Classic curry house scores
This hidden rathfarnham gem hits the spot for taste
We parked the car at the edge of Rathfarnham village and walked down the street that seems to be Take-away Central looking for a restaurant called The Indian Brasserie. However, when we found it, I realised I'd dined there before, many years ago. In those days the Indian Brasserie was famed for an "Eat as much as you can" buffet of singular quality in days when Indian food in Dublin was best avoided.
Now it has been taken over by Avinash Mohan and Deepak Sarath of the good value and reliable Mantraa in Baggot Street, and the only sign of the erstwhile buffet is the long counter that presently serves as the 'pass' where kitchen staff interface with the waiters. Its presence does detract from the ambience somewhat, but doubtless it will be replaced in the fullness of time.
The other factor that detracted from the ambience was the meeter-and-greeter. We hadn't booked, assuming (correctly) that we did not need to, it being early in the week. He offered little in the way of greetings before vaguely pointing us in the direction of a waiting area, before returning minutes later, to point us to a table.
Fortunately, the waiters were woven from a bright fabric and the young guy who looked after us was a model of courtesy and charm.
The dining room has, thankfully, eschewed the flock-wallpaper approach for a melange of beige, brown and gold tones. Sibella commented on the generous amount of natural light flooding into the room, even in mid-evening.
When the starters arrived, Sibs enquired why everyone but us seemed to be enjoying a complimentary glass of mango lassi. Your man advised that the other diners were "on a deal". All the same, he went off, returning with a brace of the soothing yogurt drink that teams so well with curry.
We ordered the starter plate which is available as vegetarian, non-vegetarian or a mix of both. We took the last option. They were pretty good, the squid and the stuffed peppers being particularly tasty, the chicken tikka nicely bouncy. Which brings me to the onion bhaji. Cold, hard and largely flavourless, there does not seem a reason for the onion bhaji's existence other than as bulk. And if there's one thing the Western world, under scrutiny for obesity, doesn't need it is filling for filling's sake.
We both settled on lamb dishes, in contrasting styles, for our mains. There's an ayurvedic vibe to Indian Brasserie's cooking, using the whole gamut of hot/sweet/sour/salty to stimulate the senses.
Sibella settled on Koh-E-Awadh, described as "Tender lamb infused with cloves, pyaz, bayleaf, almonds and cream aromatized with cardamom and fenugreek". 'Pyaz', if memory serves me right, is onion. As portions were generous in the extreme I had a good opportunity to scam some of this dish. It was superb.
A lot of mild curries are almost icky-sicky with their creamy overlay. Here the creamy element was absorbed into the dish, serving to point up and enhance the complexity and subtlety of the spicing.
My own Aad Chettinadu, a Tamil Nadu specialty involving lamb, roasted fresh coconut and no less than 12 aromatic spices, tempered with curry leaves and mustard seed was satisfying. I asked for it hotter than the medium specified on the menu and my wish was readily accommodated.
We ordered a side dish of bindi bhaji, okra coated with a sauce made from seasoned chickpeas, onion and tomato sauce enhanced by ginger and fresh coriander. This made a pleasing contrast to the meat dishes. We accompanied the above with good naan and truly excellent pilau rice.
Afterwards I could have handled, just about, some kulfi or a little halwa but the dessert menu had nothing ethnic about it, so we passed.
The meal was very good value and could have been made more so had we taken one of the two courses/glass of wine deals. Dublin Indian restaurants can be grouped in a similar manner to football clubs. I'd put Indian Brasserie somewhere near the top of the Championship. Not quite Premier League like the revisionist Ananda and Rasam but up there with the best of the rest. But then, I don't always want chef-driven 'pretty-on-a-plate' food. Sometimes I just fancy a bowl of tasty curry, and, to this end, I'd be happy to spend my dosh at Indian Brasserie.