Taste at Rustic, 17 South Great George’s St, Dublin 2; tel: 01-7079596, www.tasteatrustic.com
OTHER Irish chef garners as many column inches as Dylan McGrath — the “enfant terrible” of Irish cooking, he has “swagger and intensity“, but more recently he’s “mellowed” apparently. What nobody denies is his talent.
Taste opened in May on the third floor of the Rustic Stone building at the corner of Georges St and Exchequer St. The menu is influenced by McGrath’s travels and dishes were conceived in his Development Kitchen.
I visited Taste at Rustic on a busy Saturday evening with my foodie friend DS. The menu is mainly Japanese food with a few nods to Europe and elsewhere.
Thankfully, the menu has been simplified in recent weeks but you still need to decide between warm bites, sashimi, grilled dishes, steaming pots, appetisers, sushi and vegetarian dishes. Each dish is then further labelled “sweet”, “salt”, “sour”, “bitter” or “umami” and you are invited to “explore the difference between taste and flavour” (no eye-rolling down the back please!).
The drinks menu includes a good list of Sake, cocktails and well-chosen wines (no beers surprisingly) — I chose a fragrant light Domaine de Ménard Colombard from Gascony which worked well, particularly with the sushi and early courses.
We began with two miso soups — the ‘umami’ miso deliciously packed with pickled savoury mushrooms, although my “sweet” miso was a little too sweet. Nigiri Sushi bites followed and were excellent — melting wagu tataki, tangy john dory with lime, subtle turbot with plum purée.
Blow torched scallops had been coated with black garlic to give them a bitter edge but were nicely balanced by some citrus-yuzu flavoured avocado. Wasabi potatoes were cooked in a bracing wasabi cream then coated in crumbs and deep-fried — easily one of the bullseye hits of the meal.
We made the rookie mistake of fussing about the taste elements and rechecking the menu during these early courses and this upset the balance of the meal. Don’t do this!
Lamb was cooked in mojo (as in the Canary Island pepper sauce I assume), and arrived tender, moist and perfectly cooked (medium rare). This allowed me to hand back the bowl of hot coals, as just like Rustic Stone all main courses are finished at the table. Personally I go to restaurants to have someone else cook for me, so this concept leaves me cold. DS feels the same, and she was less lucky as her coconut and lime hot pot was left bubbling in front of her while she fretted over which raw vegetable she should cook first. Hunger got the better of her and she dumped them all into the pot.
The next problem, however, was the extreme sweetness of the hot-pot which needed adjustment with lots of lime juice and sea salt. Once doctored, the flavours did come through but this was by far the least successful dish on the night.
If I’ve been a little critical up to now it is only because McGrath’s standards are high and it raises expectations.
At this point we were poking and fussing with our food, over-thinking it and worrying — the desserts shut us up. Green tea brulée with pistachio, yoghurt mousse, white chocolate and yuzu ice cream was tagged “sour” but was in fact beautifully balanced — the citrus yuzu and sour yoghurt elements counterpointing the fragrant sweet, bitter and herbal tea brulée — a thing of beauty.
Doughnut Sticks cooked in coconut oil with black salt and sake ice-cream were labelled “salt” and the salt did cut through the sweet sticky doughnuts, but it was the wondrous salted miso (umami) caramel sauce that bound everything together.
Staff deserve praise as they were supremely attentive and anxious to ensure that our night went smoothly. The small hiccups that did occur led the manager on the night to comp our desserts — I assured him this was unnecessary but he insisted.
So let me be clear, go visit Taste. This is one of the most stimulating restaurants in the country, serving mostly very tasty and exciting food. Order what sounds good, and pay scant attention to whether it is ‘salt’ or ‘sour’ etc. Crucially do not fuss about which taste you are eating — simply take each dish as it comes and enjoy McGrath’s cooking. He’s pretty damn good at it.
Dinner for two with eight small starters, 2 mains,two sides,two (complementary) desserts andone bottle of wine - €123 (excluding tip).
5pm -10.30pm - Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday & Sunday
5pm -11pm - Friday and Saturday.
Food – 8/10
Service – 8/10
Drink – 8/10
Ambience – 8/10
Value – 8/10
In a sentence:
A high concept restaurant serving flavour packed Japanese influenced food in a buzzy atmosphere – go for the buzz and the creativity and linger long over the food.
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