Sunday, 29 March 2009

Chameleon, Dublin

Recently I went to a friend's birthday dinner in The Chameleon in Temple Bar in Dublin. I approached the place with a sense of trepidation. I had been there twice before and found it thoroughly uninspired and overpriced. It was basically cashing in on "Hey look! We are cool and Indonesian!".

So I met my friends and we sat down and ordered. Rijstafel (#3) of course, with one added dish. My friend's wife is cœliac and she mentioned that to the waitress, which resulted in all dishes that carried gluten (which for instance is contained in normal soy sauce) being prepared separately and just as nicely for her. And what food!

I am not going to comment on every dish in the rijstafel, but I'll pick out a few highlights:

Chicken satay cooked on a wooden skewer and served with a peanut (katjan) sauce:

This was one of the starters. Now usually that is bland chicken covered with a more or less nice peanut sauce. Not so here: The chicken skewers were intricately seasoned and the satay sauce had a near pure peanut flavour that complimented the spicyness of the chicken nicely. Far and above the best chicken satay I have had in my life.

Tipperary slow cooked belly of pork in a ketjap manis star anise sauce:

This achieved the rare feat of having a dominant spice that managed to balance perfectly with the other ingredients and the pork flavour. The belly was so tender that it was nearly falling apart on its own accord, albeit a tiny bit too dry. Overall it can only be called stunning.

Crispy marinated squid rings served with a sweet chili dip:

Lovely, light and crispy with the sweet chili sauce forming a perfect complement.

Apart from the food what stood out was the incredible presentation and the excellent service. One of the persons serving us was clearly the chef, who was very pleased with our praise which we heaped quite lavishly, and said that he was glad that his work was paying off. My friends commented that they had only discovered the place after having visited Amsterdam and learning to eat Indonesian food there, and that not only had The Chameleon markedly improved in the last half year, they were giving the best Indonesian restaurant in Amsterdam a run for their money.

As far as I am concerned the only ethnic restaurant that they have left to beat in Dublin is Kinara on the coast road. That is one of the best possible eating-out experiences in Dublin - of which more later

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