Punjabi by Nature appeared in Ranelagh about six months ago, and we have been hearing good things about it. The restaurant has replaced the old Punjab Balti, which back in the day was one of the better Indian restaurants, and may have been the first to put Balti front and centre.
I seem to remember a time before Balti, when tandoori was it, and people answered questions about the location of the Taj Mahal on national radio by saying it was in Clare Street; the site of what was the eponymous Indian restaurant.
All has changed now and Punjabi by Nature is a modern contemporary space, decorated in natural woods and green, with touches of Bollywood colour here and there. The menu is shorter that in most of the more traditional Indian restaurants, which is no bad thing; page after page of the same curries with different meats of vegetables is less than useful.
Here there about ten starters, a selection of dishes from the Tandoor, followed by about ten meat dishes, and then a similar sized choice of vegetarian dishes. Rices and Naan bring up the rear, and there is a small children's section.
I am having dinner with one of Ireland's top chef, Mat Fuller and his partner Lucie Simkova, who ran the front of house in .Citron in The Fitzwilliam when their restaurant won best hotel restaurant 2013. Lucie is an Indian virgin surprisingly enough, and isn't a fan of very spicy food, so we pick and choose from across the menu to suits all three of us.
We start with Jumbo green chillies stuffed with cumin and potato and covered in garam flour batter and deep fried. They pack a punch and are delicious, and quite different from the average starter. Matt has the Goan grilled scallops, with fennel and star anise, topped with roasted peppers and tomato chutney. This was the dish of the night presentation wise, the scallops were ins line in a narrow long plate, and looked as good as you'd expect in a fine dining restaurant. Lucie had the calamari, coated in semolina, fried and served with tomato chutney; the dish was tasty and pungent, and the calamari was tender and not too chewy.
Our main courses comprised the tandoori mixed grill, a hot Varthu lamb curry, while Lucie picked the tiger prawns in sweet and sour mango gravy. The meat from the Tandoor was perfectly cooked, still tender and moist and was an excellent combination of jumbo prawns, chicken tikka, lamb chops and tandoori chicken, all served with spicy gravy to dip into. The lamb was chilli hot and spicy and was a hot but well balanced dish, while Lucie's prawns were the star here, with the mango sauce being particularly good.
Our rice and Naan bread were both really well made, and we finished with a pistachio kulfi and a Sambuca covered Indian doughnut. We all enjoyed the meal, and agreed that is was one of the better Indian meals we have had.
Punjabi by Nature is a cut above the rest, and coupled with friendly service and value for money prices, it is a welcome addition to Ranelagh's food offering.