Sanjay's Kitchen in Birr is owned and run by Sanjay Vishwakarma. We know him of old; while in Indie Dhaba he was chef of the year in Paolo's round up of the best of 2014, and then again when out on his own in Leixlip his restaurant was the best ethnic of 2015.
Paolo had this to say about his meal in Leixlip;
“Then the food started to arrive. First came the poppadoms with three dips -mango, spicy tomato and a flavour that was perfectly delicious and that I couldn't deconstruct. It turned out to be carrot-based with cumin and mango, and it was one of the tastiest things I've ever eaten.
Next came Rawat ki raj kachori, which was a large hollow dough shell filled with mung bean sprouts, kidney beans, yoghurt and mango chutney. All three of us did that "wow" and "OMG" and "that's amazing" thing. It had a really fresh, clean taste and made a great start to the meal.”
He has moved to Birr, and his elegant and tasteful restaurant at the end of the High Street is beautifully decorated in shades of deep purple, reds and creams, in an eclectic space with plenty of nooks and crannies.
We sat at a table in the window and happily nibbled through poppadoms with tomato, tamarind and homemade mint dips, listening to contemporary sounds, and just chilling out.
Sanjay came out to say hi, and I suggested he pick for us. I have had the pleasure of eating his food several times now, and as Paolo always said, follow the chef. I think it's a great idea if you know the chef and his cooking – your own tasting menu surprise - so we sat back and waited to see what tastes we would be getting.
Before long the first of them arrived in the form of an amuse bouche; a half baby aubergine with a tomato and tamarind sauce, with a dollop of homemade yoghurt on top. It was delicious, and we knew we were in for a treat from the rest of the meal.
Beautifully presented and abundant; beetroot marinated chicken, duck breast with yoghurt, ginger and garlic, cold salad of chickpeas with mango and yoghurt in a delicate, crispy filo pastry case, fried okra and finally a jumbo prawn in the shell with ginger, garlic, and lemon, all on a long tapering plate of loveliness, and each more delicious than the last.
This was fit for Michelin star dining, and reminded me of some of the amazing starters cooked last week on the BBC by the finalists for the Great British Menu.
As if that was not enough, these were soon followed up by a dish of calamari rings, with a spicy tomato sauce and the honey and lemon sauce, decorated with finely chopped peppers of assorted colours, they were tender, lightly crisped and with a delicate spiciness that didn't overpower the flavour.
Main courses continue to impress, and two separate selections, one for Dee and one for me. My spicy thali consisted of lababdar sauce with prawn, spicy lamb mass (same as rogan josh) hot beetroot chicken with red chilli, creamed spinach with chilli and garlic, and dried Bombay potato aloo.
Dee took a walk on the mild side with the creamed spinach and the potato but with lamb with coconut and tomato base, sweet mango prawns and a light and delicate chicken korma.
Sweet Peshwari naan with coconut and almond, a GOC and plain naan all came on the side with cumin flavoured Pilau rice. I couldn’t resist dipping the sweet Naan into Deirdre’s mango sauce, it was like a pre dessert.
We just about managed a kulfi, and some coffee before heading back up the motorway to Dublin, and our little dog Rafa, who was home alone doing his best to mind the house, although at 2 kilos he is more of a security blanket than a security guard.
Sanjay's food has if anything only gotten better. Every food critic in Ireland reviewed his food when he was the head chef in Indie Dhaba. Everyone else within an asses roar of Birr should check it out for themselves; this is undoubtedly one of the top 5 Indian restaurants in the country.