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Review: Super Miss Sue, Dublin 2

21 Jan

I passed a building site a few weeks ago. It was a work in progress but it was clear it would become an eatery. Fast forward a few weeks and this building site had transformed into the Cafe portion of Super Miss Sue. It is one of 2 eateries to open on the site, the other restaurant will follow along with a gin bar.

3 of us got a table here the other night. I was first to arrive and I was seated by some friendly staff, set up with drinks and the menu was explained. When the other two arrived, specials were explained to us and we set to examine the menu. There are small plates, oysters and a selection of larger plates along with a selection of sides. They also offer grilled platters.

Salmon Gradvalax

Salmon Gravlax

Scotch egg.

Scotch egg.

We started with smoked eel croquettes, Gravlax with saffron and citrus and a final plate of a cod brandade scotch egg. The smoked eel croquettes were disappointing for €8. They lacked any taste of the promised horseradish, and lacked any discernible quantity of eel, despite having a smoky taste. It was suggested that perhaps they were made with milk that had encountered some other smoked fish once upon a time. The salmon also lacked any citrus punch and was slightly on the salty side. The saffron made an appearance in a few dabs of oil on the plate. The best of the starters was the cod brandade scotch egg. It was cooked perfectly, but again was a little heavy on the seasoning.

For mains I opted for the hake special. It was served with chorizo and chickpeas. The fish was cooked nicely, the chorizo didn’t overpower but the chickpeas were dry and chalky. Dining companion A went for the ray special. This was served with a tomato/pepper sauce.  A modest wing was served and she was ultimately pleased with the dish. Dining companion B (who cooks for a living) was not so happy with their battered haddock. The batter still needed work in his opinion and he felt it hadn’t sealed the fish properly, resulting in a slightly oily bit of fish. The peas served with it were very disappointing, they looked unappealing and were devoid of any flavour or seasoning. The tartare sauce was also very one-dimensional. Generally it was thought that if you model yourself as largely a fish joint, these basics should be nailed. They still need work.

We skipped dessert and got three coffees that were on the border between too strong/slightly unpleasant. With four glasses of wine (€8.50) and two glasses of prosecco (€6.50) plus two sides it totalled out at €138. Super Miss Sue is a nice venue with friendly staff. The food however lets it down. If you had eaten the same food as pub grub, you’d be happy. However at this price, you expect the execution to be of a much higher level.

 

Super Miss Sue,

Unit 2-3 Drury Street car park.

Tel: (01) 6799009

 

Review: The Greenhouse, Dawson Street.

28 Nov

This restaurant has caused quite a stir since it first opened. I had heard about head chef Mickael Viljanen from when he was in Gregan’s Castle. The words “Exciting food” were bandied about. When the greenhouse opened to very strong reviews- I waited to hear what the grapevine would say. Without fail, nothing but positive things came back about the work in the kitchen.  These reports came from friends who are very hard to please. All I needed was an excuse to go. When one arose, I leapt at the opportunity.

We were seated at banquette seating at the back of the restaurant. The soft furnishing and colours make the diners feel very cosy in what is effectively a glass block. As it was a bit of an occasion we decided the prudent thing to do would be to order the 7 course tasting menu. We told the maître d this. Upon which he did some thing rather peculiar. He asked would we not be interested in the chef’s surprise 5 course? Eh no. Why would a restaurant try to sell a cheaper menu?  In reality perhaps the kitchen were in trouble/short-staffed and they wanted to limit the courses going out. Anyways it wasn’t a great start. Just odd and we declined his suggestion. In addition to this the service throughout the meal was a little haphazard. I have the feeling our waiter may have been new(ish) and often his explanation of the various elements on the plate lacked any sort of detail.

The amuse-bouche were a pleasure to look at. Fennel meringues with an anchovy cream were a burst of flavour. Beetroot marshmallows were a big hit visually but lacked any depth of beetroot flavour. Little tartlets with a blue cheese filling were all sorts of salty goodness. In addition there were slightly larger chicken liver parfait tartlets too served with vanilla gel and gingerbread. Again there was no taste of gingerbread-but it was still delicious. I had major issues with the bread. It is far too delicious. It was a struggle not to fill up on it before the courses started arriving.

