Chameleon is an intimate and cosy Indonesian restaurant serving contemporary cuisine in the Temple Bar district of Dublin. Opened in 1994, Chameleon has been very successful and has won many prestigious restaurant awards and has been included in “100 best in Dublin 2009”. This speciality restaurant has also been featured in the Bridgestone Guide’s “Best Restaurants in Ireland” every year since opening – which is something rather special for restaurant in what tends to be the very touristy Temple Bar area. Chameleon’s food and unique atmosphere have gained a well-deserved reputation and it is not unusual to see familiar faces returning each week or month to sample the authentic Indonesian cuisine on offer.
Chameleon specialises in Rijst-tafel (which literally means rice table). It is a way of serving Indonesian food that was devised by the Dutch, who first colonised these Spice Islands back in the early 19th century. Rather than eating just one main dish, each diner is served small quantities of several different dishes all at once. This is similar to the Greek meze or Chinese Dim Sum style of eating. The Rijst-tafel is comprised of appetizers, curries, vegetables, noodles and rice dishes. A selection of sambals (spicy chutneys) and pickles are also served as condiments to eat with the meal. At Chameleon, your dinner plate arrives empty, a hot plate is lit to keep the dishes warm and all the food arrives to the table at the same time.
I ordered the “Rijst-tafel Bali” which was quite filling even though it was advertisied for just one person. I was served the following 6 dishes served with steamed jasmine rice and condiments:
Free range chicken satay served with our peanut sauce
Seasoned balls of Irish lamb in a rich, spicy, Javanese curry sauce
Irish beef cooked slowly in a spicy coconut milk sauce with cinnamon, tamarind and red chillies
SESAME FRIED VEGETABLES
Seasonal greens wok fried with sautÃ©ed onions and toasted sesame seeds
Salad with cucumber, mango chinese leaves with a peanut and black sesame dressing
Wok fried noodles with beansprouts, ginger, garlic & soy sauce
I have travelled to Indonesia many times in the past and have spent much of my time in Bali. Compared to the authentic food I tasted on my travels, I would have to say that Chameleon serves probably the best rijst-tafel I have ever tasted outside of Indonesia. The raised sitting area upstairs is a traditional yet stylish touch and allows diners to experience a sense of culture reminiscent of the Spice Islands of Indonesia. I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone who is travelling to Dublin and wants to try a restaurant that stands out from the crowd.
1 Lower Fownes Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Ireland
T: +353 1 671 0362
Images courtesy of the author