Whenever we travel, we always try to eat at a local Indian restaurant at least once. It’s a perfect choice when we’re tired of whatever the local specialty is, but aren’t prepared to order a Big Mac either. Sometimes this culinary tradition has been great and other times it has failed miserably. For some reason, at both of the restaurants in this article my partner and I had the same entrees. No, we are not THAT kind of couple, but it does make writing this infinitely easier.
The first tale begins in the seaside retreat of Chaweng on Thailand’s idyllic island of Koh Samui. We managed to pry ourselves from our beach chairs and ocean side villa long enough to head into town to see what the area had to offer. At first, it was a little disappointing. The main stretch in Chaweng has more than its fill of tourist-friendly establishments: McDonalds, KFC and so many pubs I thought I was in London. Just as we were about to give up, there it appeared like a shining star, Noori India.
We walked by at first because, like many restaurants, they had hawkers outside trying to lure in passersby. I usually avoid places that like, but we had run out of energy and it smelled wonderful. It was one of those times when being lazy and hungry paid off.
It was early by Koh Samui standards, so the service was quick and friendly. The meal started with the normal poppadoms and chutney that were perfectly adequate. The fireworks really began with the entrees, butter chicken and a mango lassi on the side. I know what you’re thinking, this has got to be the most common Indian meal ever. I mean, you can find this combo at almost every Indian restaurant around the world. True, however the chef at Noori India has superhuman abilities in the kitchen and this was one of the best meals of my life. No kidding.
The dinner was delicious and unhurried, which made for a wonderful evening as we engaged in people watching while slowly sipping our lassis. If you ever find yourself in Chaweng, consider giving Noori India a try. I don’t think you will regret it.
What you will regret is eating at Indian Tandoori Restaurant in Dublin, the other restaurant in my story.
It was Thanksgiving, we were in Dublin and we wanted good Indian food. I really didn’t think it was too much to ask, but apparently it was. We walked around for almost an hour, looking at menus, heading down side streets and eventually decided on this establishment on Dublin’s busy Dame St., near the Olympia Theatre.
At first it looked promising, there were lots of people inside and the restaurant had a decent looking menu. The first clue that things were off was the very poor service. It took ten minutes before anyone came for a drink order. From that point, everything tragically veered downhill. We thought we were ordering a tandoori chicken with a light sauce. What came was a mess of chicken, malodorous spices and so much coconut milk that I fear several trees were left bare for its production. It was truly awful. The texture was off, the smell was bad and the taste aspired to levels of mediocrity.
We ate as much as we could handle physically without being sick, paid the bill and left without a backward glance.
The common link between these two restaurants is how memorable they were. I will always remember sipping a mango lassi in Thailand with a warm breeze blowing through. And I know I will never forget the disastrous Thanksgiving in Dublin.
What are some of your most memorable meals?