Restaurant review: Donna’s fusion delight

Hey Donna, 137 Rathmines Road, Dublin 6. Tel: 01-4913731;

www.joburger.iewww.heydonna.joburger.ie

THE Accademia Italiana della Cucina was founded in the early 1950s to safeguard the traditions of Italian Cuisine and the culture and the civilisation of the table. This is where you check to see what goes in a traditional Genovese Pesto sauce or a Ragu Bolognese.

Inevitably we have nothing like this in Ireland but if we did I would nominate the late Theodora Fitzgibbon’s version of Irish Stew (no carrots!) and among other things the modern classic that is Joe Macken’s Million Dollar Fries.

I say modern classic as it takes two old things and creates something entirely new. You begin with a creamy gratin-dauphinois made with ultra thin slices of potato which is then cut into chunks and deep fried until crisp.

It breaks the rules but it tastes even better than it sounds, truly greater than the sum of its parts. The bad news is that Bear, the restaurant that serves these fries along with chunky cuts of bavette and featherblade steak, is on hiatus while a new venue gets fitted out.

The good news is that Crackbird has moved into its place and their chicken wings and buttermilk battered chicken tenders are still delicious and you absolutely have to order the deep fried olives.

Skinflint pizza joint is hopping since it moved from the laneway beside the Olympia Theatre into Crackbird’s old home and Joe’s newest venture Hey Donna has taken the old Jo’Burger space in Rathmines.

Fans of doorstep burgers can still visit Jo’Burger in Smithfield or Castlemarket, but today I need to declare that my new favourite Joe Macken joint is Hey Donna — a kind of middle-eastern diner that will be open from 7am until (very) late.

Rathmines is the one part of Dublin that never sleeps so an all-day-late-night diner should fit in perfectly — ‘For Mates, Dates and Yadda Yadda!’ as the tagline states. They were only open a few days when I visited with three others (we couldn’t wait!), and I already have a couple of favourite dishes.

I’m told the menu will change regularly depending on what works and on the whims of the chefs but expect everything to follow a ‘flavour line’ from Rathmines in Dublin to Rathmines in Sydney, taking in Beiruit, Seoul and the Middle East. Right now it is mostly food from the Levant — moreish baba ganoush, rich creamy labneh topped with pomegranate seeds, garlicky toum sauce, roasted peppers and spices from Turkey and North Africa.

Salads and vegetables are a primary focus and everything is intended for sharing. The pitta bread is Lebanese in style with large thin sheets and we loved the beets cooked in embers with sheep yoghurt, pistachio and fennel and the roast cauliflower with cashew spiced butter.

As in other Joe Macken joints the wine list is short but good value and we chose a very fine bottle of Bodegas Nodus ‘Chaval’ (€30) from Valencia (made with the under-appreciated Bobal grape), packed with spice tinged red and black fruits and a good foil for the flavours on our plates.

Cocktails were thoughtful and tasty (Kraken spiced rum with date syrup and orange bitters is particularly recommended) and non-alcoholic Lemonades were excellent as always. Quick question – why is Joe Macken the only Dublin restaurateur that provides a selection of homemade lemonades?

To make up for Bear being closed we seized upon the Bavette steak served in thick rare slices on a platter and I also recommend the ‘smoky fried potatoes’ — chunks of baked potato deep-fried until crisp. Some fine tender squids on sour-dough toast rivalled the Bavette for our favourite protein, but there was also a shout-out for the citrusy Sumac chicken thighs.

If I’m to quibble I would like a bit more spice and punch in a few of the dishes but I’m told the home-made hot sauce will be finished fermenting soon.

Desserts are still being worked on so the one (complementary) dessert on offer that evening had been devised that morning by Mr Macken himself — a fine combination of Pumpkin Mascarpone cream with Ameretto cherries, fennel and pistachio.

With Hey Donna, Fallon & Byrne on the way and the new Stella Cinema serving food and cocktails, it looks like Rathmines might be getting its long lost groove back.

<<Open from 5 bells >>

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the tab

Dinner for four including five meze, three vegetable dishes, three meat dishes, dips and sauces, plus a bottle of red wine, two cocktails, two lemonades, and a pils cost a very reasonable €162.25

How To: Open every day - 7am until very late

The Verdict

Food: 7.5/10

Drink: 8/10

Service: 8.5/10

Ambience: 8.5/10

Value: 8.5/10

In a sentence: A charming, all-day-late-night French, Turkish, and Middle Easternstyle diner from the folks behind Jo’Burger and Crackbird.


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