A NEW DUBLIN RESTAURANT UNDERLINES HOW MUCH THINGS HAVE CHANGED FOR THE BETTER
159 Capel Street
Irish Daily Mail
23 September 2017
It was only a matter of time before pokē hit Ireland. It’s one of those exotic dishes for which we were prepared by our embrace of sushi and sashimi, something that, given our traditional hatred of fish, represents a significant shift in Ireland’s eating habits.
I’m old enough to remember fish on Fridays, a phenomenon based in Irish Catholicism. Here we differ from the Spanish in whom Catholicism is still strong but whose love of eating the creatures of the deep is legendary. Curiously enough, Spanish Catholics were never required to abstain from meat on Fridays; at least not since the aftermath of the battle of Lepanto in 1571 in which the Holy League, backed by the Pope, knocked hell out of the Ottoman empire. A grateful Pontifex, in gratitude for Spanish military and naval support, let Spain off Friday abstinence.
The flight of our own Wild Geese happened ten years later so it’s unlikely that many Irish were involved in the battle. As a result, we continued until 1970, to regard fish as penance or, at the very least, a form of deprivation.
Well, we’ve come a long way. Seafood in Ireland is now eaten for pleasure and pokē is part of that. It comes from Hawaii and traditionally involves cubes of raw fish, often tuna, served as part of a salad with soya sauce, sesame oil and other rather Japanese elements. It can be good, bad or indifferent but the stuff at Klaw PoKē looks excellent.
So, why didn’t I try any? Well, I was seduced by oysters. I was just back from London and a visit to one of my old favourites, Quo Vadis in Soho, where I had been blown away by the meaty, briny, utterly delicious oysters from the Menai strait which lies between the Welsh mainland and the Isle of Anglesey. They were farmed but they were remarkable.
When I walked into Klaw Poké and, first checking that they were fresh out of natives, I felt I should put my patriotism to the test and have some Waterford oysters – from Dungarvan to be precise. I am happy – and relieved – to report that they were every bit as good as their Welsh cousins. Phew!
So, we shared a dozen oysters with a glass of Picpoul de Pinet and a gentle anointing with shallot vinegar. Simply perfect.
Klaw PoKē reminds me of several London places, notably the great tapas mini-chain Barrafina and Kiln. It’s the long bar, all stainless steel, the busy kitchen behind it, and the enthusiastic, almost missionary young staff.
Being able to see what’s happening in the kitchen can be a bonus and so it proved on this occasion. Crab on toast sounds good but when I realised that they use the intense, minerally, wonderfully crabby dark meat and scatter the white on top, I was sold. There was additional texture and flavour from cucumber and herbs. We feasted on this celebration of crab – three large slices of generously crabbed toast each.
We followed this with large, juicy, deliciously salty gambas, as the Spanish call their favourite prawns, grilled on skewers over charcoal right in front of us. They were messily delightful in a way that brings out one’s inner caveman.
At this stage we were slowing down but were persuaded to share some cods’ cheeks on toast (toast is central to a lot of dishes here, in the true tapas tradition). Meaty nuggets of crisply encased cod came atop crunchy, creamy slaw and buttery toasted bread.
As a result of all this decadence, pokē, as such, didn’t really get a look-in but it certainly will the next time. I blame the oysters.
Klaw PoKē is very much the new Dublin, very informal, very busy, very simple in terms of food but very choosy in terms of raw materials. The youthfulness, knowledge and infectious enthusiasm of the team is also part of that new wave.
We shared the equivalent of a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet but had it by the glass which added a little to the cost and our bill still came to an eminently reasonable €93.