Thursday, 24 January 2013


Asador is a recent addition to the Dublin dining scene having opened their doors to the public just before Chrimbo. The name of the resto refers to the name of the grill which is used to cook meat, most commonly associated with Argentinian steak restos. Sadly, Asador is not an Argentinian steak resto but just a resto which happens to use an asador to cook its meats. Nevertheless, the prospect of well-cooked meat was too good to pass up, which is how JD and I ended up having a midweek dinner there. No signs of the recession in Asador as the place was already buzzing with diners when we arrived and full shortly after we were seated! I don't usually comment much about the dining room on my blog entries but Asador really reminded me of a hotel dining room (ie. pretty dull) so I was hoping to be impressed a bit more by the food.
Bread (sourdough and house) - the former very nice, the latter not so much. 4 slices of bread just looks mean in any setting.

The food overall was quite good. My starter of grilled calamari was delicious but I failed to identify any physical chorizo or red pepper on the plate despite it being stated on the menu. I did taste a hint of paprika and red pepper in the sauce so am guessing the ingredients were used in that. I don't have a problem with this but surely, the menu should state "chorizo and red pepper sauce" rather than "chorizo and red pepper"? 

Sauces of smoked bearnaise, roasted garlic and cafe de Paris - all pretty insipid and forgettable

JD and I then shared the BBQ Meat Platter for 2, a feast that we were looking forward to. It was a generous platter but any enjoyment of it arriving at our table was immediately sucked away by our waiter. Firstly, he made a grand announcement telling us not to touch our plates as they were very hot (the centres of the plates were warm and the edges stone cold)  and when the platter finally arrived, he then spent several minutes dividing up the platter to ensure we got equal servings of everything. Maybe its an Irish thing that platters for 2 people always need to be served individually but it goes against the very idea of a platter which is to share. My definition of sharing in this context would be for the guests to share amongst themselves in a leisurely way rather than a waiter dictating what you can and can't eat. Restos should be one or the other; divvying up platters just highlights the fact that Irish people like the "idea" of sharing but in reality, want their own plate of food. Why bother really?

Delicious banoffee pie - caramelised bananas were a bit of a red herring as only the cut sides of a raw banana were sprinkled with sugar and then presumably blowtorched....

Excellent chocolate fondant with perfect runny centre

Desserts were a pleasant surprise and were to a much higher standard than others restos in the city with a higher price bracket.

Overall, dinner was good but service was patchy. Our drinks were left to sit at the bar whilst 10 waiters/servers were working the floor. At one point, a waitress approached the drinks but then walked away after she realised they were not for one of her tables. Between the waiting and being able to see our drinks, we probably would've been quicker serving ourselves. I had highlighted in my blog entries of Bite and Hatch & Sons that it was highly irritating for diners to see owner/proprietors lurking around and not actually helping out with service. Well, there was definitely a bit of this happening in Asador but what was more annoying was waiting staff using the space between our table and the bar area as a common area on discussing tables/customers/gossip and therefore forcing us to listen to their conversations. Completely unprofessional and responsibility of this (and the drinks incident) lies with the management. I'm not holding out for much since one of the managers (female) did not acknowledge me when she was taking our dessert orders (I wasn't wearing a suit and did not exude macho banker so didn't deserve to be acknowledged, perhaps?) and we faced the same old problem of not being able to get the bill promptly (despite another managerial head being close by, he did not make eye contact and ignored us 2-3 times whilst passing our table). Asador should do well with its D4 location but there are other restos I would choose to dine again at in the city before I consider a return visit.
A parting gift - one of the "manager types" plonked this down on our table after our main courses were cleared.....why??  

Saturday, 19 January 2013


JD needed to get a haircut which was the reason for our visit to Ranelagh today. I came across Cinnamon from an online review and my curiosity was piqued after reading that:

1 - there was an attractive display of cakes at the front of the shop
2 - Leinster rugby players often head there for a post-match coffee :)

We popped into for a late lunch (around 3pm) and the resto was still full of diners. Cinnamon is a spacious, casual eatery (they serve breakfast/brunch all day at weekends) serving the hipper/hipster Dublin crowd. Food on the whole was good (cake selection was sadly nothing to write home about) and service was spot-on too. If only they could focus on the less obvious (but equally important) things of running a resto (such as not leaving a cupboard open so that everyone can see your boiler and cleaning products, checking and cleaning toilets regularly, unpacking retail stock before putting it out on shelves), then it would be pretty terrific. 
Popular weekend hangout :)

Breakfast salad - generous feed of bacon bits, roasted baby potatoes, black pudding, poached egg and mixed salad leaves. Hard to beat gooey egg with fried spuds and meat....and you can pretend you are being healthy since technically, its a salad. Highly recommended! ;)

