Tel: 01-2960099; anandarestaurant.ie
INDIA has a population of 1.3 billion people, 122 major languages and around 1,600 other languages and before independence it had 600 separate states, it seems almost offensive to blandly call its huge number of cuisines ‘Indian’.
Nearly every town in Ireland has an Indian restaurant or takeaway these days but their menus are virtually interchangeable with the same mix of familiar dishes (mainly Punjabi). In Ananda you will see the odd familiar word (korma, kebab) but they are trying attempting something far more ambitious, don’t be fooled.
I’ve eaten in Ananda several times but somehow this is my first time reviewing them. The room is attractive and comfortable, staff are welcoming and supremely efficient, but the food is the best reason to go. Today I’m reviewing the a-la-carte but do consider the Tasting Menu as it is a thing of wonder and costs a reasonable €60 per person or €99 for a well chosen matching wine with each immaculately presented course.
Head Chef Sundeep Bhagat oversees Ananda’s menu as well as the menus in their sister restaurants Jaipur Dalkey and Malahide and Chakra in Greystones but each restaurant also has a head chef and dishes of their own — Ananda has the hugely talented (and ridiculously young) Karan Mittal.
I visited with a wine industry friend we shall call Ballerina and we began our meal with (110ml) glasses of Veuve Clicquot Champagne for the very fair price of €13. The Champagne was a fine match for the poppadom and contrasting selection of dips — lemon and mustard, cumin and apple, tamarind and an intriguing mustard flavoured yoghurt.
On a previous visit the wines matching the tasting menu were thoughtfully chosen but looking at the wine list more thoroughly for this review I found it a little lacking in excitement. It’s a solid list with a broad selection of wines but with food at this level I would like to see some creative choices — an Austrian Zweigelt or a Spanish Mencía for example — both of which would match the food perfectly. Having said that our Bouchard Fleurie at €36 was fairly priced and worked well.
Ballerina’s starter of Tawa Scallops with Cauliflower Korma and textures was beautifully presented and the sweet scallops were matched with creative flavours including fruity and lightly pungent chorizo from Goa (a former Portuguese colony).
I chose a popular North Indian street-food called Jaipuri Raj Kachori — a Puffed Semolina bun stuffed with black gram lentil dumplings, crispy potato vermicelli, soft onion, tamarind and sweet and sour chilli which is then drizzled with yoghurt. The dish is served cold but is zingy and refreshing with wonderful complex textures and flavours from the tang of the tamarind, a bit of heat from the chilli, sweetly tart pomegranate seeds, crisp lentils and potatoes and tender black chickpeas adding depth.
Mughlai Korma Chicken — a boned and rolled chicken stuffed with rose petals, wild mushrooms, pistachio, saffron and cardamom was fragrant and creamy but also subtly warming and cleansing.
I chose the Ananda Masahari Thaali which is intended to be a mini-banquet meal for one with a selection of meat, prawn and chicken dishes — yoghurt marinated tandoor cooked chicken, lamb with rogan marigold flower dust, fried potatoes with turmeric and cumin, prawns in a coriander and mint sauce and of course garlic-coriander-onion Naan.
And of course Dal, no Indian meal is complete without a Dal. Here it was Dal Tadka — yellow lentils spiked with exotic Jhakia seeds from the wild spider flower which is only found in the Himalayas. The seeds provide a spicy kick of heat to balance the languorous silky lentils.
Rose petal scented Kulfi has to be one of the prettiest desserts I’ve seen all year, a perfect dome of Kulfi dotted with tiny shards of dehydrated raspberry and surrounded by flower petals, coconut, pistachio and basil seeds — all providing subtle flavours and textures to match the intoxicating rose water fragrances in the Kulfi.
It is of course impossible to sum up the cuisines of a subcontinent with a billion people in one restaurant but Ananda tries hard, offering glimpses into the huge diversity that is India. This is ambitious and hugely accomplished cooking, beautifully presented dishes and gorgeous flavours — treat yourself.
Dinner for two including starters, mains, side dishes, a shared dessert, two small glasses of Champagne and a bottle of Fleurie, €158
Lunch: 12.30pm-2.30pm, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Dinner: 5.30pm-10.45pm, Monday- Saturday; 5.30pm-9.30pm, Sunday;
In a sentence: A complex and fascinating Indian meal with several dozen flavours to savour, all wonderful.