The Irish love affair with the delicious, colourful, spicy food of the subcontinent continues apace with the opening of yet another Indian restaurant which, judging by our visit in its first week, is really rather good.
This is Dakshin, over Kiely's pub in Donnybrook. Dakshin, Sanskrit for southern, reflects the southern-Indian heritage of the owner, Saji Mathew, the chef, Madhusudanan, and the food, which is contemporary in style. While it is the first venture of Saji Mathew on his own, he is very experienced, having been with the Jaipur Group for six years, working in Jaipur Dalkey, Chakra by Jaipur in Greystones and, most recently, in Ananda, Dundrum. Madhusudanan has worked in Rasam in Glasthule under Sanjay Vishwakarma, and in Ananda under Sunil Ghai.
The space was occupied for many years by a Thai restaurant, which had become jaded and tired. Now completely revamped with a bright bar area at one end, the decor features massive lampshades made here in Dublin from sari fabric, and filigree screens, which create a comfortable, spacious dining area, as well as breaking it up. One side of the room comprises long banquette seating, with opposing tables, where we were seated, with window views of the main street, and groups of young girls in micro minis heading for a disco. No doubt they left home in different attire!
To the food. I liked that the menu was not of the encyclopaedic, overwhelming variety, where you sometimes feel everything is precooked and then drowned in a wodge of heavy, Delhi-belly takeaway sauce.
The nine starters (€6.50-€12.50) included kesari jhinga: saffron and lemon leaf-flavoured prawns, cooked in a tandoori oven, with watermelon and mint salsa, and onion and tomato chutney. Pan-seared scallops are served with upma -- a southern-Indian specialty of semolina and grilled spices -- and a green-pea fondue.
I was drawn to their Dakshin Salad (€7) which had balsamic-anointed rocket leaves, adorned with grilled Black Mission fig sections, crispy, fried strips of plantain, very finely crisped cubes of paneer cheese, peppers, and cherry tomatoes. I really liked its freshness and varying textures. Brendan's "lamb cutlet" (€8.50) was, perhaps, a misnomer, as the dish comprised a brace of delicious minced-lamb patties oozing flavours of clove, curry leaf and ginger, with a little artistic stack of cucumber and carrot 'chips', which added a fresh contrast.
Mains (€15.50-€21) included 11 dishes plus two thali selections -- vegetarian or meat and fish. The all-time favourite, chicken tikka masala is there, as is lamb rogan josh, kadai chicken and lamb biriyani. Sea bass has a classic Keralan gravy with glazed carrots and tossed asparagus with tomato rice, while simmered lamb shank is Goan style, with star anise and green chilli finished with cocum, an Indian fruit. Tandoori chicken (€17) was substantial with breast and leg marinated with red chilli, garlic and yoghurt, and served with rice and a tomato-y tikka masala sauce. Mahsahari thali (€21) looked great, with the rice shielded by a conical pyramid presentation of dosa flatbread, keeping it moist and warm. Four little accompanying dishes were chicken kozhi varutha, Keralan lamb, Alleppey prawn curry, and stuffed potato served with a spinach sauce. They contrasted well, the prawn curry had a lovely, fruity sauce of raw mango, green chilli, ginger and coconut milk, while the lamb was rich and deep.
I finished with home-made kulfi (€6) -- an eggless ice-cream, which is always a favourite of mine -- cooling and light. We also had a bottle of Austrian Sepp Gruner Veltliner 2009 (€24.50) and a coffee (€2.50) bringing our bill to €94.50 with optional service.
22-24 Donnybrook Road,
Tel: (01) 202-8182
Sunday Indo Life Magazine