Upon ascending the stairs above Eagles House in Glasthule, suffuse warmth, exotic aromas and vivid splashes of ochre, burnt umber, pink and yellow invoke the senses to cosy reverie. We are, of course, at one of South County Dublin's best loved Indian restaurants, not to mention best-loved neighbourhood restaurants: Nisheeth Tak's stalwart, Rasam.
It had been a few years for this reviewer. I used to make it my business to visit Rasam as often as I could but then, well, life happened, and like so many forgotten pleasures it was a bit of a light bulb moment recently when I was reminded of the charms of this gem by an old (decrepit, in fact) friend who invited me to join himself, his beautiful wife and a talented pal and collaborator for dinner.
The experience was a bit like rediscovering an album that you had once played till your ears ached; or picking up a guitar again that you had once played till your fingers bled (ask Brian Adams about that summer he had in the very late €60s). Essentially, you stopped doing a thing not because it was bad, but because you had played it out, as far as it could be played out, because you loved it. Eventually, you had to put it away, only to happily revisit it years later. Not that Brian Adams song though, that can remain in the dusty record rack of obscurity - I mean, what were you thinking?
So Rasam has been pulling in subcontinental aficionados for more than a decade, and that draw shows no sign of abatement, as my revisit proved. The room is still run smoothly and admirably by the aforementioned Nisheeth Tak. To say Tak is a master of hospitality is akin to mentioning that Van Gogh was quite good at the oul pictures - the ginormously genial and very much hands-on proprietor knows how to make his guests feel welcome, comfortable and very much at ease. Doing so without you ever thinking he is doing it is a great skill, yet Tak nails it, probably because it comes from the genuine warmth he has for people, and being a man for whom hospitality runs through his veins.
But enough personal sycophancy because the food is also worth eulogising. Our table of four each chose from the Early Bird menu, not because we are as cheap and wretched as a polyester suit in summer (well, not all of us are) but because we wanted to test its mettle against the - la carte. It didn't disappoint. The dishes we chose turned out to be very good, as well as excellent value. Things like Lal Maas: Rajasthan leg of lamb, slow cooked on the bone with garlic, ginger, coriander seeds, tomatoes, red chillies and a special blend of garam masala wooed us into an edible silence.
The Early Bird is less than €25 and includes a starter, main, dessert and tea/coffee. It's a great way to get out of the house and feel good in grimly frugal January. Go on. Treat. Yo. Self.