Some timely reviews this week, with two critics upping the veg post-Christmas, and another celebrating Chinese New Year. No such dietary restrictions with the others, although Niall Toner probably wishes there had been, then maybe he could have avoided this week's "mess" of a meal...
After last week's slating of barbecue joint Mister S, Catherine Cleary in the Irish Times is back in her happy place at vegetarian restaurant Cornucopia. She gives it a very respectable 8/10, despite saying there are things she would change, like the oval plates which reminded them of being in hospital, the plastic straws in the smoothies and the Thai curry which was "Thai mild", and missing the "fire, sweetness and brothy fish-sauce (obviously a no-no) umami kick of salt, sweet and heat." Goulash was "a lovely plate of fresh flavours", salads were "impressive", and a nut-topped brownie was "terrific". It doesn't read like the most spectacular of meals, but she calls Cornucopia "the benchmark for simple hearty good food". Read her review here.
Someone else ensuring they got their January five-a-day was Gillian Nelis in the Business Post, who was at new vegetable-focused restaurant Glas. She says you won't get lectures here, but you will get "a tasty meal that just happens not to feature any meat or fish". A ricotta and citrus salad with mizuna, endive, candied hazelnuts and a grapefruit and blood orange dressing was "joyous", Jerusalem artichokes with roast baby beets, a "superb" artichoke purée, and bulgur wheat with cranberries worked brilliantly, and the King oyster scallops with tarragon and smoked almond pesto was the dish of the night, and "very clever work". She says despite the lack of meat, the "great cooking, charming service and affordable prices" at Glas mean you’re unlikely to feel deprived, and you can read the full review here.
In the Irish Examiner Leslie Williams took the approaching Chinese New Year as an excuse to go to Ka Shing on Wicklow Street, and he says it's "probably the best dim sum menu in the city" (we visited earlier this year and agree). Two of them shared 12 dishes - impressive work - with highlights including "excellent" BBQ Pork in a rice noodle roll, crispy won tons which were the crispiest he's ever tasted, and pork sui-mai dumplings which were "outstanding with fruity rich pork flavours". He suggests sucking on "silky, fatty" chicken feet in black bean sauce at least once (we've done this and do not recommend it), and also dove into the sweet vinegar and ginger pork feet (another dish we would be happy to never eat again), and says a new dish of fried dough drizzled in sugar syrup was "delicious". He suggests going with a group and ordering it all (this we agree on), and you can read his review here.
In the Sunday Times Niall Toner bravely visits new Press Up opening Mackenzie's so we don't have to. It's not far off every Press Up review that's ever been written (but definitely on the harsher side), and there's some pretty entertaining insights and anecdotes in there - like when he compares Mackenzie's to an industrial food and drink facility where the end produce is packed into actual humans. It also gave him the opportunity for his first one star review. Read about the "mess" of a meal here.
In the Sunday Independent, Lucinda O'Sullivan was at new Blackrock opening Volpe Nera, and it's a clean sweep so far for Etto's ex-head chef Barry Sun, with Lucinda declaring her own review "a rave". Service was "exemplary", and food was "top-notch", with particular praise for the "sublime threesome" of cep dumplings, the "heavenly" Iberico pork and olive croquettes, and the "tender and moist" pheasant, which was complimented "superbly" with pickled quince, blackened endive and a polenta chip. Granny Smith sponge with caramelised apple and Calvados ice-cream was "light and airy", and she advises "beating a path" to get there. (Review not currently online)
In the Irish Daily Mail Tom Doorley says that newly opened The Glass Curtain is "the most exciting thing to happen to food in Cork in a long time". He says the food is "punchy" and "full of colour and assertive flavours", like the grilled leeks with cashew sambal dressing, Jerusalem artichokes and trout roe, and the smoked beetroot with tofu/horseradish cream and crisp seaweed - "sweetness, sourness, saltiness and spiciness all in concert". Butternut squash gnocchi with kale in a smoked gouda sauce were "outstandingly good", and charred veg with yoghurt and tahini was "an exhuberent, joyful plate". Their take on a bounty bar for dessert was the only low point being "just okay", but an affogato with crunchy praline was "simply ace", and he says that considering the level of cooking the prices are very reasonable. (Review not currently online)
Finally in the Irish Independent Katy McGuinness drove to Belfast for lunch (who says critics don't leave Dublin), and says if she lived locally she'd be booking into Michelin-starred Ox on a weekly basis. They went all out with the tasting menu, starting with "perfect" Coolattin cheddar and beer gougères, followed by "beautiful, luxurious" shredded celeriac with grapes, trompette mushrooms and shaved winter truffle, and a "bold and assertive" tartare of wild Wicklow venison with St Tola cheese, red cabbage, punchy mustard and mooli radish. We could go on but don't want to torture you. She calls Ox "truly elegant, properly seasonal, Michelin-starred food served with buckets of charm in one of the most stylish and relaxed dining rooms on the island", and gives them an overall score of 29/30. Read her review here.
More next week.