There's an extremely hip new kid in town, the very smartly named Opium, which aims to bring a touch of the cool Hakkasan vibe to Dublin. For those of you who have never heard of Hakkasan, it's an achingly cool modern Asian restaurant, which started out in London and has spread across the world. I recently walked past the Las Vegas location, which featured spa-like soothing water features and floating flower petals, and that was just the entrance.
Based on the above, you can safely infer that Opium, with restauranteur Martina Fox onboard, is targeting the young and beautiful portion of the market. And the remodeled interior is beautiful. Soft golden lighting, exposed brick, interior window walls and leather seating make for a very welcoming room. The only let down are the thin-legged, perpetually rickety-feeling, French bistro-style chairs. Confusingly for a restaurant serving Asian food, I didn't see much oriental stylings in the room, other than a feature wall facing the rear and a single statue standing guard.
|The interior at Opium|
While waiting for himself to arrive, I ordered a Japanese Sazerac made with Nikka whiskey which imparted a nicely gentle smoky flavour (€9.90). The food menu is a mix of different Asian cuisines, which allows you to cherry pick your favourite dishes. Vietnamese rolls (a mix of chargrilled prawns, various herbs and vegetables) were fresh and crunchy, but a bit scant for an €8.50 price tag. A clever little bowl of Sriracha mayonnaise came on the side for added spicy goodness. Scallop and halibut ceviche was crisply sour and a little spicy with sweet mango for balance (€10.50).
(Pardon the poor quality of the photos below, but we were eating in the bar area where the light was low)
|Scallops and halibut ceviche|
Despite dithering with the main courses for ages, both of us ended up with similar dishes, beef rendang (€17.50) for me and red curry duck for Himself (€17.95). Both were indulgently rich and creamy, as only coconut-based curries can be. His dish featured a generous leg of confit duck, while mine had large chunks of tender beef, topped with crunchy coconut. Due to the low lighting in the restaurant, we failed to notice a generous sprig of fresh green peppercorns lurking in the red curry, which were promptly ejected back out. Tasty sweetcorn fritters (€4.50) made for an alternative side dish, but I want to go back for the chicharron or crispy pork scratchings (€3.50) which were unfortunately not available on the night we visited.
|Red curry duck|
We liked the food, we liked the interior, but unfortunately we didn't terribly like the music and atmosphere. If Opium binned the generic CD of naff lounge "choons"(well, at least during dining hours) and figured out a way to fuse the stunning interior with the Asian flavours, then they could really be onto something sweet.
The million dollar question is if Dublin is ready for achingly cool, and if so, has Opium reached that zenith? The answer to the former is a probable yes, but unfortunately, the answer to the latter is no. Don't get me wrong though, Opium reached pretty high. The venue is a wonderful reworking of a previously popular nightspot, while the food is very good (but not better than several other restaurants which are already at that standard). I just wish it was a more comfortable spot to eat.
Opium, 26 Wexford Street, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 526 7711