You might not know The Chameleon – but you've probably walked past it dozens of times.
Located on one of the small alleys running from Temple Bar to the quays, in between The Quay Pub and the Ha'penny Bridge Inn, this place specialises in Indonesian cuisine – and we decided to give the signature rijst tafel a whirl to see what all the fuss is about.
Here are eight things about this dish – four warnings, and four plaudits – that will help you make the most of your trip to this sweet little joint.
1. Warning: It will confuse you
Chameleon serves its food in the traditional Dutch style of preparation for Indonesian cuisine. Didn’t know such a thing existed? You’re not alone. Essentially, rijst tafel consists of a set list of six to eight small dishes presented all at once along with some rice and sauces. One rijst tafel serves one person.
2. Plaudit: It will confuse you!
Each dish in my Java rijst tafel tasted completely unlike anything I’d ever eaten before. The confit pork belly tasted fruity, the chicken satay had the texture of hand-ground nut butter...what was I even eating?!
I was confused by every dish, and I loved it.
3. Warning: The seven dishes don't go as far as you think they will
Every person in the restaurant, me included, first tried to order one rijst tafel to share between two people. There’s no way one person needs seven dishes, right? Wrong. A few of the six to eight are sides like steamed veg and salad, and each dish really is tiny. You can certainly give away a few bites of your rijst tafel without going hungry, but you’ll both leave hungry if you try and split it evenly between two people.
4. Plaudit: The crab cake was the best I’ve ever had
The Java rijst tafel comes with an “otak otak,” a crab cake with haddock, Asian herbs, chilli and mango dip. Of all the dishes, this was by far the best. It was lighter than air – the consistency was almost like a creamy mash – but crisped beautifully on the outside, and simply divine with the mango dip.
5. Warning: If you want customisation, sit downstairs
In the upstairs portion of the restaurant, you can only order the set rijst tafel menus.
Each rijst tafel offers a totally different set of dishes, and, as they all looked delicious, it would have been great to mix and match. You can’t mix and match upstairs. Downstairs, in their Asian tapas “Spice Bar” section, you can.
6. Plaudit: The curry hits the spot
The crab cake, pork belly, and chicken satay skewer were served on one large plate and seemed to be the focal point of my rijst tafel. With the effort put into those three, I figured the kari java, a fairly standard looking curry dish, would be almost an afterthought. But it was excellent, as well. The cinnamon in the sauce made it stand out from normal curry fare, and the lamb and sweet potato were a perfect combination.
7. Warning: Chameleon is very romantic
It’s decorated Indonesian style and feels vaguely like the inside of an Alice in Wonderland-style drug dream. Lots of string lights and deep purples. Canopy curtains. The option to sit on beds of pillows on the floor. Great for a fifth or sixth date. Catastrophic for a “meet the parents.”
8. Plaudit: The meats are all-Irish and all-delicious
The meat and fish at Chameleon ticks every foodie box: local, free-range, sustainable, et cetera, et cetera. But it’s not just talk; each of my meats was cooked to perfection and tasted great.
- Lower Frownes St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2