For a city where the word 'curry' appears in so many midnight takeaway menus, Dublin can be a surprisingly difficult place to find great Indian food by the light of day.
If you’ve ever enjoyed an Indian dinner delivered to you in a cardboard box, you owe it to yourself to try the real thing – and the real thing is exactly what they’re serving up at Diwali on South Great Georges Street.
My friend and I started our meal this Sunday night with onion bhaji and veggie samosas. Each of these starters came in a set of two, a refreshingly appropriate portion size amid the sea of giant starters on offer in the city at the moment.
The samosas were a standard done well, densely filled with creamy potatoes and veg flavoured with a hint of spice.
I particularly enjoyed the bhaji. These balls of deep-fried onion strips are not for the health conscious, but, if you’re willing to ignore your diet for the night, they’re worth adding to your meal. They were crispy and light and, tossed with cumin seeds and mild spices, much more interesting to eat than your standard deep-fried appetizer.
For my main, I stuck to the classics and ordered the chicken tikka masala. I figured that, with all of the awards and accolades Diwali has won, they would surely do an amazing job of the Indian cuisine standards that people most often come looking for – and my hypothesis proved absolutely correct.
The chicken in this dish was so tender, it came apart at the touch of a fork and was an almost literal incarnation of the phrase “melt in your mouth.” I’ve hardly ever seen any meat prepared so well, in any type of cuisine.
In many of the Indian dishes I’ve had, the meat has been nearly an afterthought, as the sauce is the star of the meal and the meat is primarily just its vehicle. With this meal, the chefs had clearly put just as much effort into perfecting the chicken as they had in perfecting the sauce, and it really took the dish to a whole other level.
Of course, that’s not to downplay how great the sauce was. It was a lovely, creamy complement to the tender chicken, and mild enough that you could really taste the tomatoes and cashews that went into it.
The only problem I had with the dish was that it had started to get a bit cold by the time I reached the end – but that may just be because I spent fifteen minutes ranting to my friend about how delicious everything was when I should have been actually eating.
My friend was feeling more ambitious than I and ordered, from the menu’s selection of “sizzler” specials, the Rato Bhaleko – a Nepalese-inspired chicken dish served on a bed of onions and vegetables and, as advertised, on a rather exciting sizzling hot plate.
As mine had been, the chicken in this dish was fantastically tender, requiring nearly no effort to pry it off the bone. It was marinated in a sweet blend of yoghurt and spices that would have been fine on its own, but worked well with the side of ledobedo curry sauce that came with it, as well. Though my friend and I agreed they could have served this sizzler up with a few less onions, it was, overall, a great meal.
Each entrée on the menu comes with your choice or rice or naan, and I would highly recommend getting some of each to share among your group. The portions are large and easily shareable between entrees for at least two people, if not more.
I had heard so many good things about Diwali that I could hardly say I was surprised by how great my food tasted, but I was impressed with how thoroughly Diwali met my very high expectations.
To top it all off, the food was not only delicious – it’s also straight-up, absurdly cheap. My two-course meal (from a set menu special that’s available nearly every day at certain times; check the website) was only €17.99.
You need to go to Diwali. And you need to go now.