The first course of foie gras royale was a special bit of cooking. I don’t like foie gras. I loved this though. Served with various incarnations of apple coming in the shape of batons and gel. Add in a sliver of smoked eel, it made for an absolutely stunning flavour combination.

The langoustine with Brussels sprout and hazelnut was a bit of a hit and miss for me. I felt overall the dish was a little bitter and lacked balance. Saying that, it was still perfectly edible and I ate every bit.

Potato risotto was up next. Potato risotto is a dish I’m not sure about. If you want to feed me risotto, give me risotto. Potato risotto is either mash or cooked a little under. It is very hard to make the little shards retain their shape without it being undercooked. This was a very flavoursome dish but again I wasn’t wowed by its texture.

The fish course of glazed cod was stunning. It was served with an artichoke skin, and a scallop. Everything was cooked wonderfully and the flavours all worked together.

Up next was Bambi. Some delightfully rare venison was served with smoked milk, chanterelle, celeriac and elderberry. It was a glorious bit of meat cooked quite rare. It was full of savoury autumnal flavours and for me was probably the best course.

The first dessert was a sea buckthorn cream, gel and a caramel shard. I had never heard of this berry before let alone tasted it. I liked how light a plate of food it was after the heavier flavours of the preceding courses.

Dessert two was probably my least favourite course of the evening. It was a particularly nice chocolate disk in the center, imagine a dense mousse style creature. Then around it were dots of bergamot gel, prune and there was an accompanying hazelnut oil ice cream. Admittedly prune and bergamot are not my favourite flavours but I just felt this dish was a collection of random elements.

The petit fours were excellent with the exception of the smoked fudge. It was just too strong a taste at that stage in proceedings. The mini rum babas were a triumph. I would have eaten 7 courses of them, with their accompanying cream. The macaroons were also very pleasant creatures and the passionfruit chocolates were a zingy finish.

Some people talk about the Greenhouse as if it’s a religious experience. That it will change your life etc. It didn’t. Is it talented cooking? Without doubt. How other venues in Dublin have a star and this place doesn’t is beyond me. This truly is some of the most exciting cooking in Dublin. We all agreed though that the kitchen was let down slightly by the slightly skittish service front of house.

Would I go back? Definitely.

 

(I do better in soft lighting, but my photos don’t. I would be doing a disservice to the food to republish them here.)

Chicken on tour: Ho Chi Minh City

2 Aug

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The first thing that hits you is always the smell. That damp, perfumed heat. Asia.
That aroma greeted me on arrival in Ho Chi Minh City airport the other day.

My journey from the airport to my hotel was a rapid introduction to this frenetic city, formally known as Saigon. The chaotic traffic. Cars trying to pierce their way through the swarms of mopeds. The constant horns blaring. The smell of food cooking on the street side and vendors selling every imaginable good.

My first few days in the city were a blur of mixed up sleep patterns and jetlag. On the second night I did the Saigon Street Eats seafood tour run by a very nice couple Barbara and Vu. They take you to a ‘Snail Street’. The Vietnamese call all crustaceans snails and this street specialised in them!

We ate sea-snails cooked in butter sauce, scallops with green onion and crispy pork fat, mussels, and incredible clams in a fragrant lemongrass broth (pic below). There was also a wasabi oyster at one point. I may not rush back for that.

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In terms of the sights of Ho Chi Minh city. A few musts are the War Remnants Museum and the Cu Chi tunnels. The museum has some of the Vietnam War’s military hardware on show but also an extensive collection of photographs that portray the conflict and its aftermaths.

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Another very interesting place to visit are the Cu Chi tunnels (above), which are about an hour and a half out of the city. They were used as hiding places by the Cu Chi rebels. We got to go through a 100m stretch of the tunnels (widened twice to allow for western bodies I am told) and my word, they were cramped. Also extremely warm down there. It was like bikram crouching yoga! The whole complex again allows you to see firsthand the varying barbs of the conflict. From the traps used by the rebels, to the tunnels and their various roles as well as the weaponry used by the Americans. You can also fire real, live guns if that’s something that tickles your fancy.

Ben Thanh Market (seen below) in the city is also worth a wander through. You can get everything from coffee to clothing and a lot in between!

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Highlights:

Food area: Ben Thanh Market (at night the streets around it become a row of restaurants)

Best dish: The clams in lemongrass broth on the seafood tour.

