MasterChef SA winner Deena Naidoo’s restaurant Aarya opens at Montecasino!


MasterChef SA season 1 winner Deena Naidoo has opened his restaurant Aarya at the Montecasino Hotel, the largest prize in the package he won for being South Africa’s top amateur chef, and valued by sponsor Tsogo Sun at R7 million for the two year period.  He renamed the MondoVino restaurant Aarya, giving it his daughter’s Sanskrit name meaning noble, honourable, dear, and favourable, and is a respectful way of addressing women, explained Chef Deena.

Chef Deena compiled a new menu, and has emphasised that it will not just be Indian cuisine: “Our menu draws from all the diverse South African cuisines. It will reflect the South African nation and what theMasterChef competition was all about, which was bringing people from diverse cultures and backgrounds together. Through this experience, I learnt so much about South Africa and our multicultural people. I’ve never been so proud to be South African. MasterChef was an amazing education and I aim to reflect my experiences in my menu.” Even though Chef Deena proved on MasterChef SA that he knows his spices, he does not want to be seen as the ‘curry king‘, he said.  The Aarya menu is ‘strongly spice and flavour-orientated’, and each dish highlights ‘core flavours and using ingredients in moderation’. He has included his butter chicken, which Chef Pete Goffe-Wood swooned about and finished the rest of on MasterChef SA, as well as his mystery basket dish of coriander-crusted lamb loin.  Starters include couscous salad, potted snoek with beer bread, pan-fried black mushrooms, with blueberry confit and melted chilli brie, peri-peri chicken livers, and Saldanha Bay mussels, reported the Sunday Times. Other main courses include pasta and pizza.  The dessert list includes deconstructed milk tart, strawberry and rhubarb crème brûlée, malva pudding, and cardamom panna cotta with gooseberry coulis.

While one can understand Chef Deena’s excitement about opening his first restaurant, and seeing the reward for his dedication and passion for cooking during the 18-programme MasterChef SA series, the media release posted on MediaUpdate gushes about his relationship with Tsogo Sun, one that did not start off well when Chef Deena was quoted by The Citizen as saying that the prize package and value was a con, denied by him subsequently. The newspaper persisted, and took the matter to the Advertising Standards Authority, but lost the case.  He only seems to talk via the hotel group’s PR department now, and it shows in the quotes attributed to him, not reflecting his gentle and humble way of speaking on TV: Aarya is the culmination of a harmonious two-year partnership that will offer the perfect combination of Tsogo Sun’s 40 years of experience in delivering top restaurant and food & beverage concepts to South Africans all over the country and my passion for food. It promises to be a wonderful experience for our diners, staff, and for myself. This is a partnership that offers me my dreams while allowing me to stay true to my first love – my family – and providing the backup and support of one of the country’s most experienced hospitality companies. It’s an extremely humbling experience”.

The newly refurbished restaurant has a wall of honour of the highlights of MasterChef SA, with photographs of Chef Deena’s fellow MasterChef SA contestants.  The media release does not state that Chef Deena will only be at the restaurant five days a month, having decided to continue his employment at Nedbank.  One hopes that Chef Deena has brushed up on his wine knowledge since MasterChef SA, on the South African Sommelier Association course, which was part of the prize sponsored by Nederburg.

Aarya, SunSquare, Montecasino.  Tel (011) 557-7007

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: Twitter: @WhaleCottage

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8 replies on “MasterChef SA winner Deena Naidoo’s restaurant Aarya opens at Montecasino!”

  1. We had lunch at Aarya restaurant Monticasino on 13 January 2013. What a disappointment!!! The staff was not friendly. The burger and chips which I had, was sooo pricy for what I got. The chips were overdone. My son complained about his burger as well – patty was underdone. My daughter had a platter for R135.00 – not value for money at all! The others in our group of 6 also had something to complain about. And the price of the drinks – so costly. We all decided that we will never go back. Will also inform our friends and family.

  2. Thank you for your feedback about Aarya Dionne.

    I hope you have passed your feedback onto the restaurant management and also on to Chef Deena Naidoo?


  3. Had dinner at Aarya tonight (19 Feb 2013) and it was fantastic. I had the friendliest waiting staff look after me and the food was cooked to perfection. It is on my list of places to eat at again!

  4. That’s good news Jonathan – the early reports were not so positive, but it sounds as if Aarya has settled down.


  5. Had dinner at Arya on Friday, 29 March 2013. I was extremely disappointed. I had the prawns. Prawns was still raw. I had been to Arya in December 2012 and had a great time. The food was excellent. I am so certain that this time, the Chef had been changed.

  6. Thank you for sharing your experience Vanashree.

    Doesn’t sound as if Chef Deena is in control of the restaurant and its standards.


  7. Hi Deena

    Please could you be so kind as to contact me on 0798947031.
    I would like to invite you & the Master Chef Judges to an opening & food tasting in Cape Town.
    The resaurant is called Pomo Doro Pizzeria & Ristorante. The fresh NY look about it is fresh, different and family orientated. The started are magnificent as well as their main courses. Their desserts are just delightful and will be certain to leave a good taste in your mouth.

    If you or any of the Judges are in Cape Town, I would love to have the pleasure of your company and to share your views of the culinary delights available.

    The restaurant is just beyond Pollsmoor and before the American embassy.
    18:30-19:00pm. 12th June 2013.

    Thanking you

    Kind regards
    Joy Greyvenstein

  8. Dear Joy

    This is not the contact page for Deena Naidoo – you can try to find him at Nedbank in Durban, or at Aarya at Montecasino in Johannesburg.


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