Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Chrimbo 2012

I have been notably slack this year during the festive period with cooking and baking. There are valid reasons for this lack of activity which I will hopefully share with you on a later post :)

Christmas was a quiet affair with just me, Ma and Ba Chan. Dinner was decidedly low-key (smoked salmon, roast rib of beef and apple pie) but for the first time, cooking (well, me helping out Ma Chan) was quite leisurely and the folks even managed to pop out to the golf course and play a few holes which made them happy!

Usually, people are too tired and still too full to think of dinner on Stephens Day, so this year we continued the low-effort formula and sat down to Chinese hotpot. Luckily, we had enough ingredients (usually the biggest problem) for a real feast - great fun, where everyone helps with the cooking and sharing of the food. I would highly recommend if you have not tried it before :)


......and after! Bon app :)

Saturday, 22 December 2012


Shanahans has always been on the list of restos that we have wanted to try but haven't managed to until now. I suppose one of the other things that was off-putting was that their prices meant that you would only go there for a special occasion. Well, we finally did managed to eat there (to mark a special occasion!) and it really was a lovely evening. Service was impeccable, the portions were gargatuan and we were very well looked after. Highly recommended but a word of warning, do not eat 24 hours prior in preparation!! :)
(Apologies for the quality of pics as I only had my phone camera to hand!)
Very elegant dining room with generous sized tables and comfy red armchairs :)

Every table is presented with their own loaf (!) of freshly baked, warm cheese bread and chilli cornbread. Both tasted delicious but we were warned not to eat too much or we would not enough room for our steaks! 

My starter of crab sandwich - 2 potato rostis sandwiching chunks of meaty crab, yum! :)

JD's starter of mussels - literally a mountain of molluscs cooked directly on a skillet which helped to retain their juices, very very nice!

My 24oz bone-in ribeye!! (which I struggled to finish, got to maybe 80%?)

JD's 18oz sirloin (cooked medium rare)

....with sides of French fries, onion strings and wild mushrooms. If I were to re-order, i think I would've skipped the 'shrooms :) 
I was struggling with dessert (selection of ice creams and sorbets)!

A final lovely touch (along with glasses of bubbly!!) :)

Saturday, 8 December 2012


I had a sudden craving for Korean food which is what made us venture north of the river one Saturday for some grub :)

Originally, we thought about going back to Arisu but decided to try Kimchi, on the recommendation of my Korean teacher. Kimchi is authentic insofar as all the staff working there seem to be Korean. However, we weren't exactly bowled over by the food; portions were good but in the end, every dish we ordered seemed to taste the same :(
( I think we will probably be sticking to Arisu the next time I have another craving!)
My first ever taste of plum wine - OK but I won't be rushing to try it again.

Bibimbap - not bad. A shame we can't get the raw beef version here in the Emerald Isle :(

Our spread - we had ordered so much that we needed to use the table next to us for extra space!! :)

Bossam - the bossam kimchi was nice but the meat did not taste like bossam we have had back in the UK

Monday, 3 December 2012

Chinese b-day cake

A friend of Ma Chan recently contacted me about making a birthday cake for one of her friends. The challenge was that it was a typical Chinese birthday cake of sponge, fresh fruit and fresh cream - something which I have not had much experience in making in the past. I also felt a bit of pressure as a) it was ordered with pretty short notice, b) I was making it without having done a dry run first and c) I knew I had to deliver taste and appearance wise! Not easy as we are in the depths of winter and I needed to source some ripe fruit!! 

It was a learning experience but I managed to get it done in the end (many thanks to Won for helping me out with the sponge recipe!!). As if I wasn't stressed enough, I managed to stick my thumb into the side of the cake when Ma Chan's friend came to pick up the cake which screwed up the decor somewhat!!! Luckily, I was able to patch it up there and then - overall, I think she was happy enough with the final product so a happy customer, yay! :)
A 10" vanilla sponge with 2 layers, sandwiched with fresh mango and cream in the middle....
.....decorated with a medley of fruits on the top and more fresh cream. If I were to make it again, I would leave putting the fruit on until the very last minute as storing the cake in the fridge tends to dull the fruit :(

The one criteria for the b-day cake was to have the message "Happy Birthday Ling" - not easy to pipe onto a cream cake so I made a makeshift plaque with white chocolate and piped the message using dark chocolate. As I had some spare plaques, I added an additional "生日快樂" too :) 

Saturday, 17 November 2012

One Pico

I came across One Pico one evening after parking in Dawson Street carpark and walked past the resto which was just around the corner. The white walls and windows with their shutters and flower baskets made it look very picturesque from the outside. Upon perusing the menu online, there were lots of dishes that looked very tempting which is how we ended up there for dinner one Saturday night.

