UNO MAS: WORTH WAITING FOR.
AND THE BEST SQUID I’VE EVER HAD.
6 Aungier Street
Phone: 01 475 8538
Irish Daily Mail
8 December 2018
It was the last dish – of many – that we ordered, and it was the best thing I’ve eaten all year. In fact, the squid a la plancha at Uno Mas was, I reckon, the best squid I’ve ever eaten, anywhere.
And it wasn’t even on the menu. We were dithering over what to have to finish and our waiter suggested it. By the time you read this it will be there for all to delight in.
This was simply pieces of squid cooked very briefly – very, very briefly – on a blazingly hot metal plate, salted and drizzled with exceptional olive oil. It was juicy, smoky, barely cooked, tasting intensely of itself.
But what did I expect? Uno Mas is the heavily Spanish influenced brand new restaurant from Liz and Simon, the people who have been delighting us with Etto for several years now. It has been the most eagerly anticipated opening in Dublin since it was announced this time last year.
We ate there on its fourth night, but this infant of a place didn’t miss a beat. Admittedly, we didn’t try the main courses but stuck with the smaller plates that showcase what the place is all about: very simple but very clever and exquisitely executed dishes.
And it was full on its first Monday, the clientele a virtual Who’s Who of many of the city’s best restaurants, people who are serious about food and who understand what I suppose we could call the Etto way. I think that I and the companion, along with a critic from another newspaper, were the only civilians present.
Anyway, to table. We started with two little skewers of gilda, slices of raw padron pepper, an olive and an anchovy, small but bursting with savoury goodness. This palate-opener preceded a plate of padron peppers, nicely wilted in hot oil, and one of slivers of tender, gelatinous pig’s ear, each crisply coated. (Far, far superior to the same dish at Delahunt, not far away, as it happens).
Little tinned Spanish scallops in a tomatoey marinara sauce, otherwise known as zamburinas, were presented in their oval tin with small slices of crisped bread and a wedge of lemon: very savoury with a hint of sweetness, a reminder of childhood pilchards in tomato sauce but much more attractive.
Needless to say, jamon Iberico, thinly sliced from the shoulder of the ham, was exactly as expected: the nearest meat gets to melting in the mouth and with that flavour that can only be achieved when the free-range pig has pigged out, so to speak, on acorns.
Morcilla, the Spanish black pudding, came in two thick slices, each topped with a little fried quail’s egg and filaments of smoky piquillo pepper. The harmony, and the contrasts of flavours and textures in this breathtakingly simple little dish, worked like a symphony. And what was that subtle, haunting flavour in the background? The faintest suggestion of dill, possibly, but I’m not sure.
Potato and onion tortilla was not just perfectly seasoned (not easy with anything involving spuds) but perfectly oozing when cut, the antithesis of tapas stodge.
Venison carpaccio, in little discs, delivered deliciously bloody, minerally flavours that were balanced with slender leaves of Treviso, the posher, thinner cousin of radicchio, tart pickled walnuts and a touch of horseradish that, to niggle, could have been a bit more assertive.
Then came the squid. The exquisite squid. What a way to finish.
Except, of course, we didn’t. We shared a little milhojas. Think millefeuille. Or, as we did, again reminded of childhood, of custard slices.
This was a combination of thin puff pastry leaves sandwiching mascarpone enriched with caramel-like dulche de leche and a drizzle of the syrup from the prunes in red wine for which Etto is justly famous.
Yes, we ate far too much and we explored the wine list with the help of the staff all of whom seem to know it intimately and who take a beaming, smiling pride in what is being done here on Aungier Street.
The bill came to €140.
[With more than 140 wines, mostly Spanish and Portuguese, it makes sense to take advice here. The list kicks off at €6.50 a glass or €25 for a half-litre carafe with a Godello and an organic Tempranillo. There’s an outstanding selection of sherry ranging from €5 to €11 for a 70ml glass. Filipa Pata FP Branco from Portugal was a minerally delight with the squid, at €8 a glass, €31 for a bottle. One curiosity is a Colares 1969 at €115 for a 650ml bottle.]