Sunday 17 December 2017

Spice up your life

Kinara has proved so popular in Clontarf that the owners have opened a similar venture in Ranelagh. Despite the Kinara Kitchen’s lack of interior illumination, Lucinda O’Sullivan had her tastebuds set alight, and loved every minute of it

Indian food is as popular in Ireland as it is in the UK, where chicken tikka masala is reputedly the most popular dish. Despite the recession, there are a number of new Asian restaurants opening around Dublin, including in areas such as Rathmines and Donnybrook.

A couple of these are new branches of Indian and Pakistani restaurants that are already well-established in other locations.

They include the new Kinara Kitchen; Kinara in Clontarf being the mothership. In Ranelagh, Kinara is also cooking up Pakistani and Eastern cuisine. Kinara is owned by Sean Collender and Shoaib Yunus, who also have another restaurant brand in their portfolio, Malahide’s Kajjal, a new branch of which has also opened in Rathmines. Kinara, which means “at the water’s edge” in Urdu, first came to the notice of people travelling along the Clontarf road when they spotted the restaurant’s imposing, turbaned doorman in traditional costume stationed outside.

Kinara Kitchen isn’t quite on the water's edge, but rather on a strip in Ranelagh, and it’s located near two other Asian eateries — the excellent Diep Noodle Bar and the goodvalue, traditional Punjab Balti. No doubt competition for business will be spiced up. The Kinara Kitchen is on two levels, and it’s all very smart and contemporary, with a bar to the left on entering and three or four tables, with a few steps leading up to the main restaurant area.

The Kitchen element of the name led me to believe that Kinara Kitchen might be concentrating on casual Indian street-style food, in the style of London’s popular Masala Zone restaurants, or, indeed, of London’s hottest new restaurant, Dishoom, in Upper St Martin’s Lane: a Bombay-style cafe doing all-day Indian food for well under a UK tenner. Oh, bliss. There is a wide-open gap for this style of place in Dublin.

But Kinara Kitchen hasn’t followed this path, keeping instead to a traditional-style menu, which is not the cheapest, but it does feature really nice food. Starters were mainly €9.50 to €10.95, apart from saffron yakhni soup at €5.95, aloo tikki potato cakes at €7.25, or tandoori lobster tail at €15.95, plus, at the other end of the price spectrum, a seafood platter for two at €34.95.

Mid-price starters included kakeragh — pan-fried crab claws; and tali wali machali — squid rings. I went with chilli scallops (€10.95), which I absolutely loved, and they took no prisoners as they slid down my gullet: hot, hot, hot. These succulent molluscs were embraced in a good coating of a textured garlic, ginger and chilli combo, with a fluff of dressed lamb’s lettuce to the side. Brendan had malai tikka (€9.50) — good, flavoursome chicken breast, marinated in ginger, garlic, turmeric and yoghurt, whacked in a clay oven and served with mint sauce.

From a wide selection of mains, including ethnic main courses and lighter-fare main courses which generally run from €18.50, I chose mughlai murghi (€18.95), which were delicious chunks of chicken, with coconut and aubergine, enhanced with ginger. Vegetable main courses are around €12. Brendan had a blow-out treat with sumandari badsha jalfrezi (€29.95) — lobster tails in a cracking spicy sauce.

Absolutely delicious. Pilau rice for two was €6. The food was lovely, and we liked the ambiance — the only problem was the lighting, which was so subdued, tinted and atmospheric that we could neither read the menu without the aid of my iPhone torch, nor appreciate the lovely colours of the food — the lighting rendered it all a murky, muddy colour. In their own interests, the owners need to get the lighting man in pronto.

We passed on puddings, and our bill, with an excellent bottle of house wine — Lantana Shiraz 2007, at €19.95 — and optional service, came to €104.75. Kinara Kitchen, 17 Ranelagh Village, Dublin 6. Tel: (01) 406-0066

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