Consider that moment when you get a taste of the very best example of something to eat. Someone puts something in front of you, you take a bite, and it's not only bliss, it's benchmark.
Consider Gautham Iyer's samosas.
Little deep-fried parcels of peas and potatoes and other vegetables, a pair of them served with a mint and chilli chutney and a tamarind chutney, on a long rectangle of a plate.
They are perfect: hot, dry, light, delicate, spicy, comforting. They have all these characteristics, and then more.
And what is the more? It's a chef trying to outdo himself. A cook who can see the stars in a simple samosa. That is Mr Iyer's gift.
Iyer's could not be simpler. There are about seven tables in a little room with a counter on Pope's Quay on the north side of the River Lee. The music is a funky mash up of wonderful Indian melodies. The place is super-cool, without trying to be anything at all. The food is southern Indian vegetarian cooking, the food of Mr Iyer's homeland, Tamil Nadu. Born into the Brahmin class, he cooks according to Ayurvedic principles, laid down millennia ago in the Vedic texts. Unless you have been to southern India and befriended some Brahmins, you won't have eaten cooking like this.
Its beauty lies in its subtlety: the way the chickpea chole has been cooked with sour mango, the rice flour and black gram flour used to make the fermented dosas, which are served with a fresh coconut chutney and a tomato chutney, the cabbage and pea poirya, the sambar and the rasas with a Thali plate, the dry lightness of the poppadoms, the sweet shock of the mango lassi.
The magnitude of difference from what we understand as "Indian" food is shown by a simple remark of Mr Iyer's, when he explains that seasoning with salt in this style of cooking is influenced by Vedic texts and must recognise that salt has a cosmic significance and such seasoning must be done gently, because just enough salt is vital for life, but too much is bad indeed.
Likewise, some days the restaurant will not offer root vegetables, because the lunar significance is wrong to eat those. Advocates of bio-dynamic farming will love Iyer's.
We loved it, big time. The food has stunning definition, and winning modesty. We will be back for the triple fermented sourdough Utthappam which is one of their particular specialities.
And we will be back for those samosas, those little triangles of perfection, the benchmark best we've eaten.
Iyer’s, Pope’s Quay, Cork 087 6409079 Open Tues-Sat noon-5.30pm, and available for private bookings.