Refuel: Kinara Kitchen
17 Ranelagh Village, Ranelagh, D6.
It would be easy to walk by Kinara Kitchen. It's squashed into a row of ethnic restaurants on the main drag in Ranelagh. But hark -- what's this? A tall resplendent-looking fellow, dressed in ceremonial garb, crowned with a rather magnificent turban.
And lo -- he is opening a door, inviting Ma Flannery and me to step inside, to stay a while, to rest our bones and revive our world-weary spirits. For within, memsahib, there lies a feast fit for the maharaja himself.
But, of course, that's not what happened. The minute I copped the welcome party, my instinct was to keep on walking. I don't mean to suggest that the gentleman tried to hustle us inside. He was, in truth, gentlemanly, not a touch of the hawker about him. I suppose there are people who like this kind of sidewalk cabaret, but I am not one of them. In my thinking, the turbaned concierge is to Indian restaurants what the leprechaun is to Irish pubs -- proof that the owners have sold their souls ... and now they're coming after yours.
Ma Flannery begged to differ. "It's rare you see a man take such pride in his appearance," she said. "I'd say he sleeps in silk pyjamas." The point, missed, was duly dropped. I turned my attention instead to explaining the different echelons of Indian and Pakistani restaurants that exist in the city. For railway-station food -- say masala dosa -- you'd go to Delhi O'Deli on Moore Street; for a good curry, you'd try Konkan in Dublin 8; and if it was a special occasion, you might go to Ananda in Dundrum. Ma Flannery nodded sagely. "A caste system of sorts," she said, delighted with her own worldliness. Then came the killer insight: "I'll say one thing for the Indians -- they know a good spud when they see one."
If ever there was a moment for a deity to descend upon a cloud and tell me I had been stolen from my crib by fairies and left in a bucket outside the woodcutter's door, this was it. Instead, a waiter appeared with a bowl of poppadoms and a troika of condiments. We ordered a glass of wine each -- pinot grigio for Ma Flannery, tempranillo for me -- and took to reading the menu. Kinara Kitchen ain't cheap, starters stretch beyond €10, while on the main-course menu lobster-tail jalfrezi will set you back an eye-watering €29.95.
That said, the early-bird menu offers plenty of choice, and it looked like very good value -- three courses for €19.95. It was Easter Monday night, but the deal was still on, so we took the gift horse by the reins. Ma kicked off with aloo pakora -- a glamorous take on a traditional snack.
The potatoes were thinly sliced into patties, seasoned with spices and a good shake of dried coriander, and fried until golden, but soft and pillowy inside -- homemade mango chutney gave them an exotic kiss, while a salad of cabbage and julienned carrot added crunch.
Champ kandhari -- lamb chops given the Uttar Pradeshi treatment -- were coated in a potent dust of chilli and turmeric, which tenderised the meat and sent my taste buds soaring. Cooked over coals to give a wonderful charred finish, they were delicious but frustrating, since the best of the meat clung stubbornly to the bones. Table manners and a red-lipsticked gob aside, they practically begged to be gnawed and pawed. Excellent, too, was the mint sauce -- hand-pestled to a pesto-like consistency.
The main courses kept apace. Our curries were presented in attractive, red, glazed terrines, with a steaming bowl of pilau rice which was cut with cardamom and wisps of crispy onion. Mirch masala prawns was a blistering red curry -- not for the faint-hearted. The prawns were plentiful and juicy. They were coated in a seemingly innocuous tomato curry, which concealed a fiery blast of red and green chillies, soothed by a spray of chopped coriander leaves and fresh ginger.
Lamb tikka masala was an altogether more mellow affair. Tender chunks of barbecued lamb -- robust in flavour, delicate in texture -- simmered in mild, creamy tomato sauce; a sprinkling of almonds giving a sweet nutty finish. Even the crisp puffs of naan bread had a touch of class to them.
There was no choice of dessert, which I didn't mind. My enjoyment of Pakistani and Indian restaurants is always tempered by the dreaded appearance of a laminated dessert list. Tarta Fantastica et al. In this case, it was home-made vanilla ice cream, studded with pistachio nuts which acted as a sweet and simple end note to what, without concession, was a thoroughly enjoyable meal.
Service was discreet and professional. There was no rush to move us along, even though we were late-comers to the early bird. Another winning point was the wine list, which offered more quality and choice than you might expect from an ethnic restaurant. Oh yes, things were winding down to their natural, happy conclusion, or so I thought, until I caught Ma Flannery throwing a playful wink at the turbaned concierge on her way out the door. Some people -- you can't bring them anywhere.
TYPICAL DISH: Beef masala garnished with fresh coriander and pomegranate seeds
RECOMMENDED: Mirch masala prawns
THE DAMAGE: €83.85 for two starters, two mains, two desserts, five glasses of wine, two coffees
ON THE STEREO: Sade
AT THE TABLE: Families
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