Best beer: Saigon (green label)

Best attraction: Cu Chi tunnels.

Next stop: Nha Trang.

P.S. I’m blogging from an iPad on these travels. So apologies if the posts are a little less polished then normal!

Review: Lola, Sablon, Brussels

17 Jul

On a recent trip to visit my partner in dining/good friend (longtime readers of the blog will have met him in various posts before) in Brussels, I got some good news from home (exam results) that warranted (serious) celebration. So him being the local in the know we toddled off to Lola, a restaurant in the Sablon district of Brussels.

Lola is a long narrow-ish room with soft lighting and comfy chairs. It is always busy (apparently) and I was lucky to be able to grab a booking for that evening, albeit a late one.

To start, there was an intense pea amuse-bouche. Served chilled it was very refreshing and full of flavour. Myself and Shane opted for a crab tower for starters. It was speckled with herbs, generous chunks of ripe mangos and topped with a cumin flavoured crisp. It was an incredibly generous portion of crab. Shane’s better half opted for white asparagus. It had been poached in a very flavoursome cooking-liquor and then was topped with diced egg. Again it was a very generous portion.

Lamb cutlets, goats cheese and ratatouille.

Lamb cutlets, goats’ cheese and ratatouille.

 

For mains I went for lamb cutlets. They were delicious. 4 (large) cutlets arrived, very tender and perfectly cooked, with a pink centre. They were topped with little chunks of goats’ cheese and served with a ratatouille and stunning gratin potatoes. The kind you’d sell your granny for. The goats’ was a wonderful contrast with the sweetness of the lamb. Shane, in a flash of émigré patriotism, went for the fillet of Irish beef. He thoroughly enjoyed it and I even managed to taste it- again the meat was cooked simply but with attention. His better half went for chicken, and there were no complaints from that quarter.

Looking all fondanty, on a jaunty swirl of caramel.

Looking all fondanty, on a jaunty swirl of caramel.

 

After an evening of good food, we were tempted by the dessert menu, however we thought the prudent thing to do would be to order a chocolate fondant between us. With a salted caramel accompaniment it went down a treat. As did a glass of port for myself and himself.

The service throughout was excellent. They were very attentive and never got in the way or intruded. In fact you barely noticed them. With a coffee each and a bottle of wine the total came to €227. It certainly isn’t a cheap meal, but it is fantastic value. The surrounds, service and attention to detail in the cooking made for three very happy diners that night.

 

Many thanks to all who made that evening one of celebration. In every sense. You know who you are.

Taste of Dublin

27 Jun

Recently , the very nice people in Electrolux offered me the opportunity to head along to Taste of Dublin. I had never been and  was interested in heading along. Add in  a few good mates, some reasonably good weather and some tasty food- it promised to be a good night!

Unfortunately this year the weather was not the kindest. Luckily for us we decided to head along on Saturday evening and it seemed we lucked out with the best of it.

Railway curry (Photo courtesy of David over at Kitchen 72)

Railway curry (Photo courtesy of David over at Kitchen 72)

 

After some initial liquid refreshment we were in the need of something tasty. Myself and Pete went for the ‘Railway Lamb Curry’ from the Ananda/Jaipur stand. It was served with chapatis. It was a wonderful dish. As it was pouring down at the time, a warming curry was just what the doctor ordered. After that we called over to the lovely people at Il Primo and sampled their leek and parmesan risotto. Head-chef Anita Thoma finished each risotto in a wheel of parmesan. Check out their twitter stream to see the hollowed out remnants at the end of the festival.

At this point we were in need of something sweet and sampled the delicious peanut-butter parfait from Pichet. It was an outstanding dessert. Sweet and a little bit salty, it was myself and Pete’s favourite dessert of the night. After a drink or two enjoying the live entertainment we bumped into Laura from The Seasonal Kitchen and her entourage.

Is Taste the most gastronomic event you will ever be at? No. Is it a good night out? Absolutely. I was with 5 other friends and we all agreed it was a very pleasant night but it’s not cheap. By the time you buy your ticket in, your florins and you have a few tasting plates and drinks, the bill adds up very very quickly. If they knocked a florin off here and there it could make it a bit more affordable and more about the food.

 

(Note: I was provided with two entry tickets for Taste of Dublin 2013 by the sponsors of the event. The opinions, as always, are my own.)