BREEDING WILL OUT:
SOME SERIOUS CULINARY DNA IN DUBLIN 6
 

Ember
Milltown Shopping Centre
Milltown Road
Dublin 6
Phone: 01 444 3783


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Irish Daily Mail
13 May 2017

I’m always amused when somebody says, of a person who is not very good in the kitchen, that they “couldn’t boil an egg”. Hard boil, maybe. That would be difficult to screw up, but boiling an egg to the point of perfect doneness is actually a very tricky business.

A lot of us think that difficult cooking lies in the realms of sauces or soufflés or elaborate cakes. I think it’s often in what appear to be relatively simple things. Like steak.

Now, it’s easy to cook steak if you like it the way the current President of the United States enjoys his: cremated. You just put it in a pan or on a grill and apply heat until all the juices have evaporated, the flesh has turned a particularly unattractive shade of grey and the texture resembles that of the soles of my gardening boots. This, in my humble submission, also tells us something about the soul of the man himself, but that’s another day’s work.

Anyway, I cook steak a lot. When my now grown-up children are home, it’s a given that I’ll produce steaks with skinny chips (“hand-cut” as I’d say if it were in a restaurant) and plenty of Béarnaise sauce. It’s simple on one level, in terms of what goes on the plate. It becomes more complicated only if I add fried onions and a grilled mushroom, and I’m happy to say that I occasionally throw caution to the winds and do so.

But it’s certainly not easy. Cooking steak the way we like it – rare, but not actually bleu (where the blood vessels need to be clamped) – is fraught with problems. The thickness of the meat, its temperature, the heat of the pan or the grill… There are plenty of variables.

Sometimes I get it right but often it’s a touch overdone or underdone. This is why I so admire people who cook steak impeccably and that’s exactly what we got at Ember: a cote de boeuf for two that was perfect. The only other place I’ve ever had one as good was at the newly enlarged La Maison on Castle Market.

Okay, I know €65 is a lot to pay for steak, even for two, but this was a thing of beauty, a big, thick rib-eye in effect that had been cooked whole on the chargrill, perfectly seasoned, rested, and sliced. It was presented on a wooden board with grilled tomato, mushroom, skinny chips and Béarnaise. And large-bore onion rings, dry and crisp of which I can eat dangerous quantities.

Oh, and the meat was cooked perfectly, to the nanosecond. And it provided a considerable doggy bag which provided yet another meal.

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We were paying, not just for excellent meat that really delivered on flavour (how often do you eat steak that could be pork if you closed your eyes?) but for the skill and the judgement needed to present it like this. Bravo.

Starters were good but in a different league. Raw tuna with black sesame seeds was very pleasant but a fine dice of pickled gherkin (I think) delivered a bit too much acidity and some crab mayonnaise seemed weirdly out of place on the plate (and not mentioned on the menu).

Orzo, the tiny rice-like pasta, with seafood in a tomato stew was good, a hearty and generous starter.

We shared a dessert – a pleasant lemon tart with a thin shell that was outstanding in one respect: it tasted sharply, thoroughly and unapologetically of lemon. It’s surprising how often pastry chefs forget this essential and press the soft pedal.

With aperitifs, a bottle of red wine and mineral water, this feast didn’t leave any change out of €150 but we had been exceptionally well fed, not flawlessly but in a way that delivered a lot of pleasure. This is a neighbourhood restaurant that deserves a following way beyond the confines of Dublin 6.

There’s Chapter One, L’Ecrivain and Pichet – to mention just a few names to conjure with – in the kitchen’s DNA and it shows.