NIGHTMARKET: THE REAL DEAL IN RANELAGH
(WITH ENDORPHIN RELEASE)
Nightmarket Thai Restaurant
Phone: 01 538 5200
Irish Daily Mail
29 April 2017
The late great Paolo Tullio and I used to have lunch in Kin Khao Thai in Athlone when we were recording The Restaurant in Glasson. It’s a cracker of a little place and the food is eminently authentic despite being in the middle of what must be a pretty conservative landscape, the midlands of Ireland.
If you’re ever within hailing distance, do go. They have a great value lunch menu and a proper beef salad that always leaves me with a sweat-bedewed nose and that slightly numb feeling that means the endorphins have been released.
Forgive me if I digress for a moment as I recall a communication from a viewer of the current series of The Restaurant suggesting that, in the manner of Senator Benson addressing Dan Quayle in the run-up to the 1988 US election, I might tell my co-host “Marco, you’re no Paolo Tullio”.
While it’s true, and a suggestion kindly meant, I think Marco knows this already, to be frank.
For many years Kin Khao has been my favourite Thai restaurant in Ireland but now I believe it has a rival for my affections. Night Market is very much the genuine article and Conor Sexton, formerly of KOH, has joined forces with his chef partner R, who is from Thailand, and an all Thai kitchen crew, to bring the flavours of her native Chang Mai and Hua Hin to Dublin 6
The premises themselves have not really changed since they were occupied by the short-lived and peculiarly aspirated Bhialann but no doubt it’s early days. And what matters is the food.
The menu, it struck me at first, is a little too extensive for comfort. There’s something reassuring about a concise list of dishes; a long one suggests that the restaurant is trying to be all things to all customers.
However, I will confess that I was quite wrong. Everything we ate here was good.
Hoy shell yang, a dish of grilled scallops (roe on, which is becoming unusual) with chilli, lime juice and coriander was as fresh and savoury as the description suggests. A little salad of mango and peanut was exactly the opposite of the afterthought garnish common in Irish restaurants. This was thought through and highly effective.
For me, the dish of the night was another of our three starters, kanoom jeeb: steamed dumplings formed of pork and prawn, served with crisped garlic and a soy and rice vinegar dip. It was dancing with scintillating flavours, hot and cool, sour and tangy. I could have eaten these all night (and may well return to do so).
Laab mood tod were crisp-shelled balls of pork enriched with red curry paste, chilli, peanuts, ginger and more. Hot, spicy, moist within, they were meatballs with attitude.
Gaeng phed ped yang is a red curry of duck breast with a bewildering range of elements including lychees, pineapple, grapes and the tiny, pea-sized aubergines that Thai cuisine demands. The sauce was a fiery broth, the dish overall meaty and fruity, the sweetness balanced by acidity. I am not generally a red curry fan but this was the business.
Phla nuea makeua on, sliced grilled sirloin steak with an elaborate and very tangy, spicy salad involved pink to rare meat – just as I like it – and a great deal of umami, crunchiness and pleasure, right down to fresh kaffir lime leaves, the mint, the crisp shallots and the generous amount of red chillis. This differed quite a lot from my old favourite beef salad in Athlone, but is a most worthy successor. I took away the remains as a doggy bag.
Puddings were simple: Thai sticky rice with mango was classic and good. A cheesecake with lychees was, for our palates, too sweet, too creamy, especially after all those zingy, zesty, clean flavours that had gone before.
With one glass of wine, two beers and sparkling water, the bill was just over €100.
Night Market is the real deal. It may not look cool yet but the food is bang on the money. A genuinely useful addition to the capital.