Restaurant reviews can be like waiting for a bus. We wait and wait and then two come at once, which is what's happened this week with new taco spot Masa on Drury Street (you can read our Masa once over here). Katy McGuinness left happy, giving the food 8/10, while Catherine Cleary thought they could do better, giving it 6/10. Interesting to note that Cleary was recently on holidays in Mexico, while McGuinness admits to not knowing enough about Mexican food to vouch for its authenticity. No doubt being up close and personal with the definite article in its natural habitat will raise expectations.
We were also amused by the fact that both critics attended a taco making workshop at Picado, after which they invested in a tortilla press and a bag of masa harina (the flour made from nixtamalized corn that's used to make tacos). Cleary's been putting hers to use, McGuinness' is still loitering in the pantry.
Cleary's favourite was the fish taco with pickled red cabbage and chipotle mayonnaise (above), and the chicken "also rocks our boat", but she vows to not eat it again unless the words "free range" appear on the menu - she's generally unimpressed at the lack of provenance. The beef and mushroom tacos were less successful, but the biggest disappointment was the taco al pastor. After a detailed, hunger-inducing explanation of what al pastor should consist of (pork lovingly spit-roasted with pineapple), she says that "Masa’s chewy cubes of pork in their al pastor have some ways to go..."
She ends by saying, "If Masa perfects its craft as well as its concept it’ll be a great new spot for a noisy, messy, nearly Mexican experience," which is the same conclusion we came to. Read her review here.
In the Irish Independent, Katy McGuinness is much more positive, calling the tacos "excellent", the elotes "delicious" and the quesadillas "thin and tasty". She gives some background on Masa, which is from the same guys behind Bunsen, and the impressive pedigree of "culinary lead" Shane (Wahaca and Breddos in London, as well as extensive travel in Mexico).
Her only disappointment was the Mexican bravas, which should have been hotter and more crisp, and the fact that the only dessert on the menu (churros with goat's milk caramel) wasn't available. They told her something had gone wrong with the batter that day, whereas Cleary was told it wasn't available yet as they were still working on the savoury items - we were told the latter on two different occasions. This wasn't a bad start for for Masa, especially as they're still working on things, and Katy gives them 10/10 for value. Review not currently online but when it is it will be here.
Over in Dundrum we could hear the sound of Bolly popping after Lucinda O'Sullivan in the Sunday Independent visited newly opened Cooke's above Harvey Nichols, and calls it "ab fab". She seems enamoured from the getgo, calling Johnnie Cooke's previous city centre restaurant 'Cooke's Café' which he ran in the 90's and noughties, "the coolest place in town", and praising his "great, casual, sophisticated food with a Mediterranean bent".
A tian of Lambay Island crab was "fresh and zingy", and came with a "wonderful" salad. Her dining companion wasn't enamoured with her lobster pizza, finding the sauce overpowering and not liking the avocado topping, but despite this Lucinda is surprisingly generous, saying "someone else will no doubt love it". She loved her Dover sole on the bone, which "they will of course, fillet" - a dig at The Ivy after last week's shenanigans? - and she calls it "a perfect summer lunch".
Desserts sounded "so good", and a Sicilian lemon tart came with "superb" raspberry ice-cream, while an almond tart was "divine". Service was excellent, and she leaves happy saying "once again the restaurant at Harvey Nichols is ab fab."
In The Irish Daily Mail Tom Doorley is at JP McMahon's wine bar Tartare in Galway (which Catherine Cleary memorably reviewed a few months ago without trying any of the wine), and his solo lunch was a bit of a rollercoaster.
An Irish charcuterie board had "simplicity and provenance" and "glorious fattiness", but was "a little lacking in generosity". Chicken schnitzel, beetroot slaw and ramsons came with a "very small" schnitzel, but the combination was so nice that he ordered a second one - which was twice the size of the first.
The only disappointment was a "terrible" woodruff custard tart - not so terrible that he couldn't eat it mind - with a custard lacking richness, texture and flavour, and "tired" pastry, but he saw later that he wasn't charged for it, a flat white or a bottle of mineral water. Another attack of the recognised critic? Or did they spot his scowl from across the room and try to neutralise the situation? Either way, he felt it needed to be mentioned. The wines were wonderful. (Review not currently online)
In The Irish Examiner, Leslie Williams was at Little Fox in Ennistymon, Co. Clare, which has been the talk of the food world since it opened at the start of August. Chef Niamh Fox has a stellar CV including Ard Bia in Galway, Paradiso in Cork and Rochelle Canteen in London, and her first opening with husband Sam has had those in the industry buzzing with talk of local smallholdings, organic produce and zero-waste.
Ginger, coconut and courgette soup was "pristine, harmonious and fresh", stew with Gubbeen smoked pork belly had "fine, creamy smoky flavours", and tarka dahl was "comforting and solid", but the stand out dish was a Moy salad with broccoli, beet hummus, spelt tabbouli, grated carrot and flat bread, which was "extraordinary ... herby, sweet, earthy and tangy".
Coffee was good, kombucha homemade and lemonade excellent, as were a dark chocolate brownie and a lemon drizzle cake to finish. He calls it a highlight of his trip to Clare, thanks to the artful cooking and freshest of produce. Review not currently online but should be soon here.
As for the other two, Gillian Nelis finds "Eye-rollingly" good food at Luna under new chef Vish Sumputh (read that here - subscription only), and Ernie Whalley appreciates the hand-pulled noodles at Dakoi Oriental Café on Millenium Walkway. Read that here, or read our Dakoi once over here.
Taking a break from the critic's reviews next week. Back in two.