“ Address: Entenplatz 1a / Graz „
The brilliantly named Dainadoo - (it means 'homeland' in Tamil) - is a Sri Lankan restaurant in central Graz. It doesn't appear in any of the tourist office listings and I only found it through some dedicated research online. You'd be unlikely to find it simply by strolling around Graz, though it is very close to a couple of large hotels, namely the Das Weitzer, where we stayed, and its neighbour and sister hotel, the Wiesler.
The restaurant is about seven minutes walk from the Hauptplatz and three minutes from the Kunsthaus. There are plenty of car-parks in the immediate area, though you may be lucky enough to find a parking space outside the restaurant. The restaurant is housed in the ground floor of a glass fronted commercial building which appears to have office accommodation on the other floors. Although we'd seen a photograph online, we didn't realise we were there until we were right in front of the restaurant; the windows are crowded with tall plants which prevents you from getting a good look inside when its dark outside and the sign was almost impossible to see.
We didn't have a reservation but we didn't need one; the restaurant isn't large but neither was it busy and, in fact, we were the only ones dining. The other customers were all there to drink, though it's possible they might have eaten there earlier and everything had by then been cleared away. At first it seemed a little odd to be eating when nobody else was but when the food arrived we soon forgot all that.
I got the impression that the restaurant is a focal point for the Sri Lanka community in Graz, but of course, anyone is welcome. The main room is very much a café-bar while the smaller room off it is more for dining. Both spaces had pieces of traditional Sri Lankan art and several pieces of intricately carved Indian furniture. There were large plants everywhere which gave the place a bit of a tropical feel and softened the harshness of what is a very modern building. The décor is not so much designed as thrown together but this didn't do anything to spoil our experience.
A glowing review on Trip Advisor had mentioned a host of delicious sounding dishes but the young lady who came to our table informed us that there was a choice of three curries - shrimp, chicken or vegetable. We're not fussy eaters so we were happy to order one shrimp and one chicken and see what came. A gentleman who spoke some English came out to verify that there would be no nuts in my meal and suggested a mango lassi which I was very happy to order. Himself drank beer, and ordered an Austiran beer, Paulaner.
Given that we seemed to be the only ones eating we did feel we waited quite a while for the food but when two colourful plates arrived we soon forgot our grumbling. It was a bit like a thali (a selection of vegetarian Indian dishes usually served in separate dishes, a bit like Indian tapas) but with everything on the same plate. This would have been fine were it not for the fact that one particular element was quite watery and seeped round the sides of the other components; as the offending element was the least pleasing to me, this was something of an irritation.
The curry element of both meals was pretty good. Himself had asked for his to be very spicy and in retrospect I wished I had too because mine wouldn't have suffered for an injection of fire. That said, my shrimp curry was well flavoured but would have benefited from the use of better prawns; the ones used were the North Sea type, little tiddlers that get even smaller with cooking and always have that slightly briny taste, no matter how well you rinse them. They made the curry taste a little too salty and a hot of chilli might well have countered that. I certainly couldn't complain about the amount of prawns because there were plenty of them as there was plenty of chicken in the other dish. The two curries were really very similar and the chicken one was only slightly hotter than my prawn one; if you want a hot, spicy meal here you'd probably better ask for an inferno.
My favourite thing on the plate was the dhal which, as luck would have it, was cooked exactly as I like it, with a good smattering of still hard (ish) lentils among the soft creamy lentils. I'd be very happy to get a bowl of this with some chapattis for lunch.
In the centre of the plate there was a dome of rice in which there were bits of carrot, peppers and other vegetables; I found this a bit odd and have no idea whether it's a traditional Tamil thing. I didn't find it unpalatable and I wouldn't have really given it much thought were it not for the fact that it had been strewn with pomegranate seeds after it had been plated and wonderful rich ruby red jewels of the fruit didn't seem right with what seemed like Sunday lunch vegetables.
The dish that had so offended me was spinach in a flavoursome but runny sauce. I love spinach but I found one of the flavours here a little off (perhaps mint?) and it seemed to me that there was a herb that clashed terribly. Never one to avoid my greens I ate some and Himself, who appeared to be immune to the dish's deficiencies, polished off the rest.
The final element of the dish was a big dollop of yoghurt or crème fraiche. I'm not sure why it was included because the dish was nowhere near so spicy that you'd want something to temper the heat, and because every element of the dish was moist and no more liquid was needed. We both agreed that we'd have loved some kind of bread to mop up all the liquid from our plates and with the limited evening menu, there was nothing more than the three main courses.
I realise that I've been quite critical of the food we ate at Dainadoo but I'd still recommend the place. They do a set lunch from Monday to Friday (one meal only, fish on Friday, veggie on Monday and Wednesday) which I'm sure is competitively priced making it a better reflection of how the food here should be priced. For an evening meal I felt that the price was too expensive given the criticisms I've made. At lunch time I think people are generally happier to take a cheaper price with less choice but in the evening, especially on a Saturday night, you want something a bit more special for the prices Dainadoo charges.
The landing page of the website shows a picture of two young children sharing a kiss; underneath it says 'Bring your girlfriend for dinner and she'll never let you sleep.....' It's a bold claim and I'm not willing to divulge whether it had that effect on this couple, but I can guarantee that it won't be the after effects of food that's too spicy that will keep you from sleeping.
Graz is just an hour from us and I can see us visiting the city fairly frequently in the future; I'd certainly return to Dainadoo, but most likely only for lunch, or with a wider evening menu.
We paid about Euro30 for our two mains and drinks.
Dainadoo, Entenplatz 1a, Graz
Open: Mon - Fri 10.00am - midnight; Sat - 5.00pm - 02.00am; Sun - closed