Service was polite and efficient at the start of our meal. After our starters were served and cleared, we then endured a perplexingly long wait for our mains. The resto was only half full at this point yet it felt like the waiting staff were definitely in the weeds, which was worrying. Someone needs to take a long, hard look at the service - only having 1 waiter serve a table of 4 and only carrying out dishes 2 at a time therefore only serving half the guests before returning to the kitchen for the other 2 dishes is amateur for a resto with Michelin ambitions. So too is serving a table of 2 their mains without their side dishes causing the poor couple to look on as their steaks were getting cold and wondering where on earth their chips were. Luckily for us, when our mains finally arrived, there were no further delays. However, I did have to harangue a server to bring my glass of dessert wine after they had already served my dessert. Surely, the definition "dessert wine" hints to the fact that it should be served with the dessert course?

Overall, the food was a bit hit and miss (favourite course was the cheese plate which was yummy with my glass of dessert wine......when it finally showed up!) and as I mentioned above, service was a little awry. It sounds like nit-picking but this is service at its most basic level and I expect it to be better if I am paying this much for my dinner. The waiting staff who gave us our bill (possibly a more senior member as he was wearing a jacket) and took our payment was the only member of staff who really did give good service (a friendly French guy). I wanted to like One Pico but ultimately, was left feeling disappointed.
Starter of langoustine risotto, sauteed Dublin Bay prawns, sweet peas and sorrel. The prawns tasted delicious. Unfortunately, they were overpowered by a salty, cheesy undercooked risotto, which had no taste of langoustine whatsoever.

Complimentary palate cleanser of celery sorbet - very refreshing but even with the addition of this course, we still had to wait a very long time for our main courses.

Pan fried halibut with truffle gnocchi, oxtail cannelloni, Jerusalem artichoke puree and ceps. 
On paper, a very inviting autumnal dish with lots of lovely rich, earthy flavours. In reality, this dish was let down by execution; the cannelloni was dry and chewy which could've been excusable as it was a garnish. Overcooking fish to the point where it is dry and tasted like it had been kept under the passe too long is unexcusable.
Selection of cheese - I have never ordered cheese as a dessert but after tasting this selection, I will certainly consider it in the future. A yummy selection served with lovely crackers, grapes and pieces of quince jelly. Perfect with a glass of Paul Cluver Weisser Riesling Noble Late Harvest!

Chocolates served with our tea and coffee - nice touch but overall, a little on the sweet side

Saturday, 3 November 2012


I had read about 777 from another food blog and was interested in trying it out after perusing their menu online. The only bummer is that they don't take reservations for tables less than 6 peeps, meaning that if you want to dine there on the weekend, it means turning up early and putting your name down. We arrived around 6:30pm on a Saturday evening and were told that a table won't be available until an hour later! Since we had already made the trek into town, we went for a drink in a pub nearby to kill time. To be fair, our table was ready before the allotted time which was a plus :)

777 (pronounced as "triple 7" by the way) describes itself as a Mexican restaurant and tequila bar and is owned by the same peeps behind Dillingers and The Butcher Grill in Ranelagh. The entrance of the resto is pretty non-descript, as though they are aspiring for a "speakeasy" feel. The interior of the resto is dominated by a large bar area with high stool seating, which is then surrounded by several tables. It definitely looks like whoever designed it had Russell Norman's restos in mind at the time....

Whilst the menu definitely looked tempting, the dishes we chose did not quite hit the mark on most occasions. On the plus side, our waitress was excellent service personified. I'm glad we got the opportunity to eat at 777 but compared to the likes of Polpo and Spuntino in the big smoke, it still has a long way to go in terms of the quality of their food.
Roasted bone marrow with toasted bread - one of my fav things to eat but this portion was actually over-generous (not always a good thing as bone marrow is pretty rich) and some of the bones were under-roasted.

Yellow fin tuna sashimi tostados - best starter of the night

Carnitas taquitos - a little bit on the fatty side for us

My main of costillas (pork ribs) - generous portion but I prefer my ribs to be thinner with more bones. These ribs were just large chunks of meat and too dry. Side of papas bravas were disappointingly unspicy.

JD chose a special of skirt steak and spuds - he chose well :)

Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Greenhouse

Since settling back into life in Dublin, I have been reading up on where are the good places to eat in town. This is not as straightforward as it sounds as Dublin is much smaller than London. There is no real equivalent of a Timeout in the city (print version, never mind online!) and there are far fewer peeps blogging about their meals too (which is a good thing  or bad thing depending on your view on bloggers). I randomly came across this blog entry one day and after a bit more research, decided that we should try and get a reservation for the Greenhouse. Securing a Saturday dinner reservation was much harder than I thought and eventually, I was able to get one a whole 6 weeks from the time of enquiry!!!! I think this was due to all the good reviews that the Greenhouse has been getting since opening earlier this year and much excitement about the prospect of being awarded a Michelin star for its efforts.

