Ross Golden Bannon, Sunday Business Post

Mercifully Jaipur Is No Turkey

There is a handful of Indian words that will stick in Westerner’s minds, and Jaipur is one of them. But this restaurant will stick in my mind for other reasons too. It has a dramatic spiral steel staircase, the walls are hung with giant paintings in hot reds and oranges and the carpets are a cool blue. In fact, it looked as if the Anglo-Indian artist Anish Kapoor had dropped by to do a little interior decorating. This place is a stylish slap in the face to westerners’ effete attempts to reproduce the colours of India.

Things were looking good, and they got decidedly better when I realised my dining companion was going to be a cut-price date. The (assisted) Blonde Bombshell is pregnant again and so is not drinking. Phew.

Curry houses remind us both of our time in London, where they were the only affordable places to eat out. I celebrated my 21st in a curry house — though the black tie affair was a little incongruous in Norf London.

Over the years we’ve tasted the development of the Western curry to its more contemporary manifestation, and Jaipur is definitely of the modern school.

We ordered a bottle of Hunter Estate Sauvignon Blanc at £19, and some poppadoms. These are a must to nibble on while deciding what to eat and the strong dips of mint and tomato made these particularly good canapes.

I kicked off with the chilli milli at £6. This was a traditional pan-fried flat cake from Jodhpur. It was made with yam, runner beans, and spinach-crusted with semolina. It was topped with a nest of straw potatoes and drizzled with a mustard and yoghurt dip. I could have done with a little more rain than drizzle but otherwise this was a great start. (Note: Jodhpur is a place in India rather than a method of cooking something in your trousers.)

The Blonde had the doracha seekh, a combination of chicken and crab flakes chargrilled in the tandoor oven and served with a piquant mango and avocado chutney, at £7.50. This was a sort of seafood sausage, to which I’ve never really been partial, but this version worked for me. The chicken adds some weight and bite to the light, sweet crab and was a real treat with the piquant sauce.

Other starters sounded well worth a try, such as the sambusek — deep-fried pastry parcels filled with spinach, feta cheese, sultanas and pine nuts, served with sweet tamarind, tomato and mint chutney. Or the Kangari kebab — skewered, spiced minced lamb and creamed cottage cheese rolls served with a potato salad with a black grape and ginger chutney.

For the main course, the macher jhole is a red snapper dish and is billed as a tribute to Dublin. I didn’t choose this because of the company that evening (the Blonde is happily married after all), it was the rich list of ingredients which swung it for me.

The red snapper was cooked with black and yellow mustard seeds, green chilli and tomato bouillon served flavoured with onion seeds. At £13 it had very generous chunks of snapper. This fish was beautifully cooked and remained in firm chunks in the delicious, deep, rich sauce.

The Blonde had the Goan prawn curry at £14. The tiger prawns are cooked with fresh coconut milk, malted spices and palm jaggery (a dark, coarse sugar) tempered with whole coriander and smoked chilli seeds.

This was also a well formulated dish though amongst the generous portion of prawns there was the odd overcooked one. Nonetheless it lives up to its name — goan, goan, goan ye’ll have the prawn curry. Actually, you will.

The staff were friendly, efficient and energetic, quickly fulfilling the Blonde’s request for fresh chopped coriander. However, sometimes their enthusiasm led to dishes being cleared before they were finished.

The Goan and macher jhole sauces were served in stylish white bowls and seemed a little strong at first but in fact had many rich layers of flavour. The sauces might be a little hot for some palates, but the hotness acts as a curtain opener to the many other flavours, rather than masking them completely. We also ordered the assorted bread basket at £4.50, which included peshawari naan and coriander and garlic naan. This is a great idea as you can taste the different breads — but unfortunately our selection featured overcooked and undercooked varieties.

We had some excellently-cooked plain pulao rice but the puli sadam looked particularly tempting — lemon flavoured rice with split Bengal gram, mustard seeds, peanuts and curry leaves at £2.50. The menu includes a range of vegetarian dishes but no desserts. This seems to be the trend in New Indian restaurants, but I am sure with some imagination an authentic dessert could be produced to suit Western tastes. What about a frozen lassi? The yoghurt flavour would be the perfect end to an Indian meal.

The bill came to £70.50, which included one grim coffee and a large bottle of Ballygowan. This works out at about £35 a head which is the standard price for a Friday night out in the capital. The difference this time was value for money. Jaipur is a very welcome arrival in Dublin and well worth a visit — let’s face it, you’re going to need a break from all that turkey.

Sunday Business Post Review (December 2001)©