Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

[Review] Tippenyaki, Rathmines, Dublin 6

It was the closing day of the Olympics and we were sitting on the sofa watching the precious last few events. We were like drug addicts who knew that our supply was shortly to be cut off and we were squeezing every last drop out of the spectacle. Earlier in the day, we had debated where to go for dinner, but those plans got shelved as we stayed in to watch the last events, the last medal presentations and finally, the closing ceremony. Our plans for grilled steak and seafood evaporated and instead we ordered takeaway online - Indian paneer curry from our local Bombay Pantry for me and Domino's pizza for Himself.

Roll forward to Sunday evening, and this time there were no Olympics to keep us at home. The lack of sporting achievement had left us feeling a little lost, so we decided to do what we do best - go for dinner. We were still in the mood for grilled seafood, so we decided to head to a local Japanese restaurant in Rathmines. Tippenyaki is a teppan restaurant which is a form of Japanese cuisine consisting of chefs cooking on large metal grills (the teppan) all while performing a whole host of juggling, acrobatics and knife skills. It's possibly the most entertaining way of eating out.

Tippenyaki gives you a choice of being seated around the teppan grills where you can experience the full show, or off to the side at the quieter tables. We both ordered seafood from the teppan menu - king prawns for Himself (€20.95), while I chose the Geisha plate of scallops, prawns and salmon (€26.95).  The teppan plates are served with your choice of miso soup or salad, and Himself added an extra order of tuna and salmon sashimi (€12.95). 
Stitch and Bear - Tippenyaki - Miso soup
Miso soup -  I love the swirls that appear
Stitch and Bear - Tippenyaki - Tuna and salmon sashimi
Generous 12 slice portion of salmon and tuna sashimi
While we were drinking our soup and I was stealing sashimi from his plate, our chef came out from the back kitchen and turned on the teppan grill. Plates of pre-sliced vegetables and a tray of fantastic looking seafood were placed alongside in preparation. I was daunted by the sheer volume of seafood that was about to go into my Geisha plate. Soon we could see the heat rising off the grill and our chef got to work.
Stitch and Bear - Tippenyaki - Seafood ready for the teppan grill
Seafood ready for the teppan grill
As mentioned already, Teppan cooking is as much about the show as the food. The chefs move food around the grill, arranging it into stacks and piles. Eggs are tossed into the air only to be caught in chefs' hats, pockets, or even cracked by falling onto the blade of a knife. There is much rat-tat-tatting as the chefs scrapers perform a tap-dance over the grill. Plus they will set your food on fire! On previous visits to Tippenyaki, the chefs have even played guitar and sang while cooking.
Stitch and Bear - Tippenyaki - Cooking on the teppan grill
Cooking on the teppan grill
The chefs serve the food from the grill when it is ready. First, our plates were piled high with a mix of bean sprouts, courgettes, cabbage and onions. Then some crispy potato slices, followed eventually by the seafood. The seafood had been flambeed and finished with loads of garlicky butter, and the rich tasty juices flowed all over the plate. I made amends for my earlier sashimi thieving by handing over a fair portion of my plentiful dish. He was equally pleased with his king prawn dish, even if the prawns were a bit overcooked. 
Stitch and Bear - Tippenyaki - Geisha seafood special
Geisha seafood special
Tippenyaki is all about fun, but singing chefs may not be your deal, so you have been warned. In fact, it can get very busy some evenings with birthday groups & office parties, meaning that you may prefer a quieter, more intimate venue. The large teppan grills dominate the room meaning that tables are arranged in a narrow U around the edges, so it's sometimes not the most easiest to walk around. But if you do venture in, grab yourself a ringside seat and enjoy the action.

Post script: As I was finalising this blog post, I came across a video of Jedward at Tippenyaki. Enjoy!

Tippenyaki, Castlewood Avenue, Rathmines, Dublin 6
Tel: +353 (0)1 497  9463
Tel: +353 (0)1

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wine Appreciation Courses @ L'Atitude 51

I recently received an email from L'Atitude 51, a charming Cork-based wine bar & cafe of which I am a huge fan. The people behind L'Atitude love wine, and they are on a mission to spread the love and knowledge of wine in Cork city.

