I spent a summer in Boston in the early 1990s in a house near Boston College with 12 Irish students and one Russian emigré.
It was a hot humid summer and for the first month none of us had work so we would sunbathe, gossip, and eat ice-cream — lots of ice-cream.
You see, arguably the best ice-cream shop in Boston was 100m from the house and it had around 40 different flavours on any given day, all made on the premises.
We felt it was our duty to try them all — what is the American Dream if not an abundance of choice?
One among us (Kieran) only ever wanted chocolate-chip, day after day, until eventually we refused, so he would happily go to the shop to buy his own.
I was thinking about Kieran as myself and my guest discussed the “Carlingford Oysters with Kimchi Bloody Mary” in Amy Austin recently.
There are purists that insist oysters must only ever be served naked and I get it, oysters are a pure and wonderful thing.
But new experiences can also be pure and wonderful and here the subtle use of piment d’espelette pepper mixed with the umami salty spicy kimchi and tomato transformed the oysters into something else entirely — a truly excellent opening shot.
Amy Austin is the new wine bar from John Farrell who also has Dillingers and the Butcher Grill in Ranelagh plus the super-trendy 777 Mexican bar on George’s St.
Amy Austin is a casual almost industrial space that seats 30 above a car park — the same car park that once had Luna in its basement.
Named for a famous graffitto in the city of Austin, TX, the menu is a mix of hot and cold small plates and after our oysters came a rich meaty Ham Hock Terrine with some silky foie gras and punchy pickled mushrooms (€12.5) — nicely balanced and perfect mushed into crusty sourdough bread (€2).
Yellowfin Tuna Crudo (€13) came in dice-sized chunks with some baby blobs of avocado and sesame and ponzu touches that balanced out the richness of the (good quality) tuna.
Fried Dublin Bay prawns in a crisp panko crumb had some dill and garlic edges (€14) were just-cooked so the flesh almost melted once I bit into the crumb, a must-order.
A dish that did not work quite so well was the Suckling Pig Belly (€14) as the fat was dense and chewy and almost an inch thick and needed more rendering — however the pickled hispi cabbage and bacon crème fraîche sauce on the side was excellent.
By now we were finished our carafe of Beaujolais on tap and after a quick sample taste of the trepat and the pinot noir we decided to order more Beaujolais.
There are twelve wines on tap available by the glass or 50cl or 75cl carafes plus 35 wines in bottle including orange and sparkling wines.
It’s a solid list and re-reading it as I write this I feel a little guilty that we stuck with the tap wine.
There are also cocktails (on tap) and the Negroni was surprisingly good with a solid bitter pungency.
After the mains my guest wanted cheese so we ordered them all — rich Hegarty’s Cheddar with proper pickled onions and chutney, creamy pungent Crozier Blue and subtle silky Burrata from Toonsbridge, these added a little heft to the meal and were all in excellent condition.
Poached Pear & Frangipane Tart with a light Chantilly cream (€7) was the only dessert and was tasty if rather light and airy.
Given the strong flavours throughout the meal I’d have preferred something a little richer, something that shouted — the frangipane was more of a whisper, albeit a rather sexy one.
So I was impressed by Amy Austin.
Dublin has endless choice in wine bars these days but the menu they are offering is creative and tasty.
My former housemate in Boston would really really hate it.
Dinner for two, including three smaller plates, five larger ones, two negroni cocktails and two 500ml carafes of Beaujolais on tap, cost €142
Monday to Wednesday, 5pm ’til late;
Thursday to Saturday, 12pm ’til late;
Amy Austin is part of the cool new wine bar trend serving tasty small plates in a buzzy atmosphere and they do it with flair.