Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Blakes Restaurant in Galway

No photos were taken of K.C. Blake's in Galway, but no matter, it was not an attractive building and we ended up eating outside on a narrow little stretch of the main, pedestrian only street leading into Galway City from the bridge. Earlier in the day I hadn't even realized it was a restaurant. The interior was modern and attractive, but completely booked, so we dined alfresco. Bad idea; we were all but forgotten by the wait staff and I recall going in twice. Once I went in to find out what was going on with our order, and again to ask for our bill, half an hour after we had finished dessert. I can't blame the wait staff, it was cold out there. I'm not a Guiness fan, too bitter tasting to me, but my dining partner enjoyed a pint once in awhile. The bread was photographed because it was there. It was supposed to be unique I suspect, but it wasn't as good as traditional Irish brown bread.

Who could resist smoked salmon in Ireland? I hope the answer is no one. We split this luscious course and were happy to have ordered it. I think the Irish are very adept at working with salmon and they know how to smoke it without drying it out.

You can't find a standard recipe for Cesar salad in Ireland. There must be as many recipes as there are chefs, but at least this one used Parmigiano cheese and cracked black pepper, although the dressing was more Ranch than anything else. I have to surmise that they really like the name and are reasonably assured that a salad christened with that name will be ordered by tourists. This chicken Cesar was the best of the trip for my dining companion; close, but still no cigar.

The salmon I ordered as a main course was cooked lightly, to perfection really. It was moist, tender and delicious, it flaked off the bone, and that is where I must protest, I had to debone it myself. No tourist wants to die from choking on a fish bone while on vacation. I guess as a nation of fishermen, the Irish would see this criticism as trite and maybe they'd be right. But I stand by it.
Blake's made up for their lack of service, the freezing alfresco table on the street, and the bony salmon with their Pavlova. It was the first I have ever seen on a menu and I've been wanting to try one for years. It was decadent, crunchy and fluffy, sweet and satisfying. What a great dessert. It's obvious that Blake's is one of the few upscale restaurants in Galway. I hope they get their service improved, so they can continue to serve the community. I would consider going back if I were able to dine inside.

10 Quay Street
Galway, Co. Galway, Ireland
091 561 826

Monday, July 28, 2008

Carluccio's in Dublin

Since I am of fan of Antonio Carluccio, the London chef and T.V. personality, I couldn't resist trying his restaurant in Dublin. I own several of his cookbooks and think he has classic recipes down pat, so I was expecting authentic Italian food, especially since there is a large Italian community in Dublin and Italian imports are easier to come by. I was underwhelmed and very quickly realized it was a franchise restaurant, or at least I hope so.
The menu was cute, and the dining room was bright and cheery. If you click on the menu to enlarge, you may be able to see what was on offer. To be clear, my selection could have been better and may have contributed to my disappointment.
My partner in crime ordered the suppli, one with a meat filling and one with a cheese filling. Both were quite good now that I think about them again. My panzanella was good but not great. A vine ripened tomato would have made all the difference, But they may be few and far between in Ireland.

The mushroom soup was a bit flat, but the menu listed wild mushrooms, so perhaps they are less flavorful on the Emerald Isle. The focaccia was over baked and dry. The spinach gnocchi seemed inside out to me. I expected a gnocchi made of spinach, silly me.
52 Dawson Street
Dublin 2
Tel. +353 (0) 1 6333 957
Fax. +353 (0) 1 6708 612
Open: Mon-Fri 7-10, Sat 8-10.30,Sun 9-10

Monday, July 21, 2008

O'Neill's Irish Pub in Dublin

No matter what angle you use to look at this place, it reads Irish Pub all the way. Inside or outside, stained or merely cut glass windows, dark wooden interior, loud talking, crowds; this is Irish pub central and what better place to find a predictable pub lunch than O'Neill's with its rabbit warren of rooms and attentive staff. The lines looked long but I was cold and needed to sit for awhile so I tried it.

As in most pubs, the lunch is made in massive quantities and set out on steam tables. They do a decent job of keeping the food warm, but do not add to the ambiance, nor do they bode well for extraordinary nor inventive cuisine. This is bare bones hot food at best, but it is plentiful and affordable. No gastro pub pretense, this is the real deal, pub grub.

As you stand in line, you pass the blackboard with the daily specials listed, and then within a few minutes, if things go well, you have placed your order and are walking by the bar where you may choose to add "a pint" to your selection. You are also trying to find an empty table, a difficult feat at lunchtime.

