Leslie Williams goes for a taste at Klaw Seafood Café, 11 Spranger’s Yard, Fownes Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2
JANUARY is meant to be a time to take stock and behave ourselves after the excesses of Christmas, but I have to confess that this year I’ve rather struggled with the idea and have been out and about far more than usual.
For some reason on these wintry days I’ve been craving seafood, and thankfully Klaw Seafood Café (KSC) opened last November. I visited briefly back then but hesitated to write about it given that I reviewed its sister restaurant Klaw Poké on Capel St just last summer.
There has always been a shortage of casual seafood restaurants in Dublin, the type of place you could drop into for a quick bite at lunchtime or in the afternoon — Niall Sabongi is changing this, and it’s wonderful.
It is important to state that Sabongi is not the only one — don’t ever forget about the excellent Fish Shop on Queen’s St and their sister ‘fish ‘n chips ‘n decent wine’ joint on Benburb St. Unfortunately I rarely pass near Fish Shop, while I’m near KSC every time I’m in town — it has actually taken considerable restraint for me to only visit KSC four times.
KSC is the third iteration of Klaw which began with Klaw Crabshack with its no-nonsense oysters, mussels, crab and lobster menu. The fire officer wouldn’t allow any cooking so the idea of blow-torching oysters was hatched and while I wasn’t a fan at first (the smell of burned shell is rather unpleasant), if it is done sensitively it works well.
Klaw Poké is focused around the eponymous Hawaiian Salad which I like, but I far prefer their take on mac ‘n cheese with lobster and their indulgent whole crab.
Both other Klaws are fun and serve great seafood but KSC is the sum of all the best parts of the others in a more comfortable cooler venue. Let’s start with the lunch menu which contains one of my very favourite things — a New Orleans fried oyster Po’Boy sandwich. Oysters fried in gram flour until just crispy (but crucially still soft) in a sourdough roll with salad and spicy mayonnaise — an utter joy and the best I’ve tasted outside of New Orleans (with the bonus of better quality bread). Everything I’ve eaten here (and I’ve eaten the full menu) is excellent, but for this review I’m focusing on a meal for three on a Sunday afternoon.
We began with some fine chilli-mayonnaise topped Salt Cod Croquettes and some blow-torched oysters with kimchi. The torch had just warmed the oysters a little rather than cooked them and the spicy kimchi enhanced the briny wonders without overwhelming.
Mushrooms and Dublin Bay Prawns on sourdough toast with parsley and garlic butter is a combination I don’t think I’ve seen before but it worked — the umami enoki mushrooms adding pleasing depth and richness to the sweet prawns.
Lambay crab Waldorf Salad had apple, grapes and celery plus large mounds of fresh crab, the sweetness of the meat brought even more to the fore by the grapes and apple. Klaw serves Lobster Roll in each of its outlets — rich lobster in a toasted buttery brioche roll — but here it is served with chips and salad which adds to its greatness as a dish. Fish and Chips varies with the day’s catch and this time it was Coley (Pollock) in pristinely crunchy batter with crispy fluffy chips and a decently dressed salad.
The drinks list is short but apt with a choice of well-crafted Klaw beers (made for them by the Hopfully Brewing), fresh juices, four different Bloody Marys, four white wines — Picpoul de Pinet, Albariño, Marlborough Sauv Blanc or Muscadet and a couple of reds. The Albariño is good but on my last two visits I’ve opted for the chilled Cotes du Rhone Rouge which works especially well with the lobster roll and the prawns and mushrooms on toast.
Chocolate Fondant oozed rich chocolate sauce and ‘Irish Whiskey Plums’ had a light taste of whiskey and a rich creamy Picpoul flavoured Sabayon for contrast. You will note I’ve given very high marks, my highest ever for a casual restaurant — KSC deserves every one of them.