Orale Street Food @ Pawn Shop
Steak tartare tostadas, tacos and chicken fat rice make for supremely better bar food
What's the story with Órale?
Órale Street Food (pronounced Orralaay, meaning 'all good' in Mexican slang) was started by Ian Cairns in 2019, originally operating out of The Belfry in Stoneybatter as a taco-based pop up. They were trucking along nicely until Covid butted its head into things, shutting them down and causing them to narrowly miss out on an Irish Times write up from Catherine Cleary, who visited and called the tacos "brilliant" and delicious".
Once restrictions were lifted they pulled their trailer to Bonobo in Smithfield, Walsh's in Stoneybatter and Eatyard in Drumcondra, before taking up a more semi-permanent spot in Dun Laoghaire on the Pavillion, but a permanent location was the goal. After Berlin Bar on Dame Street was shut down mid-Covid for flaunting regulations, new operators moved in to open Pawn Shop, and knowing Cairns they asked if he'd come on board to do the food. He jumped at the chance, but it's taken over a year to get their bar licence back, and they've only officially reopened this month.
To add insult to (literally) injury, Cairns managed to damage his arm so badly a few months ago that he needed surgery at the start of the year, and needed a new head chef to come on board stat or they wouldn't be able to open. Brian Spain (previously at 777 and Charlotte Quay) came in to save the day, and looks to have been a brilliant hire. The bar and restaurant opened fully for business a few weeks ago, and the new menu looked so good we had to get straight in there.
Where should I sit?
The 'restaurant' area is just in front of the kitchen, under a glass atrium bringing all the light. Sit anywhere here for the full menu, or you can order from a more condensed version at the bar or around the back (but if it's quiet we imagine they'd be flexible)
What's on the menu?
It screams sharing, so please go with people who want to try all the food. Tacos are a non-negotiable, but there are loads of smaller places like tortilla chips and tostadas, as well as bigger mains and burritos. It's a really nice sized menu, with plenty of choice, but not so big you'll worry about whether they can get it all right.
The corn tortillas come from Mexican food producer Balam (also used by El Milagro and made from scratch, nixtamilization and everything), and it's these tortillas that are cut up into triangles, deep-fried and topped with cheese, jalapeños, sour cream, salsa roja, salsa verde and pico de gallo.
Once you've had freshly fried tortillas it's hard to go back to the stuff in foil-lined bags which seem stale in comparison, and we loved every element here, we just would have liked a little more cheese and jalapeños (but we're greedy). They did give us extra sauces on the side. It's a hefty portion so best for sharing, or you'll fill up before you've even gotten started.
We'd place a bet that the agave habanero chicken wings with achiote and orange are going to be a popular order in here, and the fact that they're using free-range chicken from Rings Farm makes them all the more appealing. The smoky, spicy sauce will have you throwing the wet wipes to the side and licking the remnants off your fingers, but they were quite fatty and we would have prefered a longer, slower cook to render them down and make them crispier.
One dish that we couldn't take our eyes off after seeing it on the menu was the steak tartare tostada with bone marrow, habanero salsa, sunflower seeds and pickled onions, and it's a stunner. Every ingredient has a place on the plate, every flavour shines through, the textures are nailed. We'd suggest popping in for a beer and one of these, but we wouldn't be able to stop at just one.
Órale made their name on tacos, and there are five on the menu here, with pork, chicken, fish, flank steak, and sweet potato. Everything except steak can be mixed and matched at €13 for two or €18 for three (the flank steak are €15 for three), and we tried the chicken, pork and fish (in that order in the pic below)
All three are worth ordering and were loaded with flavour, but the masa-fried chicken with lemon aioli, sesame onion salad and coriander was the unanimous favourite. Pork carnitas comes with mango and habanero salsa, lime and jalapeño slaw, onion and coriander, and the Baja fish comes with pickled cabbage, pineapple pico, ssamjang and orange salsa and coriander, and this kitchen bring a very good (and different) salsa game.
We wanted all the mains, which include bavette steak, whole seabass, and squash al pastor with blue corn tortillas, but the Rings organic half roast chicken with ancho mole, chicken fat rice and crispy garlic won out (mainly becase of the chicken fat rice).
The meat had been flattened and cooked over a grill, leaving the meat nicely juicy and the skin nicely charred. The mole was a savoury pile of deliciousness (albeit a bit heavy on the coriander seeds), and the chicken fat rice, oh the chicken fat rice...
We were so taken by this one that we had to grill the chef afterwards to find out what he'd done. It's bascially day-old rice cooked in the fat that drips down when the chicken's cooking, with some other spices and flavourings in there, and crispy garlic on top. We will be trying to make this at home, and it will not taste as good as this.
For now the solo dessert is a chocolate brownie with salsa cachete and vanilla ice-cream, but we were royally stuffed at this point and a brownie wasn't enough to make ourselves even more uncomfortable.
What about drinks?
Pawn Shop are behind the drinks, and there's a nice looking beer and cocktail list, with Irish brewers including Whiplash, Dublin City Brewing Company and Trouble Brewing. We tried a 'Friskey Sour' with Teelings small batch, Ancharo Green (we have searched and searched and have zero idea what this is, except maybe a typo), gooseberry, sugar and egg whites, but it was unbalanced in the direction of sour, leaving puckered lips behind after every sip. We really liked the Liberator lager which was a nice easy sipper, and the bar also came up with a non-alcoholic cocktail for the driver, in the region of passionfruit and lemon, which was pleasant if basic.
How was the service?
Owner Ian was doing all of the food service when we were there with another lovely server bringing drinks, and the food came out at a really nice pace, with optimum opportunities to ask questions and have the chats. It was very quiet at lunchtime though so we can't speak for how you'll find it on a rocking Saturday night, but we think these guys get it.
What was the damage?
€97 for enough food to feed three comfortably with a drink each, so you're looking at just over €30 a head for a very good feed.
And the verdict?
Órale are serving properly tasty, different food from their Dame Street bar base, and our only concern is whether drunken bar goers will appreciate it. Bars need better food, but after the quick demise of Taco Libre we just hope this better bar food experiment is more successful.
It's a perfect place to meet with a group of friends or family, right in the city centre, relaxed and well-priced, and lunchtime is pretty perfect for younger diners in too, as there's loads of space for buggies and colouring equipment on tables (there's no nappy change though). The next time you want to just pull up a chair, order a beer and eat something really tasty with none of the fuss, you've got a new option on Dame Street.
Órale Street Food @ Pawn Shop
15 Dame Street, Dublin 2