My selection of roast pork was accompanied by a potato gratin, I use the term loosely because I detected no cheese, nor anything else to liven up the bland potato, not even salt. The peas and corn were overcooked as expected, and the gravy was from a tin no doubt. On a cold and wet day, this could pass as a decent lunch if you added two or more of those "pints" to it. After this pedestrian lunch and my return home, I noticed that the pub is also a restaurant and the linked menu indicates that I walked into the wrong door if I was looking for good food. It's worth trying again.

Suffolk Street
Dublin 2
(01) 679-3656
Fax: (01) 679-0689

Monday - Thursday 10.30am to 11.30pm
Friday & Saturday10.30am to 12.30am
Sunday 12.30pm to 11.00pm

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Malt House in Galway

A small establishment but big on style, the Malt House in Galway was a breath of fresh air. The interior was modern, light and refreshing, but already filled to capacity by the time I stumbled upon the restaurant. Located in a small courtyard just off the main road leading into downtown from the small bridge, it was not easy to find. The less than traditional menu is what made me decide to give it a try.

As you can see from the menu, there are some traditional offerings, but they are sprinkled with some international options that use spices more liberally than traditional Irish dishes would. The inclusion of an Asian style dish was rare indeed.
Since I was outside and wanted an uncomplicated lunch, the napkins were already blowing off of the table, I selected the lamb burger. Failing to notice that it was served open faced, I couldn't simply pick it up and eat it, but I didn't take much time at any rate. The arugula did not a satisfying salad make. If I had been given a second piece of bread, I would have included it inside the burger.
The mint and tomato chutney was almost the best part of the meal, but the juicy lamb and rosemary bread were also good. The chips cooled off rapidly outside, so I didn't enjoy them as much as I may have, had I been seated indoors. I would try this restaurant again if I ever headed back to Ireland.

Olde Malt Mall, 15 High Street, Eyrecourt
Galway City Ireland
091 567866
Opening Hours:
Mon - Sat 12.00 - 22.30

Monday, July 7, 2008

Diwali Indian/Nepalese Restaurant

It might have been tempting to try the Nepalese dishes, but this was the very first Indian menu I had ever seen that offered Balti cooking. India has so many differing cooking styles that whenever I get the opportunity to try one I jump at the chance. There was no disappointment in doing so this time. the restaurant itself was modern, spotless and quiet, as we arrived very early.

Instead of the usual 3 condiments, there were 2, but both were excellent. I particularly liked the tamarind sauce, probably because it is not as hot as the other (sorry, I have no recollection of what it was called). The only odd thing was the texture of the naan. It was crispier and had an uncharacteristic shine to the surface. Usually naan is a favorite, but not this time.

The Balti Lamb was succulent, rich, and mildly hot. It was a pleasure to try and a perfect introduction to the food of that state in India, or so I hope. As soon as I find another restaurant that serves Balti style food, I know I'll be delighted to try more of it. We also ordered the Lamb Vindaloo which was very hot, at least hotter than what we have been served at home. Some like it hot and luckily my dining companion is one of those people.

As many people know, the way to tame heat is with something fat or creamy, so ice cream was the perfect dessert, or it could have been if it were not served in it's plastic container. We may have been fooled with the pistachio ice cream, since its paper cone had been removed, but the "sundae" was unmistakably a frozen concoction that should have been bought directly from a grocer's ice cream novelty freezer instead of being served by a fairly good restaurant.

Unit 1, Castle House
South Great Georges St.
Dublin 2
Tel:+ 353 (1) 4750091

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Oval Bar, Dublin

Lovely to look at, but this pub exemplifies the old adage that you can't believe everything you read. I'm a big fan of Knopf City Map Guides. They easily fit into your pocket and offer information on museums, churches, other attractions, dining and shopping. Best of all they provide fold out maps for each section of a city with locations of everything written about. Occasionally I'll find a typo but usually they're invaluable to me. Not even close this time and definitely no cigar.

They claim that Oval Bar has the best Irish stew in town. I don't believe it. It was a filling stew, it was lamb (potatoes, carrots and onions too) but if it was the best, sitting in a tasteless broth, I'm dumbfounded. I should have known something was off as I sat down in an empty room. If this is the best, where were the locals or the other tourists for that matter? The brown bread saved the day for me. It was the first I had eaten on the trip and my favorite part of the Irish culinary tradition. Perhaps a whiskey at the beautiful bar (straight, not oval) would have helped this dining experience.
78 Middle Abbey Street
Dublin 1
P: 01 8721264