A “BRAND NEW RESTAURANT IN TEMPLE BAR”
IS TRYING TO FIGURE ITSELF OUT.
Crow Street Restaurant
1 Crow Street
Phone: 01 441 1588
The Irish Daily Mail
22 September 2018
“Brand new restaurant opens in Temple Bar,” I read on one of those Dublin websites that has its digital finger – no pun intended- on what’s happening in town – “and it’s going to be unreal.” The tone of voice here suggests the kind of forced shoutiness used by tv quiz masters announcing who has what points.
Well, Crow Street is very real. The bar looks dead cool in a minimalist kind of way and you get the feeling that, with all this money spent, it’s either going to deliver a pretty impressive eating experience or be utterly awful.
In the event, neither scenario unfolded; however, I was left wondering what Crow Street was aiming to be. A visit to the website reveals that “Crow Street serves classic Irish and American dishes”. LovinDublin.com, by contrast, tells me that it’s all about “Irish soul food with an American twist”. And that seems to be a quote from the horses’ mouths, the two chaps who run the place, along with The Sussex and a café in Clonkseagh.
“Braised Pork Shoulder Soft Shell Tacos, pickled cabbage, chipotle aioli, lime and coriander” were mildly multicultural, pickled cabbage not being big in Mexico, but they were good. I get a childish sense of enjoyment whenever I see things made from blue corn, as these tacos were, and the filling had me enthusing mildly about pulled pork rather than yawning catatonically. Actually, you could put slow-cooked old boots in these tacos and the other ingredients would deliver enough zing.
This is, essentially post-pub food. Our other starter, smokies, came from the comfort food end of the spectrum. This used to be a perennial starter at the late Le Coq Hardi, strange as it may seem in these sophisticated days; Charlie Haughey and Terry Keane frequently tucked into them in the private room upstairs, I believe.
Crow Street’s version was fine. Bubbling in its little skillet, full of meaty chunks speaking of smoked fish, rich with cream and orange melted cheese. It was, in the Irish sense of the word, grand.
A special of sea trout was perfectly cooked, unlike the beetroot risotto on which it sat. The risotto was underdone to the point of chalkiness, which is worse than mere chewiness. Decent flavour was destroyed by the texture.
Buttermilk chicken, pleasant enough in itself, was let down by two elements. And I should stress that I cook this dish myself at home on a fairly regular basis.
I don’t blame Crow Street for not including thigh meat because, despite its hugely superior flavour and texture, Irish people seem only eat the white. But what you want with buttermilk chicken, overall, is a certain ratio of crunchy exterior to soft interior. It may seem a niggling criticism, but the pieces were too large to achieve this.
It came with the most apologetic, shy, blushing kimchi I’ve ever tasted. Not the worst kimchi; that was in a Korean restaurant where the cabbage had managed to decompose a bit before fermenting. It was a potentially clever idea to match crisp chicken with crunchy, fiery kimchi, provided that the kimchi is, indeed crunchy, fiery and, lest we forget, salty and sharp. Crow Street’s kimchi was a homeopathic version of the real thing.
“Chopped avocado salad” was probably fine beneath the bland, slimy dressing that rendered it inedible for me.
The companion had sticky toffee pudding – we’re talking pretty conservative tastes here – which came with little nuggets of fudge, a nice touch, and the now ubiquitous salted caramel ice cream. However, and I have to pinch myself as I write these words, this was a darn good sticky toffee pudding. I had given up any faith in the idea that such a thing exists. I was wrong.
Crow Street seems a bit confused as to what it is. We’ve all been there, as adolescents, but most of us figure it out in the end. For the sake of the utterly delightful staff here, I hope it grows up rapidly.
With mineral water and four glasses of wine, the bill came to €115.