Restaurant menu

This may be the best restaurant menu in the country

Where do the chefs eat during their evening? Etto, which recently re-opened, has been the number one chef’s canteen for years, and now it looks like the Richmond restaurant is catching the eye. When I visit, there are at least five chefs, including Stephen Gibson of Pichet and Graeme Dodrill of Peploe’s, sampling the tasting menu on the first Tuesday.

I have a late reservation, well late for a Tuesday, and as I dutifully arrive at 8:15 p.m., I am shown upstairs. “Oh, here we go, off to Siberia,” I think, glancing around the busy downstairs room and spotting another restaurant reviewer. But actually, I think I prefer it upstairs. It’s intimate and cozy, with only six tables.

Although a tasting menu (€48) might seem like a strange thing to do on a Tuesday, it’s a clever idea. Part test kitchen to try out new ideas and part good value to encourage prople to eat out on one of the quieter nights of the week it used to run weekly before lockdown and now operates on a monthly basis. On the slate, three wines are displayed at reduced prices. Geil Pinot Noir (€36 instead of €41) gets our vote, being a docile varietal that works with a variety of dishes. The wine list itself is short but well formed, with good proposals by the glass.

There are five courses, but there is nothing difficult about the way they are taught. Pretty little slices of fennel bread have a doughy, almost brioche-like texture, so of course the extra boldness of the whipped butter is just right. And then three snacks: an oyster from Galway Bay, its saline and iodized flesh energized by a Bloody Mary foam and an extra marine touch with lumpfish roe on top; a gougère is filled with an intense cheese cream; and a chic chicken wing is stuffed with summer truffles, glazed and broiled until dark brown and the ends of the bones are crispy enough to eat. A good start.

The next course is an absolute stunner. A modestly named celeriac and mushroom pie shows great skill and remains just the bright side of the chefs’ fervor. The light puff pastry packs intensely savory flavors – earthy celeriac and rich chanterelle mushrooms, with cream of porcini mushrooms for dipping and feathery chunks of crisp kale to add texture and an irony note. This may be my meal of the year.

Balance

The fish dish is impressive, especially for the number of ingredients that should play well together. On top is a lobster raviolo, the pasta thin and silky, the lobster in small, defined pieces rather than a mousse. A lobster bisque ties the layers together – a piece of cod, the skin removed and the fish perfectly grilled, a crispy shrimp tempura, a few shelled mussels, kernels of sweetcorn, peppers and capers and eclairs bright green dill oil. It’s a balancing act that plays out beautifully.

There are five dishes on the tasting menu, but there’s nothing fussy about how they’re delivered. Photography: Crispin Rodwell/The Irish Times

Meat is often the stumbling block of a tasting menu, but seared rump of lamb, shimmering pink and fragrant, leads the charge, along with a truffle-glazed, slow-cooked shoulder of lamb, the sweetness of the frosting lifting what could be heavy flavors. A sweetbread may have been a little too long on the pan so it’s firmer than I’d like, and to finish off this substantial dish, two hand-rolled gnocchi and fresh peas tossed with the pesto à la mint.

There’s no thug with chocolate fudge, in fact it’s the most polite example I’ve ever come across. About a third the size of regular monsters, its membrane is light and fragile, releasing a flow of warm, velvety chocolate into orange mousse and matcha tea ice cream.

A word of warning. I am reviewing a menu that appears once a month and does not repeat. So no, you will not eat the same dishes. Although I cannot guarantee the standard daily menu, I can say with certainty that you will be delighted if you reserve a table for the monthly tasting menu on the first Tuesday here. I may have found my favorite low key restaurant in Dublin. Well, never mind the other days, for Tuesdays definitely.

Dinner for two with a bottle of wine was €132.

Verdict: outstanding value for a beautifully crafted tasting menu

Facilities: Smart, compact

Source of food: Not listed but all Irish – meat from JJ Young, fish from Kish, fruit and veg from Caterway

Music: Subtle, blues, Elvis Costello, Madness, good soundtrack

Vegetarian options: Vegetarian tasting menu options available

Wheelchair access: Accessible, but no accessible washrooms