This Week's Critic Reviews
This week has been dominated by talk of "carnage" and a New Year "bloodbath" in the restaurant industry, after Joe Macken's Jo'Burger group went into liquidation. For months now there's been a lot of chatter about Dublin being at 'peak restaurant', and how we have too many seats for not enough bums, and it looks like a correction has begun. We personally think it's more complicated than this. There are enough bums, they're just not eating out as much for a variety of reasons, including the soaring costs of living in Dublin (including the cost of eating out). If everyone ate out once more per week we wouldn't have enough seats. What the New Year will bring is anyone's guess, but we're hearing of more restaurants in trouble (as well as a tonne more opening), so if anything it's going to be interesting to see how it all plays out. But onto the reviews...
Uno Mas are definitely this week's review winners, after receiving a coveted 9.5/10 in the Irish Times from Catherine Cleary - cue angry tweets about how punters can't get a booking in January. You might want to give that a few weeks and save yourself the heartbreak... She said she knew it would be great, but "the thrill is that it's perfect". Hard to get a better write up than that. She calls a gilda a "pure tapas bar treat", and the cecina (smoked beef) croquettes "a combination so good you could burst into song."
She said she wanted "all the mains", but settled on "great" hake with rainbow chard, a clam broth and fermented black garlic sauce. Another of pork 'presa' with apple sauce, potato and flower sprouts made for "one of the best mouthfuls I've eaten all year". She says she'll be dreaming of the 'flan queso' for weeks to come, and a chocolate and olive oil ganache is "brilliant" - we've had it, it is. She says there's a "rightness" that she rarely finds in any restaurant, let alone one on its fourth night of service, and calls Uno Mas "delightful". Read her review here.
In the Irish Independent Katy McGuinness took a trip to Yuleyard, Eatyard's festive iteration, as a Christmas shopping pit stop (see our refuelling recommendations here). She was looking for somewhere more individual, "owned and run by people rather than corporations" - which is a good yardstick to measure any dining choice by - and liked Yuleyard's "eclectic bunch of street-food traders".
Dim Sum from Lucky Tortoise were "juicy, tasty and delicious", and their lemongrass pork came in a "soft and pillowy bao with great, not-too-pungent kimchi and white rice". A Mexican Box Burger was "hot, hot, hot", and an apple and mustard hot dog from Flamin' Marvellous came in a "tragic seeded roll" but was "fine"- not really selling it. She calls Yuleyard "the hippest place to grab a bite while you're Christmas shopping", and there's also an unfortunate reference to the fondue in Bar Giuseppe, part of the Jo'Burger group which closed this week. Read her review here.
In the Sunday Independent, Lucinda O'Sullivan was in Zozimus bar to check out the new Asian menu from chef Jules Mak, which by all accounts is being well received across the board. Lucky Lucinda found herself surrounded by celebrity faces Norah Casey and Keith from Boyzone, and she says the only problem with the menu was that they wanted everything on it. Prawn and chicken dim sum were "pretty as a picture", and she doesn't say how they tasted but we're assuming she was happy.
They stuck to the small plates, including "silky" scallops in a spicy sauce with crumbed pork belly crackling, crab claws wrapped in minced pork and panko breadcrumbs, and duck pancakes, whose pleasure she says was "hard to beat". Her favourite was the panko-crumbed fingers of aubergine with sriracha sauce, and a side of singapore noodles was "excellent". She ends by comparing herself to the terminator, and saying "I'll be back". (Review not currently online).
In the Irish Daily Mail Tom Doorley was enamoured with meat-free Good Day Deli in Cork, with its "genuinely striking" welcome, "calm, tall-windowed room", and meaty lentil burger. He says that while the website's talk of sustainable eating, positive attitudes and inspiring atmospheres might have been off putting, the proof was in the eating which was "a delight". Although he's a burger devotee, the lentil burger did deliver something of a hamburger experience, and the chips were "excellent" - the paprika ones even better.
Fish tacos came with subtly spiced, battered hake, lemon and coriander mayonnaise, pickled red onion, lime wedges and a colourful slaw, and he calls it "a cracker of a dish". Desserts were mixed with an orange polenta cake "too sweet and pure stodge", but a chocolate and Beamish cake "fabulous". Their bill was "eminently reasonable", and he says that despite Cork being well served by places to go for lunch, Good Day Deli adds something new and different. (Review not currently online)
In The Irish Examiner Leslie Williams was in JP McMahon's café-cum-wine bar Tartare in Galway, which he calls a "fine idea", and a place where thought and creativity has gone into the food - like the crisps served with seaweed, fermented cream and trout roe. Good quality beef tartare came with pickled onions and smoked egg, a beef and cheddar sandwich was "packed with meaty flavour", and a venison and barley stew was "a fine filling bowl for a winter afternoon".
The only slight off note was a halloumi, gubbeen salami and pumpkin seed salad, due to some over-dressed salad leaves. They finished with a rich, salted caramel tart, and he says that "real care has gone into everything from the wines to the decor, to picking charming, friendly staff, and of course to the food". Review not currently online but should be soon here.
In the Sunday Business Post, Gillian Nelis also reviews and highly rates Uno Mas, which she calls "a solid business" in a rapidly oversupplied restaurant market, read that here. And in the Sunday Times Ernie Whalley finally passes through the 'gilded portal' of The Ivy to find food that "will never provoke as much as a flicker of excitement, a soupçon of stimulation". Read that here.
More next week.