I have to be honest and say that upon reading the menu before our visit, I was not majorly excited about dinner. There was nothing that really caught my eye and appealed to me. On the night, we decided to try the 7-course tasting menu and immediately, I was mightily impressed. The food that was served really was exceptional and by far, the most creative and innovative we have eaten in Ireland since coming back in the summer. I would even go as far as saying that the food trumps Hedone in London, a resto that shares similarities with the Greenhouse (Scandinavian chefs, creative cuisine) A real culinary experience and the first time in a long while that I was truly "wowed" by a chef! (no mean feat as I am not the biggest fan of high end creative cuisine, my natural dining preference would be somewhere more casual with good, honest cooking)

Michelin did release their list of restaurants which were to be awarded stars this year before our visit and unfortunately, The Greenhouse did not receive any. A shame as Hedone with less impressive cooking was in fact awarded a star. I do not know exactly what the Michelin inspectors are looking for but having worked and eaten at other Michelin star establishments (1 through to 3 stars) these were some of the things I noticed whilst dining at the Greenhouse which I don't believe were up to Michelin standards:
  1. The wait staff on the whole were pretty good and attentive at the beginning of the meal. However, once the restaurant was around 80% full, standards began to slip and it felt like the dining room was "in the weeds". There was no efficient system or strict routines causing it all to become a little chaotic. Whoever is in charge of the front of house also needs to ensure that nobody has a dirty uniform during service, this is unforgivable. 
  2. There was a long waiting time for us between the last of our main courses and our desserts. Perhaps the staff were giving us a pause as we had just eaten 5 courses but we were lingering a tad too long.
  3. Guests have a glimpse of the passe in the kitchen on the way to the toilets which I am not convinced about. It would be fine if you are a resto with an open kitchen where it adds to the theatre of the dining experience but to be wandering by the corner of the kitchen is not very sophisticated.
  4. I am guessing that the resto is a bit tight on space which is why the spare chairs from the dining room are placed in a row against the wall opposite the toilets. However, if it is indeed aspiring for Michelin stars, the chairs need to be removed as it looks untidy, a bit of an eyesore and amateur.
  5. The toilets are too dimly lit, which then does not evoke cleanliness and I am guessing that they are not checked regularly during the course of service which is another let-down.
Whilst the food is exceptional, I am guessing that other aspects of the Greenhouse (service and attention to detail) will need to be brought up to scratch if it is to attain a star as Michelin is about service as well as about food. All I can say for now is bravo chef Mickael et bonne continuation!! :) 
Big fan of the glassware - elegant and different :)

Bread in a bag (which the whole world seems to be doing these days!)

Delicious Finnish rye bread (with spreadable butter, a firm tick in the box for that!)

Amuse bouches of crispy fish skin with salmon mousse and seaweed jelly with tuna tartare....

...mushroom choux puffs,

and sea salt and parmesan crisps

Foie gras royal and frozen, apple and candied nuts. 
I am not the biggest fan of foie gras but I really enjoyed this dish - if anything, I could've done with more of the apple jelly blobs which were tart enough and cut through the richness of the foie gras nicely :)

Raw marinated scallop, parmesan, horseradish, lemon and black radish.
Again, raw seafood would not be my number one choice of starter but this again was excellent and great combination of textures and flavours.

Ravioli of milk fed Pyrennean lamb with artichokes, hazelnuts and mushrooms
(JD enquired about the lamb and why the resto was not using Irish lamb. After 2 attempts at trying to tell us where the Pyrennees where, they finally listened to his question and replied that the lamb from the Pyrennees in their opinion had better flavour)
A very autumnal tasting dish with lots of earthy, rich flavours. The only slight complaint would be that the flavours overwhelmed the lamb itself.

Originally sea bass on the menu but we were served turbot with octopus and sea greens - delicious with perfectly cooked fish.

Smoked sika deer and caillete (a type of sausage), pumpkin, licorice and bone marrow - first time I have eaten deer and it was pretty delicious. Not a big fan of the licorice in this dish however.

Lemon tart - very pretty and tasty too. If you are going to call the dessert a tart (even a deconstructed one), it needs some form of pastry - a few crumbs is not enough in my opinion

Chocolate, caramel, sea buckthorn and brown butter ice cream - I am not the world's biggest chocoholic but this was very good (JD wished his portion was double the size!). Sea buckthorn has appeared on the "Great British Menu" several times and has always been slated by the judges. This was my first time tasting it and I really enjoyed it, therefore I cannot what their gripe is with the ingredient??!