This Week's Critic Reviews
It's been a successful weekend for restaurant reviews, with barely a bad word said about anyone - apart from a lack of provenance info (when will they learn) and some overly rich pasta (FWP). There was also an interesting piece in the Irish Times yesterday about the current state of the Dublin restaurant scene and how we're back to boom time opening numbers. We say bring it on. Keep the tide rising. The struggle to get bookings in places like Etto, Variety Jones and Liath shows that the appetite is there when somewhere is at the top of its game, and new openings force everyone to try harder and go further, which is only good news for diners.
Speaking of Liath, in the Irish Independent Katy McGuinness calls it "the best eating bargain in the country", at €78 for eight courses of "vivid", "luxurious", "intensely flavoursome" food. She says that while previous co-owner Andrew Heron leaving came as a shock, the new incarnation seems "less challenging, less try-hard, more confident".
We recommend reading the descriptions of the dishes, just in case you're not already desperate enough to go, but the "spring salad" with a cured duck egg and a cigar of pancetta and lardo from a mangalitsa pig, Comeragh lamb with wild herb butter, and L'Etivaz with clementine and preserved walnut sound particularly good. She gives it a perfect score of 10/10 for food ambience and value, and advises trying to go before October when the new Michelin guide comes out, and Grey inevitably gets his star back. Solid advice. Read her review here.
More applause from Tom Doorley for Little Mike's, the new southside wine bar from the guys behind Michael's. He says he left "enchanted", and was struck by the "orchestration" of flavours and textures on the plates. They opted for the somewhat scary looking Lambay Island whelks that owner Gaz has been touting all over twitter, and loved them in their ginger, garlic and lemon butter on toast.
Turbot with salsa verde was "exquisite", and fried Gruyère with honey and onions produced an in-text exclamation of "Oh what a dish"! A seafood plate with Howth lobster, prawns and squid was "heaven", and on it goes. He calls Little Mike's "a delight" and says it's made life in Dublin that much better. (Review not currently online)
In the Irish Times Catherine Cleary took a solo trip to new sustainable café INK in Dun Laoghaire, after all of her usual dining buddies were otherwise engaged, and it was mostly a success. She liked the room, but was surprised by the "meat-heavy" menu, and wouldn't touch the "Irish chicken" as there was no mention of free-range or organic - how are we still having the provenance needed conversation? Surely it's in the new restaurant opening handbook?
Basil kombucha was nice but sweeter than the norm, a potato and green vegetable soup had "proper homemade flavour", and sourdough toast was "excellent". She seemed to like a fish finger butty too, particularly the house ketchup, but the breading on the fish was over salted. An orange and cranberry cake for dessert was "fine" but dry, needing some cream, yoghurt or syrup, and overall she calls it "a good start with the promise of great things to come". She gives it a score of 7/10 and you can read the full review here.
In the Sunday Independent Lucinda O'Sullivan was eating in a hotel again, this time The Dylan, and the newly revamped The Eddison. She calls chef Paul Quinn's food "on trend, with cool contemporary plates", delivering not just on presentation but on flavour. Her grilled asparagus to start with was "perfectly cooked" with smoked duck, crispy poached egg (that's a new one) and truffle mayo, while chicken ravioli were "bursting with flavour". No word on whether it was free-range.
Roast quail was "perfect pink and silky", and Lucinda's scallops came with her all time favourite accompaniments of capers and raisins. She doesn't actually say if she liked them but it sounds positive. A blood orange cheesecake mousse for dessert was "divine", and she says she'll be back to try the goat's cheese souffle. Clearly she hasn't read Ernie Whalley's review of The Eddison, and that soufflé. (Review not currently online)
In the Sunday Business Post Gillian Nelis was at Sandymount's (sort of) new kid on the block, Crudo, which is basically Dunne & Crescenzi 2.0 from the next generation. She says they've refreshed it "brilliantly", and it's a succession of praise, with seabass crudo having a "great balance of flavours", buffalo burrata "creamy and sensuous", and pan-fried skate with mussels, capers and herbs "very well-cooked".
The only slight letdown was the spaghetti with nettle salsa bianca, confit egg yolk and aged ricotta, which we've been lusting after for weeks, but which she found "a bit too heavy". Desserts and service also impressed, and she congratulates the team on a well executed update. Read her review here.
In the Irish Examiner Joe McNamee was at 30-year-old Ristorante Rinuccini in Kilkenny, where the whole family was impressed by the "subterranean intimacy" of the cellar dining room, the tables "dressed to the nines" and the tuxedoed waiters. He says Rinuccini may not be part of a "new vanguard of Italian cuisine but that’s perfectly fine", with standouts (of many) including calamari and zucchini fritti with a silky lemon and anchovy aioli, and ravioli with gorgonzola and walnuts.
Spaghetti with Kilmore Quay prawns, garlic, tomato, basil and chilli was "a simple treatment of good produce resulting in an elemental splendour", but duck came in an orange and liquor sauce that was "overly thin and sharp". Tiramisu was a contender for the definitive one in the country, and he says Rinuccini "delivers superbly a roster of traditional dishes, a strong hand further emboldened by the use of excellent Irish ingredients". Read his review here.
Finally in the Sunday Times, Ernie Whalley found the restaurant he was trying to visit closed, so ended up in Damascus Gate in Terenure, where he found good value and interesting flavours. Read his review here.
More next week.