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This Week's Critic Reviews

First up, in yesterday's Irish Daily Mail, Tom Doorley was dining solo at Shelbourne Social, and says the "eccentric meal" left him "underwhelmed". He says he's given them time to "bed down" after initial mixed reports, but like the critics before him, felt "confused" by the multi-sectioned menu. Akami tuna (below) was fresh and summery but the portion was "minute", while torched Dexter beef with garlic, confit egg, Parmesan and kohlrabi was "slightly strange" but he liked it, except for the odd gristly bit.

Pork belly with artichoke and squid was "a pleasant enough bowlful" but ambitiously priced at €30, and a dessert of strawberry kakigori with green tea dust, pistachio cream and "outstandingly delicious" strawberries sounds like the highlight. He says he expected more culinary fireworks, and a more coherent menu, and left "a little underwhelmed". Those guys cannot catch a break. (Review not currently online)

In the Irish Independent Katy McGuinness found an unwelcome visitor in her salad at Bewley's on Grafton Street, which only added to her "quite shocking" lunch. The wriggling insect was living in some "past-their-prime, brown-spotted lettuce leaves", on the side of a "not good" quiche Lorraine, with "adequate" potato salad. Yum-my. A macchiato was good and a Mary cake (almond sponge, apricot centre, chocolate mousse) "rich and delicious", but her main gripe resided around the fact that as somewhere that's likely to be on every tourist's hit list, Bewley's should be a showcase for excellent Irish food, and on that front it's "failing miserably".

She describes the menu as "all over the place", and cites the Coronation Chickpea Tartine (an open sandwich to the unwashed) featuring chickpeas mixed with vegan mayonnaise, soya yoghurt, mango chutney and curry spices, topped with grated carrot and red cabbage on walnut and raisin sourdough bread, as an example of food that looks as "dispirited and confused" and it sounds. She calls it "a missed opportunity to showcase great Irish ingredients", and gives the food and value 4/10. Read her review here.

In the Sunday Business Post Gillian Nelis was purging herself after her trip to The Old Post Office in Blackrock a couple of weeks ago, and the antidote to a "laughably expensive ... poor to mediocre" meal was China Sichuan in Sandyford. She could have eaten the "man and wife" beef slices and the Chinese turnip cake all day, baby back pork ribs were "a simple, delicious delight", and a ‘golden apricot’ for dessert made from almond crème brûlée, hazelnut sponge and a sea salt and apricot gel centre was "the perfect light, zingy finale". She says, "everything about China Sichuan is generous: the flavours, the service, the welcome, the range of dishes on offer", and she's now fully cleansed. Read the full thing here.

In the Irish Times Catherine Cleary calls Chimac "addictive chicken for a new generation". Despite the wait list for a table, and the 30 minute wait for food once they got in there, she says it was absolutely worth it. XL nugs with sriracha caramel were "delicious", as was a cucumber salad, and they nailed the cauliflower wings "right in the middle where this vegetable gets silky and nutty". A chicken burger with Korean hot sauce had "funk" and a "savoury growl to the spicy heat", and the chicken had "shellac crispness".

Desserts of cookie ice-cream sandwiches were "jaw-achingly sweet" and felt like a work in progress, but she's hopeful that any teething issues will soon be ironed out, as Chimac has "the kind of complex layers and brilliant flavours that you hardly ever find between two burger buns". She gives them 8.5/10 and you can read her review here.

Also feeling the Chimac love was new Sunday Times food critic (and long-standing Lifestyle editor) Niall Toner. It's a marked improvement on last week's write up of The Donnybrook, both in food quality and entertainment value, and you can read it here.

In the Irish Examiner Joe McNamee enjoyed the "stunning ocean view" at Stranded in Kinsale, as well as the pan-seared scallops ("delicious little bonbons of juicy marine umami"), gambas pil pil ("exquisitely meaty prawns") and a Spanish tortilla ("an extremely tasty dish"). He says Stranded are cooking "straightforward dishes but with real care and regular flashes of considered originality", and gives the food 8/10, and the value 10/10. He also compares himself to a whale, so if you see him around give him a hug. Read his review here.

Finally in the Sunday Independent it's another round-up from Lucinda, this time of the 20 best spots to eat along the Wild Atlantic Way, including Michelin-starred Mews (below) and Restaurant Chestnut in Cork, The Fishbox in Dingle and Little Fox in Ennistymon (watch a lovely video about them here). Not currently online but should be on her website soon.

More next week.

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