The latest class on offer is the Wine Fundamentals series. This will start on Saturday the 22nd of September at 3.30 pm, and will run for 4 successive classes designed to learn about wine in a fun and lively way. No prior knowledge is required to take part. Classes will be held in the Wine Workshop, a lovely space located on the first floor of L'Atitude 51. Each session costs €25, with a special discount price of €90 for booking all 4 sessions.

For details please visit the L'Atitude 51 website where you will be able to download the info document by clicking on Course Details – Download, at the bottom  right of the page.

L'Atitude 51, 1 Union Quay, Cork
Tel:  +353 (0)21 239 0219

Friday, August 24, 2012

Badger & Dodo Coffee Tasting

The lovely Emmanuelle and Beverly, owners of L'Atitude 51 in Cork, are great at organising events. They have created a lovely space upstairs which is ideal for hosting wine tastings and gatherings. Recently, they played host to a different sort of tasting. Instead of the usual wine, a small crowd was treated to a coffee cupping hosted by Brock Lewin of Badger & Dodo. Given that coffee played a major part in sustaining my PhD studies and now fuels my working day, I was intrigued by the idea of learning more about my daily addiction. 

Brock kicked off by asking if any one in the room still used instant coffee. Even if anyone did, they weren't going to admit it, so Brock progressed to asking who in the room ground their own beans. A fair amount of people raised their hands to this question, leaving me feeling a little remiss. Last Christmas we received  a present of a Nespresso machine, which replaced our old pressurised espresso maker. I must admit that I have become a massive fan of the Nespresso system, mainly due to its cleanliness, ease of use, and the fact that there are some quite good coffees in the range. No hating please from coffee fans.

Brock moved on to explaining the structure and scoring of a coffee cupping session. A bowl of freshly ground roasted beans is used for taking deep sniffs in order to assess the dry fragrance. Following this, off-the-boil water is added to the bowl and left to steep for several minutes. The crust formed by the grounds is removed and the wet aromas are inhaled. After a few more minutes, it's time to actually taste the coffee. This involves taking a spoon of coffee and slurping noisily, in order to get the coffee to coat the back of the throat.
Green yirgacheffe beans
We were split into small groups and we got to work sniffing, inhaling and slurping.  Three different beans, from two different regions. First was the dry processed Harare from Ethiopia, followed by the wet processed Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. The final selection was the dry processed speciality coffee, Canta Galo, from Brazil. Each coffee was quite different in aroma and flavour, but I struggled to find the words to express the differences. Brock explained that coffee is far harder to analyse than wine! It turns out that coffee has more flavour compounds than wine, which goes some way to making me feel better about my inability to identify the flavours. As we worked our way through the examples, Brock kept up a running discussion on roasting techniques, machinery and moisture!
Freshly ground roasted yirgacheffe
Yirgacheffe steeping before tasting
It was great fun to chat with my tasting companions and hear their take on the coffees we were tasting. The session wrapped up with some Q&A from Brock, whose enthusiasm for his topic was so evident. (Pro tip from Brock: use 60g of coffee grinds to every 1 litre of water). And we all got to bring home a bag of beautifully packaged Badger & Dodo beans. I might even invest in a coffee grinder and resurrect our old espresso machine. Ireland has a whole slew of micro coffee roasters, so if you're a coffee fan, there's bound to be a roaster out there to suit your taste. Badger & Dodo is available from over 70 cafes nationwide, several retail stores, or via their online shop.
I left the cupping session with many questions. The first and foremost was why I found it so hard to identify the flavours and scents of coffee. I could clearly taste and smell differences, but verbalising it was a whole different story. It's a good thing to be challenged and I shall definitely be looking at (and tasting) coffee in a whole new light.

