It seems like nearly everyone had a craving for Japanese food this week, with Gillian Nelis at Bonsai Bar, Leslie Williams at EaTokyo, and Catherine Cleary and Lucinda O'Sullivan beating a path to Ichigo Ichie in Cork, the new, hugely anticipated fine dining restaurant from Takashi Miyazaki.
In the Sunday Business Post, Gillian Nelis was so impressed with the bar menu at Dylan McGrath's Bonsai Bar that seconds were ordered of the crunchy shiitake mushrooms with spiced nori crackers, and the salmon sashimi with avocado purée and bonito, which she calls some of the best sashimi she's had in Dublin.
Only beating the sashimi was the yellowfin tuna served on a kimchi croquette and topped with a cured egg yolk, which looks and sounds so delicious that Bonsai Bar has rocketed to the top of our must-try list.
She calls the food "boundary-pushing", and says that McGrath is "a chef who shows no signs of losing his ability to surprise and delight." Read her review here. (Subscription only)
A tempura selection was "about perfect", prawn, garlic and chive gyoza were "excellent", and despite the rice issues he says the sushi is "better than most of what is available in Dublin." His favourite dish was the Schichimi Duck, which had been de-boned and deep fried until crispy with sweet-sour flavours.
Although he emphasises twice that the sushi is "perfectly good", he basically advises giving it a miss and focusing on the gyoza, noodles and meat dishes instead. Read his review here. Both Catherine Cleary and Lucinda O'Sullivan were at Ichigo Ichie in Cork, both clearly hoping to be first in with a review. We wonder on a scale of 1-10 how secretly (or openly) raging they are when this happens.
Both were suitably impressed, but CC more so, calling it "invigorating, a reminder of how magic food can be in the hands of a dreamer, a craftsperson and a flavour poet." She ate her 12 courses solo at the chef's counter, and describes a meal that sounds more like a hypnotic performance, with other-worldly ingredients being conjured from every corner, like powdered whiting, cured onsen egg, ninja radish and salted cherry blossom. "Wood, glass and ceramic containers make the process as beautiful as the plate." She gives it 9.5/10. Read her review here.
Lucinda had a few bones to pick, mostly with what she calls the "over-zealous lead-up", being warned that lateness equals missing courses, and having to agree to "officious and daunting" terms when booking. Despite this, once getting there she found the staff "delightful", and the delicately flavoured food "artfully presented".
Her favourite dish was Hassun (above right), a selection from land and sea, including smoky Thornhill duck with spring onion, gizzard, hay and leek, eel wrapped in wakame and cucumber ribbons topped with salmon roe and sansho pepper vinegar, and a cube of "bland" asparagus tofu, cured onsen egg yolk, whiting powder and salted cherry blossom. Flavour overload.
She felt it began to get a bit samey towards the end, but still calls it a "once in a lifetime" experience. (Review not currently online)
In the Irish Independent Katy McGuinness was just west of Japan at Vietnom in Stoneybatter, the Vietnamese food truck at the back of The Glimmerman pub. She describes the food as "Asian fusion with touches of Mexican" which sounds so wrong but by the end of it we're convinced.
Her and her companions tried all four dishes on the vegetarian menu, including Saigon tostadas with an organic red cabbage slaw, scallions, chillies, pickled red onions, sesame seeds and a zingy lime dressing which was "utterly delicious", and a sesame broccoli noodle salad with carrot pickles, peanuts and a ginger chilli dressing, that "had well-balanced heat and texture".
They also enjoyed a couple of bánh mì, one with "meatily satisfying honey-basted mushrooms," a peanut shallot crust, McNally Farm leaves and an organic fried egg, the other with teriyaki paneer, sriracha aioli and "more of those epically good leaves." She describes it as "vibrant fresh flavours, feel-good food and no pretension." Read her review here.
In the Irish Daily Mail, Tom Doorley was at Enoteca della Langhe in the Italian Quarter, gazing lovingly at their personally imported Italian wine list. He had the intensely creamy burrata which he calls one of the best he's tasted in Ireland (noted), and the contrast with the sweet and sour vegetables "delightful. Simple food done well."
He wasn't feeling the bresaola, which came with an unspeakable amount of flaked almonds, but the two pastas were "first rate". Tonnarelli alla Norcina (spaghetti like pasta with spicy sausage, truffle and pecorino) was "a triumph ... the very definition of savoury, rich, creamy...", and Ravioli Asiago e porcini were served simply with just-cooked datterini tomatoes and asparagus. They couldn't fit in dessert but lingered over a very good value bottle of Nebbiolo Langhe for €33. (Review not currently online)
More next week.
* 1st August 2018 - A previous version of this article featured Ernie Whalley's review for the Sunday Times. This has been removed at the newspaper's request