Taco Taco has since relocated to East Side Tavern, 104 Leeson Street Lower, Dublin 2.
14 Dame Court
Phone: 083 449 9584
Irish Daily Mail
6 June 2015
Odessa was very much of the boom years, created in what had been the venerable Connaught restaurant, an establishment where the windows were permanently fogged and civil servants ate what their mammies had fed them years before every lunchtime, often after mid-day Mass in Clarendon Street.
Odessa changed all that, tore out all the cream paintwork and introduced young people consuming all manner of new-fangled stuff. It formed part of Jay Bourke’s somewhat chequered career as a restaurateur but the premises have now been reborn as the kind of pop-up that has an air of permanence.
Taco Taco is the brainchild of the estimable Temple Garner, a fine chef whose San Lorenzo’s on South Great George’s Street is one of the (deservedly) busiest restaurants in Dublin.
The permanence motif was emphasised for me by the fact that the place was virtually full on a Tuesday evening – and not with impecunious students nursing a cup of coffee for hours. The customers (bar the pair of us) were thirty-somethings, well-heeled an articulate (to borrow a phrase from the late George Colley), and doubtless spending fairly freely.
I visited with Ross Golden Bannon who for many years reviewed restaurants for the Sunday Business Post and I have to say it’s a curiously pleasant experiece to put on the nosebag with someone who really knows the ropes of this business.
I should stress that neither of us are deeply knowledgeable about Mexican food, although I’m sure we could both whip up a very decent bowl of guacamole, heavy on lime juice and chilli. I think of those two flavours as being rather Mexican, possibly in the same way as a Mexican might think of bacon and cabbage as the culinary touchstones of eating out in Dublin.
It was clear from the outset that Taco Taco was not going to be straitjacketed into the whole Tex-Mex thing, as evidenced by my starter of sweet sour chicken noodle soup. This was a very red affair which was neither very sweet nor very sour nor very spicy (there was no promise of that, but, for some reason, perhaps the redness, I was expecting chilli). It was fine, a wholesome and filling soup but lacked thrill.
Ross’s pint of prawns with a slightly redundant tortilla were plump and juicy and plentiful and, let’s face it, Sriracha mayonnaise is rather wonderful in any context. See what I mean about no ethnic pigeon-hole?
And the same can be said of the tacos. Perhaps my attention was wandering (Mr Golden Bannon is a fine raconteur) but my taco of shrimp popcorn definitely involved shrimp but I couldn’t detect any popcorn. Perhaps it was incorporated in the splendidly crisp and salty coating that encased each shrimp. This was a very decent dish, if somewhat difficult to eat in proper taco style thanks to a heavy dosage of what the menu calls, bizarrely I think you will agree, “classic buffet coleslaw”. This element, classic as it may be, did not increase the sum of human happiness. Is it big in Mexican buffets?
My distinguished companion’s taco was, if you like, even less classically tacoesque than mine in that it involved thin, crisp slices of duck, hoisin sauce, scallions and leeks. So, a “take” on that staple of Chinese restaurants, the crispy duck with pancakes.
It was fine, but I don’t think it’s going to catch on and become what is known as A Thing, beyond the confines of Dame Court.
Dublin may have the airs and graces of an international capital but, at heart, it’s a small provincial town where news travels quickly. When Taco Taco opened, not long ago, the thing that people talked about was not the eponymous dishes but one of the desserts.
If I was told once, I was told a dozen times not to miss the salted caramel popcorn with peanut butter ice cream. And did I?
Of course not. Ordering it – to share – was both a duty and a pleasure. It was as good (or as bad, if you don’t like the elements that go into it) as it sounds. Madly, decadently delicious in the same way as a Coke float tasted when you were, say, twelve.
If Taco Taco pops down again, having popped up, Dublin gastronomy will not suffer but the city will become a bit less fun.
With a couple of beers, a couple of glasses of Pinot Grigio and decent coffee, the bill came to just over €90.