Badger & Dodo
Tel: +353 (0)87 0532660
Twitter:  @BadgerAndDodo

L'Atitude 51,1 Union Quay, Cork
Tel: +353 (0)21 239 0219
Twitter: @Latitude_51

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tapas 24, Barcelona

Last April, we spent a fantastic few days in Barcelona. Part of that holiday involved a trip to the amazing restaurant Comerç 24, which is just one part of Projectes 24 from chef Carles Abellán. We were delighted to find that Tapas 24 was located just across the street from our hotel on Career de la Diputació. April has come and passed, and it is now August. But I still want to share Tapas 24 with you. It's simply that good.

Tapas 24 is a basement restaurant, where every possible work surface is utilized to hold fresh market produce or assemble dishes. Tables and benches come sized "small" and we often saw queues of people back out the stairs and up onto the street. The serving staff are a mixture of traditional Barcelona waiters and shiny cool hipsters, all dressed alike in the old-fashioned white waiters jackets that are so common in Barcelona. Chalkboards heave with all the dishes and specials on offer, and it's exciting just to sit and watch. In short, it's so cool that it hurts.
Tapas 24 Street Exterior
Our first meal at Tapas 24 was at street level, outside the entrance, tucked under street heaters. Hence, all my photos took on a warm, orange hue. Everything at Tapas 24 shrieks cool, from the typeset menu and place settings, right down to our Freddie Mercury lookalike hipster waiter who ran up and down the stairs, bringing us cava and many little plates of things. 

Tapas 24 has many dishes to sample, once you get used to the Catalan spelling. My limited Spanish vocabulary wasn't quite up the job. We tried their signature ham & cheese toastie, better known as the Bikini 24. This is no common toastie, but is a delicate, crustless thing made with jamon iberico, mozzarella and black truffle. The McFoie Burgeur is another signature dish, where the patty is a tartare-type mix of beef and foie gras, served in a thin, crispy bun. A quirky cheeky tribute to the golden arches.

But perhaps the best was yet to come at Tapas 24. A dish of Xocolata consisted of three uber-creamy scoops of chocolate ganache, drizzled with olive oil and topped with a few delicate flakes of sea-salt. My sepia-toned nighttime photos doesn't do this amazing dish justice. I would gladly fly back to Barcelona tomorrow morning for another plate. Hell, I would even consider walking to Barcelona if I knew this was waiting for me as I turned onto Passeig de Gràcia.
Bikini Comerç 24 - Tostado de jamon y queso
McFoie Burgeur
Xocolata - chocolate ganache with olive oil and sea salt
Tapas 24 is one of those places to which gluttons like us keep on returning. Having indulged with foie gras burgers and truffled toasted sandwiches, we found ourselves back there the very next morning for breakfast.  I fuelled up with a large plate of Ous Estrellats amb Patates amb Botifarra Negra. In simpler terms this was a plate of fried cubed potatoes, topped with "smashed eggs" and black pudding pieces. Himself ordered the Truita de Trempó, a pancake shaped omelette with potatoes and chorizo with an oozing egg yolk middle. A trip to Barcelona is not complete without sampling Pa amb Tomàquet, a simple Catalan side dish of grilled bread rubbed with tomatoes. When done well, it's downright addictive and amazingly intense.
Truita de trempo
Ous estrellats amb patates amb botifarra negra
Pa amb tomàquet (tomato bread)
Tapas 24, Carrer de la Diputació 269,  08007 Barcelona
Tel: +34 934 88 09 77

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Spanish Baked Eggs

Cooking is such a rewarding activity. It doesn't matter if it's just taking salad ingredients from the fridge or creating a 3 hour masterpiece. When you eat a plate of food that you made yourself, and that more importantly tastes great too, then you feel rewarded. It's even better when other people enjoy your food!

Last Sunday, I had a craving for baked eggs. Or to be more accurate, I wanted eggs with spicy tomato chorizo sauce, served with home fries on the side. The only downside to this craving was the time it would take to put together all my ingredients. First up was the making of a spicy chorizo sauce. While that was bubbling down, I cooked my potatoes in the microwave, sliced them and got them frying in a skillet. The very last step was to bake the eggs in a ramekin along with some sauce, covered by a protective layer of parmesan.

