Monday, 28 January 2013

Yindees Downtown Kilkenny: Thai Food At Its Best

There’s a dinner party scene in the gastronomically sensual movie Chocolat that sums up the joy of eating good food. Juliette Binoche, playing the part of passionate and gifted Chocolatier, cooks up a storm for birthday girl Judi Dench, who acts the part of a lonely, fun-loving woman with big opinions living in a small, obedient community. Guests include Johnny Depp, in his role as a travelling gypsy, and other quirky, non-conventional sorts.  When the food is brought to the table, the camera zooms in on ornate platters of lovingly made dishes of food. Instrumental music plays softly as the camera follows the silent reactions of the guests. Smiles, quiet glances, bulging contentment and soft faces of gratitude precede loud laughing, hand clapping, the sound of glugging wine pouring into raised glasses and a gorgeous variety of other celebrations. Song and dance follows, with other small delights of a wonderful shared experience, like story and joke telling.

As I sat in the subtly lit surrounding of Yindees in Kilkenny with my fiancé I remembered that scene. The sunbathed faces of Thailand’s people looked down from the walls through canvas pictures; smiling women in cone hats working in fields, or in tiny boats selling fresh produce; boy monks in orange robes collecting alms, and wonderful portraits of the Buddha. The decor is inviting, tasteful and effectively represents the cuisine its guests have come to eat.

I ordered the crispy potato and pumpkin cake for starters. A small rocket salad sat on the side, with a drizzling of sweet dressing. The best word I can come up with to describe the feeling it invited in me was comforted. It was crisp, fluffy and sweet all in one bite. My other half ordered the lamb martabak - slow cooked lamb potatoes and spices in pastry, with mint and yogurt dressing. Not one for words, he just pointed downwards with his fork a few times, and made a noise that sounded a lot like “Um, mm, mmmmmm.”  I sipped a perfectly decadent Cosmopolitan cocktail as I waited for my next course. He ordered a Kiwi beer, called James Boag's, which he hadn’t necked since his days in Australia. The atmosphere was conducive to relaxed fun. The staff was top class, and checked in on us regularly, topping up our water and ensuring we were happy. Large numbers of guests sat around us, visibly enjoying the vibe too. The place was almost to capacity, which was impressive for a wet night in January.

I had wok-fried tofu and vegetable noodles for my main. I used the wedge of lime at the top of the dish to dress it in fresh juice. The first taste turned me into my partner. Lost for words, I simply sounded out my joy. As a vegetarian, it really is hard to get a good dish at a restaurant, but this was simply not the case at Yindees. The tofu was crisp, and well chopped into small cubes, as opposed to the massive chunks usually served up at other oriental restaurants. The flavours were a complex but perfectly suited medley of fire and spice.  I finished the entire serving, which let me tell you was not meagre.  My partner had already made headway through his curry before I even pretended to care about how he was enjoying it. 

Dessert - lychee panna cotta -  brought me back to my time in Hanoi, where I used to buy large bags of lychees from women in cone hats and eat them at my desk at Vietnam News. Fresh, sweet and hydrating, it is such an exotic fruit, and one that is guaranteed to trigger an endorphin release. My happy fiancé, not usually one for high praise, doted on his mango and passion fruit cheesecake. His was the better choice (as usual) but the panna cotta wasn’t to be dismissed either. Admittedly, though, it is probably more suited to those who like a rich, gooey texture after their dinner.
We’ll be going back. 

No comments:

Post a Comment