Paulo Tullio, Food and Wine Net ©

A long time ago, as part of my education, I studied logic. There’s a concept that I still remember called ‘inductive reasoning’, which is arguing from observed phenomena to arrive at a truth. So, to prove my theory that all crows are black I look at as many crows as I can, note that they are all, without exception, black and say I’ve proved my case. The question, of course, is how many confirming instances do you need to prove the theory. Twenty crows? A thousand? A million? The possibility always remains that there’s a white crow somewhere that I haven’t seen yet. All I can say with certainty, as I spot an increasing number of black crows, is that each confirming instance of the blackness of crows strengthens the likelihood of my theory being correct.

Arguing from observed phenonema I came up with this theory: ethnic restaurants are moving relentlessly up market. The days when the only Chinese, Indian or Italian meal that you could eat was cheap and cheerful, are gone. Maybe it’s the result of the Japanese experience, which proved that there was a market for high-class ethnic cuisine. Increasingly I’ve found good Italian food; recently really impressive Chinese food; and now a very elegant Indian restaurant. Maybe three instances don’t prove my theory conclusively, but I’m going to stick with it.

Jaipur is an Indian restaurant and it’s been purpose-built. It’s very modern in design with glass walls, pale wood and lots of chrome. A high ceiling gives it an airy feel and although the restaurant is on a corner and the windows surround the room, there is no sense of being looked in upon, since Venetian blinds ensure the diners can look out, but are shielded from those who want to look in. It has a gracious feel and the design and colours are very easy on the eye. Good quality tableware, linen napery and comfortable chairs completed the room.

My guest was Miriam Thornton, who runs the eponymous recruitment agency, so there was always the possibility that she might have known of a real job waiting for me somewhere out there, but sadly I never plucked up the courage to ask. We took a table downstairs and found ourselves but a table away from Tom Doorley, who writes a similar column in another place. Tom and I had formulated a plan some time ago, before he moved to Cork, to review a restaurant together. The idea was that we wouldn’t compare notes, just wait and see on publication whether our ideas coincided or not. Being in the same restaurant on the same night - but at different tables - is not exactly the same idea, but it’s close enough to our original plan and I’ll look out for his review. The coincidences didn’t stop there; he’d just been to Killaloe for a review and so had I, and Miriam spends a lot of her time there too. Positively Malthusian.

The first task was to pick a wine, so with a bottle of mineral water to start us off I looked down the wine list. Unusually it’s arranged by wine type: thus there’s a listing for aromatic and fruity whites and another for Chardonnays, while the reds are divided into gamay and pinot noir, cabernet and merlot, and spicy reds. There’s a dozen or so of each, and being essentially a Gilbeys list I knew most of them well. It has an average mark up and about two-thirds of the wines listed are under £20, with House wines at £12 and £14. Miriam likes red wine, which is as well as it’s more likely to stand up to spicy foods, so I chose the Navarro Correas from Argentina, which I like a lot and which was listed at £17.

When our waiter came to take the order I was still undecided and asked for guidance. There were six starters ranging from £4 for the potatoes mixed with chick peas, yoghurt, tamarind and boiled cumin seeds, to £8 for the Seafood Rechad - a mix of prawns, salmon and crab. I liked the look of the chicken Tikka, the pastry parcels and the lamb - Purdah Gosht - so when our waiter suggested a mixed starter plate we both chose it. The main courses are divided by type: chicken, lamb, seafood and vegetarian, and they run from £10 for the chicken dishes and £11 for the lamb, up to £13 for the seafood. Interestingly the lamb is listed as organic, which is nice to see, as the price of £11 for the lamb dishes doesn’t appear to carry much of a premium for organic. Miriam chose the Malabari Jhinga for her main course, which is tiger prawns with mangoes and toasted turmeric, while I bravely went for the Laal Maas, which was described as a fiery lamb dish with cardamom, garlic and red chilli.

Before the starters arrived we were brought a bowl of poppadoms, which I confess I largely demolished due to an onset of ravenous hunger. Luckily our attentive waiter spotted the empty bowl and in moments we had a second. The starters were very tasty, and at £6 for a taste of everything, good value. I particularly liked the pastry parcels and the prawns. The main courses arrived with boiled rice for Miriam and fried rice for me. She was kind enough to give me a taste of her prawns, which were nicely flavoured and well-cooked. They’d gone gently on the chilli with my Laal Maas, so although it was hot and spicy, I didn’t break out into an inelegant sweat gasping for water.

As we were eating and chatting it was impossible not to notice the passing world outside the windows. Georges Street is not exactly city centre, but the volume of traffic and people passing by was remarkable, and this a Thursday night. An endless parade of pedestrians and traffic made it clear that we now have a capital city that doesn’t sleep. Inside the steady murmur of the conversation of contented diners made a relaxing mood, as did the very attentive service which left us wanting nothing.

I often need persuading to finish a savoury meal with something sweet and this time was no exception. I was relishing the tastes of the spices even after the plates had been cleared and I was in no hurry to eat anything sugary. Miriam ordered a sorbet and for some reason they brought two lots of cutlery. I took that as an omen and tasted it, much to my pleasure. We finished with a couple of coffees and the bill came to £68.50 not including service.

Paulo Tullio, Food and Wine Net ©