Friday, 18 January 2013

The Winding Stair

The Winding Stair has been on the list of restos I have wanted to try since coming home and we finally got around to visit it after seeing it being mentioned in the Dublin episode of Anthony Bourdain's "The Layover" :)

The resto is on the North side of the Liffey just a few steps away from the Ha'penny bridge. A bookshop is located on the ground floor with the resto on the first floor....up a winding stair :)

We had a lovely meal there; the produce and cooking were of a very high quality, served in a very relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. Service was very good; unobtrusive but efficient, friendly and most important of all, attention to detail. Definitely somewhere that I would like to return for another meal......or two ;)
Starter of seafood chowder; a huge feed in itself.....

....especially after I dug my spoon in to reveal a feast of fish and seafood in creamy broth spiked with some punchy pieces of chorizo :) 
(apologies for the blurry pic!)

Wild venison with colcannon bake, buttered kale, wild mushrooms and plum gravy - very good and went very well with my glass of Touriga as recommended by our waiter :)

Pear and apple crumble - served originally with cinnamon ice cream but the servers very kindly swapped that for a scoop of vanilla instead for me. Ice cream was delicious but crumble was a little stodgy; difficult to finish after a whopping bowl of chowder and generous main!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Hatch & Sons

I had first read about Hatch & Sons in a weekend supplement of the Times in an article about running a successful food business in Ireland. We then walked past the actual premises whilst on our way to dinner at the Cliff Townhouse and I made a mental note to head back for a bite to eat the next time I was in town.

I popped in this week for a spot of lunch and worried that there may be a lunchtime rush, made sure I got there before midday. To my surprise, there were only a few tables being occupied so there was no problem with getting a space (there were a steady stream of customers during my time there but the staff were never in danger of being flat out). There were lots of tempting things to eat on the menu and in the end, I settled for a meat board and mug of tea. All in all, pretty good stuff and service (which started off ropey.....why else would I be standing at the doorway other than wanting to come in and eat??) was pretty good. My only gripe would be that someone who appeared to the owner was on the premises conducting a business meeting. Whilst I have no problem with this, what I do find irritating is bosses then lurking around the dining room (like in Bite) and worse still, checking their mobile phone in full view of paying customers. Get an office!!

Hatch & Sons have only been open for a couple of months but it looks like they are off to a good start, attracting a wealthy clientele and providing some solid food so fingers crossed, they should be able to weather the recession-hit economy...
Despite it being a grey day, the basement premises is surprisingly light and though you were overground rather than underground :)

A kitchen "island" at the side of the dining room (and right in front of the door) where baked good and condiments are on display

My meat board of spiced beef, chorizo, salami, roasted roots and soda bread. The meats were delicious despite the chorizo not having the usual vibrant paprika colour. The roots were a nice accompaniment but I would've expected them to be more roasted. Soda bread was not the best I have tasted but it was fresh and home-made.

Update (20/11/13):
After my visit, I found out that Hatch & Sons are part owned by the Kemp sisters, Domini and Peaches of Itsa Bagel fame. According to my "source", they run a very tight ship at Itsa Bagel therefore I can only assume that Hatch & Sons will be given the same treatment.

Hatch & Sons received a glowing review in the Saturday Irish Times magazine this weekend - how objective this is unknown as Domini Kemp is also a regular contributor of recipes to the same publication.... 

Monday, 14 January 2013

순두부찌게 (Soondubu Jjigae) - Spicy Soft Tofu Stew

I'm a big fan of Korean food and a bit of a 라면 (ramyeon) addict too; I always have a few packets stashed in the cupboard for the ultimate mega-quick lunch / hot snack. Of course, they are loaded with all sorts of artificial flavourings and additives (probably the cause of my addiction) and I am constantly scolded by Ma and Ba Chan to stop eating so much ramyeon! :(

With the New Year comes resolutions and one of mine in 2013 is to stop eating so much 라면! My healthy alternative (to substitute my craving for strong, gutsy Korean flavours) comes in the form of 순두부찌게 (Soondubu Jjigae). I found a pretty straightforward recipe on a blog I have been following, pottered along to a Korean supermarket in town (yes, we do have one here) to get the ingredients and hey presto, managed to create a healthy, hot and yummy lunch. Now the only thing I have to do now is control my portion sizes!! ;)
First step: make the Yangnyum(양념) which forms the flavouring of the underlying soup...

