CORK’S Oliver Plunkett Street has been rightly praised for the diversity of its shops and its character and I’ve been trying and failing to think of a Dublin equivalent.
It certainly isn’t Capel Street which is probably closer to North Main Street (arguably my favourite street in Cork thanks to its unpredictability — I’ve picked up a couple of first editions in the charity shops there, not to mention a barely worn pair of Chelsea boots).
Capel Street too has its charity shops (Paul Smith Suit for €25 is my best find), and has always had a strange mix of hardware, beauty and furniture shops but recently it has also become an ethnic food hot spot with Sichuan, Sushi, Filipino, Korean and Vietnamese restaurants in between nail bars, Louis Copeland and the sex shops. The excellent Brother Hubbard Café is expanding into the old Gary Rhodes building so watch that space also.
Klaw Poké is a sister restaurant to Klaw in Temple Bar but the Capel Street outpost has a completely different feel — yes it is stripped back and bare-walled but it feels warmer and almost luxurious in comparison. In addition it seats 25 so you have a better chance at getting a seat.
The five of us began with a dozen ‘naked’ oysters and could have chosen Kellys, Waterford or Riverqueens but I opted for my current favourites — Flaggy Shore from West Clare. As always they were luscious, fruity, briny and spanking fresh and worked particularly well with our Segrel Albariño (€38).
Klaw’s Niall Sabongi (also a fish wholesaler) likes to keep things simple and the drinks list reflects this — a couple of wines (Picpoul and Albariño), cocktails and some craft beers — functional but appropriate.
Hawaiian Poké fish salad is the house speciality and you can create your own with a base of rice, quinoa, noodles or leaves and choose between octopus, salmon, crab, shrimp or lobster plus various sauces, toppings and extra ingredients such as kimchi, nori, salty pineapple and macadamia nuts. We opted for the standard Ahi Poké with chunks of fresh raw tuna, edamame beans, chucka wakame seaweed, pickled ginger, brown rice and Ponzu sauce.
The quality of the tuna was excellent but the Ahi Poké was far too dry and needed an extra portion of Ponzu sauce to make it sing properly.
The menu is large here with every type of shellfish but flavours are kept very straightforward. Old Bay Seasoning is used everywhere and while I like this classic Baltimore crab seasoning in its retro yellow packaging there is a strong risk you will tire of its celery salt, paprika and dried herb nature.
I’m probably being churlish in mentioning this as Klaw Poké is comfort food writ large and not to be taken too seriously. The freshness of the seafood is deadly serious but the way it is served won’t feel so and this is to be hugely welcomed.
Mac and Cheese was classically made with sticky unctuous cheese but the addition of lobster (for €9.50 extra) turned it into a luxury. Nachos and Cheese as you might expect with orange cheese and avocado but throw on a generous heap of fresh crab for €4.50 and you raise a simple late night snack into something else entirely.
For the classicists out there Prawns on skewers, Crab on Toast, woodfire grilled prawns (called “When I was Six” recalling Sabongi’s childhood) and Jerk Crab are exactly as you would hope.
Crab Claws need cracking with a hammer, you get down and dirty with the whole crab by sucking out the meat while the juices drip down your chin.
Octoroast is octopus Spanish style with lots of paprika and the usual house accompaniments of samphire and edamame beans. Octopus can be flabby and ooze rather slimy liquid if not done right but here it was firm and perfectly textured and it disappeared quickly.
Simplicity continues with the dessert which included a sorbet or grilled pineapple with a caramel butterscotch sauce.
The ‘grilling’ is done at the table with a blowtorch and also worked just as well on peaches on a previous visit.
Klaw Poké is a fine idea and yes it is simple but it all feels gloriously indulgent, primal and pleasurable.
Klaw Poké, 159 Capel Street, Dublin 1, Tel: 01-5560117; www.klaw.ie
The tab: A sybaritic lunch for five including one bottle of Albariño (€38), oysters, starters, mains, sides and desserts cost €200.50 (excluding tip).
How to: Monday-Sunday: 10.30am ‘til Late
In a sentence: A hugely enjoyable seafood experience with excellent produce, charming staff and an informal atmosphere.
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