I posted several photos on Twitter during the course of making the dish, and received several requests for the recipe. I wish that I had had a chance to stage my photos, and take beautiful, arty, moody food shots. But let's be honest, that was not going to happen on the Sunday morning after a bottle of cava the night before. So iPhone photos it is. 

Warning - I like to make my sauce as rich and flavoursome as I can. I am a flavour junkie. By the time that it is served with eggs and home fries, the effect will be diluted somewhat, so bear that in mind when adjusting your seasoning. 

Spicy Chorizo Tomato Sauce

1/2 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1/4 chorizo sausage, diced
1 teaspoon pimentón picante (spicy smoked paprika)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt & pepper to season

Heat some oil in a heavy, large frying pan and sautee the onions and garlic until lightly browned. Add the chorizo and fry, stirring frequently until the onions are coloured with the oil from the chorizo. At this stage, I like to add an extra teaspoon of pimentón and cook gently for another minute or two to pump up the Spanish chorizo flavour. 

Add the tin of chopped tomatoes and mix well. Add the sugar, season with salt and pepper and leave to cook down. Using a large, heavy bottomed pan will help the sauce reduce down faster, as the liquid will have more room to evaporate. Taste continuously as it reduces and adjust the seasoning as required. Once the sauce has reached a nice thick consistency, take the pan off the heat and put to one side until ready to assemble.

The photo below shows some leftover sauce from my cooking - look at that lovely dark, rich colour. That sauce didn't go to waste either, as Himself later used it for a quick pasta dish.
Leftover spicy chorizo tomato sauce
Crispy Homefries

One of the great things about getting breakfast in the US can be the addition of home fries - or crispy fried cubes of potato.  I don't know why those horrendous lumps of raw potato that masquerade as hash browns are so popular for hotel breakfasts in this country. Homefries are far far nicer, and so very satisfying. 

To make these, I quickly cooked some new potatoes in the microwave until just cooked. Once they had cooled enough to handle (no asbestos hands here), I simply cut them into half and then sliced into half-moons.  By now, I had emptied the spicy sauce from my trusty cast-iron skillet, given it a quick rinse and had heated up some oil and a little knob of butter. 

I laid the potatoes into the oil and left them alone for a few minutes to crisp up nice and brown. Don't be tempted to start flipping the potatoes too early as they may start to disintegrate from too much handling. Wait instead until the first side is nice and brown before flipping over to repeat. Once the fries are at your preferred stage of crunchiness, turn them out onto some kitchen paper to drain. 
Homefries browning nicely
Spanish Baked Eggs

Have your oven preheated to about 160 C (turn it on while making the spicy sauce). I chose to bake my eggs in a set of large ramekins which I half filled with my delicious dark spicy sauce. I then carefully cracked in two eggs, which bought me close to the top of the ramekin. I added a nice thick crust of protective cheese (parmesan in this case) on top to protect the eggs from overcooking in the oven.

The ramekin was placed on a baking sheet (to make it easy to get in and out of the oven), and the entire lot was placed in the oven for about 15-20 mins or until the crust was nicely set and golden brown at the edges. The eggs were taken from the oven and left to cool and settle for about 5 minutes before serving. Word of warning - this dish can be El Scorchio in the inside, so hold your horses and give it a few minutes before digging in. 
Baked eggs just out of the oven
So there you go.  I actually find eggs quite hard to eat sometimes, but this always works for me. If you have any other suggestions for tried and trusted ways to enjoy eggs, please do share.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Alexis, Dun Laoghaire

I've been under a lot of pressure lately, but not from work. Oh no, work would be a fine thing indeed. Instead, I've been faced with the task of taking the Mother- and Father-in-Law to good restaurants in Dublin. Late night conference calls and dealing with pressurised project timelines are grand, but I was in a cold sweat at the thought of disappointing Mrs. H. There are some people in your life that you can't stand to disappoint.

