Oasis of bliss
Hidden away in the Dundrum Town Centre is an oasis where Lucinda O'Sullivan discovers that Michelin-starred chefs, exotic tastes and first-class service are all on the menu, along with a little bliss . . .
Each year a few key restaurant openings are eagerly awaited, and Ananda at Dundrum Town Centre is one of these. "Why would an opening at Dundrum Town Centre fall within this category?" I hear you ask. After all, it's not exactly D2, which Richard Corrigan chose for his Dublin flagship.
Well, Ananda has the involvement of another very famous London-based chef. The hottest Indian chef this side of Mumbai -- and very probably that side too -- Atul Kochar was the first Indian chef to achieve a Michelin star, while he was working at Tamarind Restaurant in London. He then opened his own Benares Restaurant in Berkeley Square, which also has a Michelin star, and he is now a very familiar face on our TV screens.
Meanwhile, in Ireland, Asheesh Dewan was building his Jaipur group of restaurants, now in George's Street, Malahide, Ongar, Greystones and, one my favourite off-duty spots, Dalkey. Asheesh and Atul have combined forces and talents to open Ananda, which will be run by Jaipur Group executive head chef, Sunil Ghai -- another extremely talented chef, who recently won the Best Chef in Leinster title at the Food & Wine Awards. Ghai has an extremely light touch with food, and could literally transform a shark into an exquisite swan on a plate.
Ananda is a cocoon that envelopes you in an opulent world of rich colours and immaculate service, and you feel, for a brief time, as if you have been transported to the warmth of the subcontinent.
The centre of the room is filled with rich, honey-coloured, waterlily-style chandeliers, while aubergine, lime and cerise velvet upholstery adds vibrancy and life.
Innovative starters (€7.50-€15.50) were sublime. Spice -crusted seared scallops (€14.50) consisted of three molluscs, skewered and seared, each sitting on a square of organic polenta, with coriander and cauliflower cream.
A duck tasting-plate (€11) had a tranche of silky duck confit studded with red shallots, glowing like rubies in a crown. A chunk of duck tikka sat on a fashionable smear of fig and passionfruit puree, alongside a stack of cooling pickled-cucumber chips.
A venison chop (€14), standing proud, was infused with flavours of star anise, cooked, chef told us, on a fantastic new robata flame-grill, and served with a rich, wild-berry chutney. Baingan bi katu (€9) comprised an aubergine steak, topped with crisp aubergine chips, and served with mustard yogurt.
Finally, a lovely light, elegant Ananda salad (€8) had artichoke hearts, rocket, goat's cheese, and kumquats and sweet chilli. Mains generally are €19-€25.50, with lobster in a Goan-style sauce at €35.
We had macher jhole (€25.50), a tranche of turbot on the bone, crusted with coriander and black and white sesame seeds, grilled and served with chunks of winter vegetables in a lightly-spiced stew.
Murgh firdausi (€19.50), was grilled chicken breast, stuffed with a mousse incorporating rose petal jus and pistachio, sliced into three chunks and arranged in a lavender-scented korma -- absolutely heavenly.
Sigri ki pasliyan (€22.50),
was lamb chop with fennel and ginger, charred on the robata grill and served with mint pesto, goat's cheese and rocket. Puddings are amazing. I had bibenca (€8), a Goan speciality of gram flour and eggs, lavishly topped with a 'glass' sail, a caramelised fruit ball, a skewer of seared mango, a vibrant red sorbet -- there are so many things at Ananda I still want to try.
We had a bottle of honeyed Hugel Gewurztraminer (€29), from the extensive wine list bringing our bill, including 10 per cent service, to €162.10 -- which I think is excellent value for a feast for three.
'Ananda' means joy or bliss, and this Ananda is aptly named.
Dundrum Town Centre,
Tel: (01) 296-0099