This Week's Critic Reviews
This weekend's reviews are a snapshot of the growing sense of excitement around Irish food, and the new restaurants taking the dining scene to a different level. We're more eager to eat out than ever before, the choice and quality of food on offer is becoming more electric by the day, and we're increasingly seeing Irish food recognised on a global level. Michelin seemed to have moved in recently, and we'll barely be able to cope with the anticipation leading up to this years' awards in Autumn.
In the Irish Times, Catherine Cleary gets the first verdict in on Potager in Skerries, and it's a bold one, calling the tasting menu "the best money you’ll spend on food in Dublin". The menu, featuring predominantly food from North County Dublin, "the vegetable basket of Ireland", gave her all the feels, and their "delightful night" kicked off with potato bread and whipped smooth ricotta, with dark green lovage and chive pesto, which sounds like it would give Forest & Marcy's a run for its money.
Snacks like crisp potato skins filled with cod's roe and chervil were "gorgeous things", fish cakes were "gobstopper-sized flavour bombs", and she loved everything about a Baby Gem lettuce soup with aerated cream and dehydrated bacon. Similar praise for smoked haddock, Armagh mushrooms served three ways and Howth crab with Rush tomatoes, and she ends by saying "I love Potager. It’s the best chef’s dream of his own place: all about the food rather than all about the chef". She gives them 9/10 and says Skerries has got itself a destination restaurant. Read her review here.
Similarly strong statements from Leslie Williams in the Irish Examiner, who says Aimsir in Kildare "might be the most exciting Irish restaurant opening in a decade". The 18 courses from chef Jordan Bailey and team were too many to detail, but highlights included dehydrated and crisped violetta potato filled with garlic-infused Bán goat’s cheese, creamy, crispy milk-skin filled with pickled Chanterelles and St George’s mushrooms, and soda bread made with Guinness and treacle before being cooked in beef fat, with raw, salted butter.
He singles out the juice pairing as being "as creative, complex and substantial as Jordan’s cooking", and says as the courses kept coming he felt akin to a new born baby: "new neural pathways were being created with each flavour, each building on the foundation of the previous one — as though my palate was being re-assembled anew — Aimsir is quite simply an exhilarating thrill-ride for the senses." He gives the food 9/10, and you can read the full thing here.
From fine dining to fast food, Katy McGuinness in the Irish Independent is equally glowing about
Chimac, the new Korean fried chicken spot on Aungier Street (read our Chimac once over here). We knew they would have a head start into the critics' good books because of their commitment to free-range chicken, and Katy calls the decision "commendable".
She thought the Kimcheese burger was "sweet, savoury and rather delicious" but would have liked a bit more of a kimchi kick, Korean hot wings were "vibrant, flavoursome, with great texture", and skin-on fries were as good as she's encountered anywhere recently (we agree). She reckons she could eat a lot of Chimac's food, and says that if they can use free-range chicken and still manage to be affordable, why can't others? Read her review here.
In the Sunday Independent Lucinda O'Sullivan reckons she's unearthed another reason to head for Blackrock Market - Ciamei Cafe. She says the "buzzy, busy Italian" was full of Blackrock's finest, and their starter of fritto misto with lightly battered squid and prawns was "excellent". She's still dreaming about the pasta with blue cheese and walnuts, and spinach filled ravioli with tomato, basil and garlic sauce and Parmesan went down similarly well. Almond tart for dessert was "lovely", and she calls it "a delight". (Review not currently online)
In the Sunday Business Post there's more rhapsodising over Irish food from Gillian Nelis, who was at Sage in Midleton trying their famous 12-mile menu. She calls it "a pretty spectacular experience", with standouts including fermented potato pancake stuffed with corned beef and cabbage, king oyster mushrooms with barley and fennel, and red gurnard tart with smoked bacon, apple and buttermilk - "one of the most sophisticated and original fish dishes I've had in years". She calls the food at Sage "incredible", and you can read the full thing here.
In the Irish Daily Mail Tom Doorley was in The Yard in Wexford town, where he was lured in by a sign saying they had a kitchen garden (anyone else seeing a trend here?). A Thai beef salad was lacking in spice, but Toulouse sausages with mash and onion gravy (for the summer we're having) had "a Gallic simplicity and satisfaction". Battered lemon sole came with samphire and cubes of potato that tasted "potato-ish", and a steamed lemon pudding was the only real disappointment - "yellow, vaguely lemony, very sweet spongey stuff" - but it did come with "perfect" singed marshmallow and "lovely" ice-cream. Hot Portugese-style tarts were "wickedly lovely" and he appreciated the "generosity at work". (Review not currently online).
Finally in the Sunday Times Ernie Whalley details a super cringe (for them) experience at The Fumbally which ended up with him walking out, before finding relief in the curries at Konkan on Clanbrassil Street. Read that here.
More next week.