Everything from a long lunch in Uno Mas...
A leisurely Friday lunch in Uno Mas did nothing to disprove that the team here continue to set the bar for dining out in Dublin. A ‘snack’ of salamorejo with Cantabrian anchovies, toast and a generous pour of quality olive oil was a perfect salty, sunshine-filled bowl to see out the end of summer, while a starter of prawn rice with saffron and basil had us swaying in our chairs, temporarily unable to continue whatever conversation we’d been having.
The just-cooked tortilla remains as tear-jerkingly good as it’s been since day one, and a vegetarian main of ricotta agnolotti with San Marzano tomatoes, aubergine and black olive wiped the flavour floor with another main of Iberico pork presa, showing what a skilled kitchen can do when it comes to meat-free mains.
All too often we find fish mains inexplicably dull – a watery piece of protein surrounded by unloved veg and some form of potato – but Uno Mas’ hake with sweetcorn, trompettes, buttermilk and black truffle was spectacular, with perfectly burnished fish surrounded by creaminess, umami sweetness and a vinegary-tang. Many ‘wow’s were exclaimed in the consuming of this dish. The fried Maris Pipers currently come with marjoram and garlic butter, and yes you need to order them – don’t fight it.
Crispy potatoes, salads and gnocchi at Etto...
A dinner at the counter in Etto on a packed Friday night was just as impressive –we’d go as far as to say the kitchen has gone up a step since our last visit, under head chef Vish Sumputh (previously at Luna – the old Luna, no relation to the current Luna). While it’s always been vaguely Italian, the only things hailing from the mother country on the night we ate there were suppli, gnocchi and rum baba (although that's technically French), and it seems to have moved firmly into the ‘Modern Irish’ camp.
A snack of crispy potato, with onion jam, pecorino and duck ham was cheffier than we’re used to in this dark-wood filled room on Merrion Row, and something we can (deservedly) see appearing on Michelin’s Twitter feed some time soon. A tomato salad with goat’s cheese, yuzu dressing, honey and cherry was incredible on its own, but a side of goat’s cheese and yuzu filled tapioca rolls signalled that we weren’t in the more casual Etto of old any more.
Another starter of Lambay crab salad with pickled dillisk and nashi pear followed the same formula – an utterly delicious dish on its own, but a tearable, warm kimchi brioche on the side pushing it into ultra-memorable territory.
Like in sister restaurant Uno Mas, the vegetarian main of herb gnocchi with peas, violin courgette, pickled mushroom, truffle, Comté fondue and hazelnuts was a major menu high, with another main of BBQ pork presa not coming close in terms of interest or flavour. A side BBQ of hispi cabbage with miso mayonnaise, anchoïade and crispy onion was one of those all consuming dishes you will be thinking and talking about a year after eating it, comparing every other cabbage dish that passes your lips, complaining that it doesn’t taste as good as Etto’s. (Lisa)
Spaghetti Alfredo at Variety Jones...
Recently we sat at the chef's table in Variety Jones where no menus were given (how exciting or terrifying depending on your constitution), and chef/owner Keelan Higgs served all the courses. The simple dish of Spaghetti Alfredo continues to hit the table in the middle of the Michelin starred tasting menu, and it was lovely to hear Higgs explain how he makes it, and that it's something his Dad used to make for him as a kid. Uncomplicated, yet indulgent, it was our most memorable dish of the evening. (Maggie)
Balfego bluefin tuna and salted caramel martinis at The Old Spot
Just over a year ago saw Mark Ahessy, formerly head chef at Hang Dai and 777, relocate to a new spot called The Old Spot. Eager to give their updated menu a go, the Balfego bluefin tuna (said to be the most sustainable on the market) was the standout dish for us. The quality of the tuna itself was clearly top tier, and the combination of the salty ponzu dressing with the crispy shallots and creamy avocado was ace. Fresh, light and oh so delicious.
The Old Spot is for the most part spot on, but their salted caramel espresso martini deserves some sort of "best espresso martini in the city" medal. So smooth, so creamy, so deliciously sweet and salty. The most delightful post meal treat when you're too full for dessert... Nah, we could have one after dessert too - they're THAT good. (Maggie)
Chicken Katsu Curry, Kakilang
We’ve been back in Kakilang a couple of times since covering it – when we called it some of the best Asian street food around, we weren't speaking lightly – and on a recent return visit it continued to hold up as well as ever. Their katsu curry bowl is a very satisfying lunch of rice buried beneath a cap of soft omelette and served alongside a generous chicken cutlet swimming in lightly spicy sauce – it never fails to fill.
Ditto the popcorn chicken and chips, as simple as snack food gets but as top-notch too - tender chicken chunks, pristinely crispy chips, and a sharp sriracha mayo slathered all over. Delish. (Ronan)