Hopefully you were spared this but those ‘convenient’ Paxo breadcrumbs in the blue box were one of the reasons I did not look forward to fish on Friday.
My mother was actually a great cook but for some reason felt she should coat pristine pieces of fish with cardboard flavoured day-glow orange and yellow bits — they scarred me for life.
You may remember my rave review of Fish Shop on Queens Street a few weeks ago and that restaurant is indicative of a trend — Dubliners have gotten over their Paxo trauma and the city now has more than a handful of successful fish restaurants.
Most surprising is the huge success of Klaw which sells no chips or deep fried fish but has queues of people ordering oysters, crab and lobster.
Klaw is modelled on what you might find on a fishing pier in France or on the docks in Baltimore (Maryland).
Its lack of pretension is admirable (but do grab a blanket from the pile as you enter).
Oysters can be ordered naked, dressed or torched and on the night we visited there was a choice of pacific oysters from Dungarvan, Galway, and Dooncastle in Connemara — they were out of natives that day.
They arrived cleanly opened (no shell pieces) and nicely served on crushed ice on a simple metal plate.
There is a long tradition of serving oysters on ice but I have to say I prefer mine a little less chilled.
Temperature aside these were all good oysters but ordering four of each type inevitably led to comparisons.
Myself and my oyster fanatic guest both favoured the Galway Oysters, which I believe were from Kellys.
The key was their balance of flavours, hovering magically between minerality, salinity and sweetness.
Their richer tasting flesh won the day. The Dooncastle were a little on the sweet side we felt, and while the Dungarvan oysters had good texture the saltiness slightly overwhelmed.
I like my oysters natural without lemon juice or dressing but I also adore cooked oysters and I would argue that the New Orleans Po’ Boy fried oyster sandwich is the greatest sandwich yet invented. What to make then of Klaw’s (surprisingly popular) flamed oysters.
The presentation is dramatic — some chopped bacon is added and the plate is held by a chain in front of the customer and a blow-torch is applied full force for around 30 seconds.
The restaurant then fills with the smell of burnt bacon and singed oyster flesh and this pungent smell lingers in the air for at least 10 minutes. Even in the interest of research I could not bring myself to order them, so I won’t comment further.
To happier dishes — a decent sized pot of mussels topped with fresh herbs worked well — sweet fleshy morsels served with some buttered warm crusty bread.
Dublin Bay Prawns with garlic butter were simply cooked allowing the sweet pink flesh to shine and worked well with the sweet toasted brioche on the side.
Lobster Roll is also served on brioche and contained just enough good quality sweet textured lobster to justify €16. My difficulty with the lobster roll was singular — the poor quality mayonnaise.
Making mayonnaise is the the first thing a chef learns and it takes less than 90 seconds with a food-processor and less than five minutes with a hand whisk — I don’t know for certain if this was home-made or bought-in but either way it needs serious work as it is damaging an otherwise excellent dish.
Dessert was just three choices, two of which involved Whoopee Pies. A Whoopie Pie is a New England cross between a biscuit and a cake, rather like a chocolate sponge Oreo.
Whoopie Pie Mess consisted of broken pie, plus cream, and meringue, and had a satisfying gooey, crunchy simplicity.
Brandy splashed Crème Brûlée had a nicely crisp burnt sugar crust and a creamy custard base with a decent slosh of brandy to add some character.
Despite a few quibbles this was an enjoyable meal, thanks to the quality of the shellfish and I will definitely be back — probably at happy hour (5pm-6pm) when oysters cost €1 each. A box of Paxo costs €1.90.
Dinner for two with six shared courses including a dozen oysters, mussels, prawns, lobster roll, two desserts plus one beer and two glasses of wine - €91.50
Sunday-Wednesday, 12pm -10pm; Thursday-Saturday, 12pm - 11pm
An unpretentious oyster, crab and lobster restaurant serving good quality seafood in the heart of Temple Bar — KISS rules apply when ordering (keep it simple, stupid!)