When it comes to dinner, Mr. & Mrs. H. have a simple set of criteria. Good value, preferably on an Early Bird, good food and a nice atmosphere. I racked my brains, looking for venues which would impress, therefore gaining me some serious brownie points. Reflected glory and all that. One name on my list of restaurants to visit came immediately to mind, namely Alexis of Dun Laoghaire.

Alexis is large and open, nicely decorated in browns and creams, with a long marble-topped bar dominating one side of the room. For me, the only downside was the weird tromp l'oeil quilted wallpaper, which seemed to cheapen the rest of the decor. Tables are nicely spaced, allowing for a more intimate dining experience.

We all ordered from the set menu, which offers two courses for €18, or three for €23. We were wowed by the arrival of surprise starter plate from the kitchen, with compliments of owner Patrick. A beautifully seared sweet scallop, celeriac puree, a little deep-fried ball of soft moist pig's head topped with a dainty poached quail egg. Presentation was stunning, with more than a little cheffy flair on show thanks to artfully arranged micro leaves and nutty caramelised crumbles.
Surprise  starter plate of seared scallop, pigs head, quail egg and celeriac puree
A starter of cold smoked organic salmon was equally beautiful with the vibrant salmon colour standing out on the white plate while Edenderry Farm ham terrine was a dense slice of pressed meat. The terrine could have done with more of the tangy crunchy piccalilli as there just wasn't enough of it to accompany all the meat. Mr H. never fails to order soup, and he loved the dramatic tableside pouring of his fennel soup, with fennel puree and orange zest. 
Cold smoked organic salmon with pickled vegetables
Edenderry Farm ham terrine with piccalilli
We needed some breathing space after our unplanned two starters, and thankfully the service was nicely timed to suit. His slow roasted corn-fed chicken came with wild nettle puree and mousseline potatoes. The addition of a hay smoked leg elevated this dish past the traditional Sunday lunch version. Mr and Mrs H both opted for the 48 hour cooked feather blade beef with button mushrooms and creamed potatoes. Simply served, the beef was tender and soft. 

My choice of smoked haddock came atop a mound of spring onion mash, with samphire, poached egg and a smooth lemon and chive butter. Breaking into a poached egg and watching the yolk ooze out is one of the true food pleasures. The haddock was delicious when dipped into the egg yolk and butter sauce, accompanied by the salty juiciness of the samphire. My sole complaint about the main courses would be their portion sizes, which were simply massive. Even Himself of the never-ending appetite felt that the portions were too big.
Slow roasted corn-fed chicken
48 hour feather blade beef
Smoked haddock with poached egg and spring onion mash
There was never any doubt that we were going to order dessert, even after three courses. Some meals, you are just going to have dessert, no arguments. Mr and Mrs H shared a rich flourless Valrhona chocolate and raspberry cake, served with a swirl of deliciously salty caramel sauce. Himself chose the simple sounding fresh strawberry mousse, with a layer of strawberry jelly on top. My choice of clementine creme brûlée was deliciously creamy with a light delicate crust of burnt sugar, but I didn't pick up much of the advertised clementine flavour. This was compensated for by another swirl of that finger-licking salted caramel sauce.
Flourless raspberry & chocolate cake
Fresh strawberry mousse
Alexis' wine list consists of organic and biodynamic wines. I very much enjoyed a light and tasty Domaine de Mirande Picpoul de Pinet (€6.00 per glass) while Mr H had a glass of Cantina Social Frentana Montepulciano D'Abruzzo (€5.50).

The end result? A very content set of parents-in-law and very full stomachs. Choosing the Early Bird Menu at Alexis does not mean settling for a lightweight version of the a la carte menu. The elegant presentation of our dishes was top notch showing that Alexis is a place with both substance and style. 

Alexis, 17-18 Patrick's Street, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin
Tel: +353 (0)1 280 8872
Twitter: @AlexisDublin
Alexis Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon
© Stitch and Bear | All rights reserved.
Blogger Template Developed by pipdig