Yummers! :)

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Little Chan update

I guess I have kept pretty quiet about what I've been up to work-wise since returning to Dublin, so its probably about time for a quick update :)

I was fortunate enough to be able to secure a trading spot at Marlay Park Farmers Market so have been trading there every Saturday selling a variety of cakes and pastries (pics of the products can be found here). So far, things have been going well and I am really happy to report that I have developed a small following of regular customers which is very encouraging :)

Looking forward to 2013, I will be back trading at Marlay Park at the end of the month and will hope to find another market to trade at, as well as a few other potential projects to look into....exciting times but lots of hard work and motivation required, fingers crossed for a good year! :)

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Rock Lobster

The Dublin food blog scene isn't as well-developed as in London so hearing about new places to eat can be a little challenging. I first heard about Rock Lobster last week whilst checking into a blog I read from time to time. The author had just added a post about a place which had what he claimed to be the best and cheapest lobster in Dublin , which was to be found at Rock Lobster. I then rang the resto and managed to bag a reservation on Saturday evening :)

The resto was already quite busy when we arrived, a good sign!  Once seated, service was prompt, polite and efficient; just how it should be at restos. There were a few blips such as poor management of seating customers at the beginning. The entrance to the resto only allows 2 people to stand comfortably; any more, results in a complete clog. Secondly, JD ordered mussels for his starter which did not come with a bowl of water to rinse his hands (yet they remembered for my lobster main). Lastly, it took 2 servers over the space of 10 minutes to find out if the resto served any dessert wine. The food was pretty decent and prices quite reasonable. I overheard a conversation on the table next to us just as we were leaving that the resto had only been open for 5 weeks. If they continue to maintain this level of food and service, then I wish them continued success for the future.
(One of JD's pet peeves in restos is asking for the bill and then having to wait an eternity to pay - if there is one thing that restaurateurs should look at improving in 2013, then this should be it!! Not a problem usually, but if we had to wait any longer for our bill at Rock Lobster, we would've run the risk of getting a parking ticket!!)
Loving the backs of the menus!! A shame they go to all the trouble of pointing the different cuts of meat on a cow yet only the prime cuts appear on the menu :(

Starter of crab cake - lovely taste of flaky crab meat in the middle. To be honest, could've done with less of the fried potato strings on the outside, which overpowered the crab slightly. The onions in the roasted peppers were not cooked down enough.

Whole lobster and fries - very generous portion for 20 yoyos! I was given a nutcracker and pick for the getting out the meat from the claws but I think it would've been nice if the kitchen had given us a helping hand and maybe crack the claws slightly before serving. My claws were too big for the nutcracker and I nearly lost them in my efforts to crack them open!

Cheeseboard - nice but not as good as the one at One Pico :)
Also unfortunate that our server did not bother to tell me what the names of the cheeses were... 

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Cliff Townhouse

JD and I had wanted to visit the Cliff House Hotel during the Christmas holliers but did not manage to as the hotel was fully booked by the time we decided to try and make a reservation :(

It wasn't until after the New Year that I found out that the people behind the Cliff House hotel also have premises in the capital called the Cliff Townhouse. Its conveniently located on Stephens Green and is a bar/restaurant with a small number of guestrooms in the same building. We did have an ulterior motive for visiting the resto so managed to bag a reservation for Saturday dinner :)

The welcome at the door was warm and professional, with staff to take our coats and then lead us to the table. The dining room is lovely with high ceilings and elegant table settings so first impressions were very good. However, it all started to go downhill when our waiter came to take our order. The individual in question looked like he was a more senior member of staff as he was wearing a suit (and others were wearing aprons) yet he failed to ask the most basic of questions during our order. I had to ask for side dishes which he did not offer and later, I had to ask JD if he wanted a drink because our waiter did not bother asking him, pretty poor!

The food was OK although my whole sea bream was undercooked. No-one came to ask if our food was alright and I did not actually find out that the fish was undercooked in the centre until half-way through my meal. I did not wish to make a fuss, however, I did point it out to our server when he came to take our plates away. In fairness to the resto, a member of staff (presumably the maitre d') did come over and apologise which was fine (they subsequently comped one of our desserts). Service from desserts onwards was  restored. It was a mixed night, I did ring the resto the following week regarding my "ulterior motive" which they promised to send me some information via email. However, this has yet to arrive so the combination of this delay plus a so-so dinner means that I will not be considering or visiting it again, a real shame....
Dressed crab, avocado and Marie Rose sauce - nice crab but sauce was a little overpowering

Whole seabream with roasted vegetables - generous size of fish and fresh. Let down by being undercooked.

Vanilla ice cream and rhubarb jelly - tasty, especially with the crunchy oat topping but rhubarb jelly did not have much flavour and was too hard