TASTE AT RUSTIC
17 South Great George’s Street
Phone: 01 707 9596
When it opened, I described Taste at Rustic as “a milestone restaurant” and so it has proved. The theme is the five taste groups, the accent is Japanese, the attention to detail is impeccable.
That Taste at Rustic has a meticulous approach to everything it does is underlined by the fact that it has a separate development kitchen. It was there that I tasted some of the restaurants dishes several weeks before it opened. This was at the invitation of the man behind the venture, Dylan McGrath.
Dylan is a chef with a great deal of talent and a lot of ambition. Fortunately, he also has the discipline to exploit both. That’s a rare combination.
I first tasted his food at Mint, the Michelin-starred little restaurant in Ranelagh in which he rapidly achieved fame, even notoriety. He was very young and a little wild. No, very wild. But within the manic style it was clear that this was a man who understood tastes and textures at an instinctive level.
When the crash came and the Dublin restaurant trade received a long overdue kick in the balance sheet, Mint was one of the casualties. Dylan McGrath could have headed off for pastures new where he could have spent the better part of the last decade garnering Michelin stars in somewhere like New York or Sydney.
But, perverse to the end, he stayed in Dublin, did a lot of thinking about how to make restaurants work in a challenging climate and invented two new concepts that captured the public imagination and started to make money.
They are Fade Street Social (well named in view of the sociability of the small sharing plates and the buzzingly convivial atmosphere) and Rustic Stone (the stone referring to the finish-your-own-steak on a hot stone) which broke new ground in terms of taking an openly nutritional approach to menus while, amazingly, remaining fun.
Now, with Taste at Rustic, Dylan McGrath has demonstrated, yet again, that he is not just a very talented chef, but one with a keen grasp of business opportunities, not just here in Dublin but, eventually one imagines, overseas. All three restaurants are unique, meticulously planned, hard to copy and, above all, designed to run with the smooth efficiency of a Lexus.
Taste at Rustic has a menu that is predicated on, well, tastes, all five of them: sweet, salt, bitter, umami and sour. All of these can be experienced through the media of seven kinds of dish: miso broth, nigiri sushi, maki, sashimi and ceviches, kushhikaki/antichuchos (grills), nabemono (stockpot) and desserts.
And, yes, it does look a little complicated although, if you take the time to examine the menu in detail it’s both fascinatingly different and, actually, quite navigable. On the other hand, you can take the easy way out, as we did, and take the omakase approach, a Japanese word which, I gather, roughly means “can you just choose for me, please?”
Sushi is taken so seriously here that the best tuna is imported directly from Japan and rice is cooked from fresh several times in the hour so as to ensure a perfect temperature (because, ideally, the sushi should be the same temperature as your lip when you eat it.)
Another example of the kind of attention to detail that is rare in Ireland is the wine list, very carefully chosen to work with the menu.
As I wrote in the Irish Daily Mail when it opened, “Dublin has a new milestone restaurant”.