feature Arabic, Greek and Western cuisines like falafel, roast quail, and dajaj mhammar.

Roasted chicken mandhi. Samak mali. Baked tufah.

And, they’re bringing belly dancers.

“I love to get this place going, I think people here will like it,” Nabin Naral said a day before Friday’s soft opening at Narals Experience Arabia.

The restaurant's specialty: A mix of Arab, Greek and Western cuisine.

Naral and Pramod Shrestha grew up together in Nepal. Shrestha lives in Portland. The younger Naral lives in Singapore where he’s opened several restaurants with a similar menu.

After an expansion opportunity in the states fell through last summer, Naral paid a visit to Shrestha.

“He said, ‘Why not do it in Maine?’” Naral said. “I said, ‘Why not?’ Because of him, I came here.”

Shrestha, who has 10 years of restaurant experience, said, “I saw what he does in Singapore and I really loved it.”

The space at 34 Court St. was the first they looked at. The size and location were a good fit, and they’ve been renovating since November.

“New lighting, new rugs, setting up the kitchen my style,” Naral said.

He’d like to bring one of his chefs over from Singapore. For now, he’s teaching staff here his recipes. They’ve hired 15 people to start the restaurant.

With seating in one room for 90 and a second space for a gift shop and entertainment, Naral said he’d like to create a family-friendly atmosphere. The restaurant will serve lunch and dinner seven days a week, open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, belly dancers will walk around the tables, performing, from 7 to 9 p.m. A DJ takes over after that.

“A stage we do not need,” Naral said. “If people want to dance, we can move some tables.”

The corner of Main and Court streets has been home to No Tomatoes, Midnight Blues, Uncle Troy's, Lavish Nightclub and, most recently, O'Shea's, but still, the business partners are optimistic. Naral said they want to stand out for customer service and touches in the kitchen like spices from overseas and cooking in olive oil.

They plan a daily $7.90 lunch special that includes the house soup and dessert with main courses like Falafel (pita stuffed with vegetables and tahina sauce), Dajaj Mahammar (Moroccan roasted chicken) and lamb stew.

Naral said he’ll stay local for five to six months then use Singapore as a home base to scout more restaurant locations in Indonesia and Australia.

“Every few months, I’ll be here. I want to make sure everything is all right, people are happy,” Naral said. But, he might not be so anxious to return in winter. “I’m freezing now.”

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 's picture

When I think family-friendly

When I think family-friendly atmosphere ... I think belly dancer.

Mike Lachance's picture

exactly Leo... (see my post

exactly Leo... (see my post below) there is a potential problem there.... (ya think?)

 's picture

bellydancerssss! cool!

bellydancerssss! cool!

 's picture

My husband and I ate at the

My husband and I ate at the new Firehouse restaurant for the second time tonight. The food was good and the service was good also. It is a locally owned restaurant and we will go back again.

 's picture

I forgot to say for those

I forgot to say for those that don't know that it is just before the bridge in New Auburn in what I believe is the old Andy's baked bean place on Broad St.

Mike Lachance's picture

Advice from someone in the

Advice from someone in the sign industry:
BETTER SIGNAGE! (Lower, along fascia like Gritty's)

You MUST let passers-by SEE into the restaurant and see people dining. This will create an inviting image.

Belly dancers are nice for the cultural aspect, but this is does not neccesarily create a "family friendly" atmosphere. Perhaps the dancers would be more acceptable after 9pm only.

Ive watched restauarnt after restaurant FAIL in this spot for over 5 years. The problems are always the same: Poor signage, blacked-out windows, and lack of a clear understanding of what the restaurant is all about and who it is targeted towards.

 's picture

Another restaurant?

Well...yes it is "new" to us in the sense that we've never had a restaurant in the L/A area that is a mix of Arab, Greek and Western cuisine...and replete with belly dancers no less! However, I'm not a big fan of more restaurants in the area, regardless of the cuisine. We have far too many restaurants in the L/A area. We need to move to a production-oriented society again, as in the days of Industrialization. That's more important to a community in this dire economic state that's struggling with finding and keeping jobs than a restaurant that might perhaps hire 6-12 people for their staff. L/A needs to create jobs that hire huge clusters of people, perhaps 300 to 600, or more, and bring in the companies that actually manufacture things. It sounds insensitive to not welcome this "new" restaurant into the community, but I'd really rather see a job come in that uses more of a sizable work force, actually makes something, and ships it out of state or out of country for profit. That's my take on it and I'm sticking to it.

Mike Lachance's picture

I do agree Roger that L-A

I do agree Roger that L-A needs the *real* jobs, production oriented, etc. But I disagree that we dont need more dining establishments. 30 years ago L-A was rife with a vast amount of dining opportunities; and these werent chain restaurants- they were almost all locally owned businesses. (Sims, Sings, Mac's Variety, Steckinos, Steer House, Happy Jacks, etc, etc etc) Today we're limited to a handful of locally owned establishments and a bunch of awful chain restaurants... (Applebee's is the worst, 99 isnt much better... TGIF and Ruby Tuesdays are marginal, and Longhorn is over-the-top corporate...) what we have left are 2 or three GREAT local restaurants and the rest a gaggle of fast-food joints...

More production oriented jobs: YES.
More local dining establishments: YES

The selections are terrible with such a limited choice. Mother India was over-due (and very appreciated)


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