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!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

[Review] Peruke & Periwig, Dawson Street, Dublin 2

Sometimes I'd love to understanding the reasoning employed when naming a new restaurant or venue. Do you keep it local and simple, or do you go for an abstract name? That's what I asked myself when Peruke & Periwig opened on Dawson Street, in the former premises of a travel agents. What would powdered wigs have to do with cocktails, drinks and food? (It turns out that long before the travel agents, this venue housed a wigmaker).

Downstairs is a small bar, finished in dark wood and copper, while the rows of mannequin heads sporting periwigs perched up high made me feel all French Revolution. The narrow stairs leads to two floors lavishly decorated in red velvet, gilt-framed portrait paintings (with more wigs) and marble-topped tables. It's all very lush and very comfortable. Those of you familiar with the Liquor Rooms on Wellington Quay and the Vintage Cocktail Club in Temple Bar will recognise the vibe, only here it's been amped up to decadent levels.Note that reservations are probably required on weekend nights but a chat with the host might free up a table for a quick drink.
Leather bound cocktail menus
Plush red velvet, old portraits and dark wood interior
The cocktail menu is quite well designed with unique takes on classic drinks. Each cocktail description is accompanied by a reference to the associated classic drink from which it derives. The "Zed's Dead" was a delicious twist on a Last Word, featuring gunpowder infused gin, Taylor's Velvet Falernum, Luxardo Maraschino and Lime (€12). Tequila lovers like me will enjoy the "Dia Del Meurtos", a margarita made with Olmeca Resposado, Earl Grey infused Cointreau, agave, bitters and lemon with a salt rim (€12).
Zed's Dead and Dia del Muertos
Over the course of two separate visits to Peruke & Periwig, we tried out a selection of the food menu. On both occasions I ordered the excellent risotto balls, richly flavoured with wild mushrooms, served with wilted baby spinach, delicate poached quail eggs and truffle oil (€11). Rocket salad was served with crispy bacon, eggs and celery (boo!) all coated in a ranch dressing (€8). Crispy pickled red peppers served with house ranch dip made a great snack alongside the cocktails (€4).
On one visit, Himself ordered the burger, served with tomato chutney, Gruyère cheese, green peppercorn mayo and shoestring fries (€18). At this price point, you'd expect an excellent burger, which didn't quite happen. It was a decent burger, but the bun disintegrated long before he'd finished the burger, plus the shoestring fries had been replaced with regular fries. Anyone who orders a dish on the basis of shoestring fries will understand our disappointment.
Wild mushroom risotto balls with truffle and quails eggs
The bartenders here know their stuff and every drink we sampled was well made, well balanced and tasty.  But short of bringing a measuring jug into the bar and measuring the damn things, I'm just going on my instinct here in saying that the drinks are small. And small drinks with a €12 price tag are hard to stomach. In fact, they're rather sobering, which surely defeats the purpose of hard spirits. 

Cocktails shouldn't be cheap. A good bartender with years of experience and knowledge, quality spirits and ingredients and a comfortable venue all cost money. And I will happily pay for a good drink. But, flaithulach and all as I am, I don't like to feel over-charged. This isn't a sensation unique to Peruke & Periwig and charging a mere euro (or two) less per drink would fix this perception in many bars.

Service was excellent throughout and the kitchen is cooking tasty food that will surely hit a sweet spot after a few drinks. Lashings of red velvet may not be to everyone's taste, but I found it a cocooned, relaxing experience. However, the combination of cocktail size and price meant that the experience was tempered with some disappointment.

Peruke & Periwig, Dawson Street, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 672 7190
Twitter: @PerukePeriwig

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

[Review] China Sichuan, Dublin 18

I've recently been reading a blog series from Sybaritica about Chinese characters and how to understand them in the context of food and dining. I'm only a few characters in, but I'm already starting to go a little cross-eyed as I start to appreciate this complex language. However, I have learned to recognise the three parallel strokes that symbolise one of my favourite Chinese cuisines, namely Sichuan cooking. I  was delighted to be able to pick that character out on the menu cover at China Sichuan. Watch out non-English speaking restaurants, I'm coming!

China Sichuan is surely the sleekest Chinese restaurant in Dublin. Located in a custom-built premises in Sandyford Industrial Estate, it's presided over by the charming, second generation restaurateur Kevin Hui. Upon arriving, our coats were taken with a warm welcome before being led into the dining room, which is all dark woods, slate and subdued lighting. It simply (discretely) shouts style. I already knew that I was going to enjoy China Sichuan. The question was how would this upmarket and polished restuarant compare to some of my Dublin Chinatown favourites?

A little dish of pickled and peeled cucumber strips were crunchy and sweet. They disappeared quickly, leaving us forlornly waiting for the starters.  Cold pork belly slices were delicately wrapped around  beanspouts, perched on top of a slice of pickled cucumber (€6.00). The spicy garlic and soy sauce dressing ensured that each mouthful was intense and savoury. Luóbo gao or Chinese turnip cake pan-fried and tossed with XO sauce (€8), was a wonderful surprise. The cubes of turnip were light, even fluffy and extremely moreish. Our final starter featured fresh, meaty prawns in a foamy and buttery salted duck egg coating (€8.50).
Pickled cucumbers 
Pork belly slices with spicy garlic sauce
Prawns with salted duck egg
Luóbo Gao - Chinese turnip cake
I had chosen my main of Chong Qing chicken from the Chef's Recommendations section, where it was accompanied by a little triangle, indicating moderately spicy (€15.00). The advertised mixture of dried and fresh chilis seasoned with ground Sichuan pepper had drawn me in like a moth to a flame. What arrived at the table was a richly coloured bowl of chicken, cashews and chills  Lots of chills to be honest, all coated with the numbing magic of Sichuan pepper. It's not for the faint of heart, but I loved every minute of it. Himself had stuck with the specials for his main course, opting for Ballinwillin organic venison cooked with chili and Chinese greens (€20.00). I was curious to see how the chefs would tackle venison, which turned out to be tenderly cooked in a slightly peppery sauce. 

At this stage, we can't visit any Chinese restaurant without ordering a portion of fried long green beans. At China Sichuan, the beans are a bit more expensive than usual (€15.00), but come tossed with minced pork and deliciously salty bits. Along with the Chong Qing chicken, it was an umami slap to the tastebuds, leaving them calling out for more. 
Chong Qing chicken with dried and fresh chillis
Green beans fried with minced pork
Ballinwillin venison
Throughout the meal, I stuck with a glass of delicious Gewürztraminer whose floral aromatics contrasted well with the spicy flavours, while it was bottles of Tsing Tao Chinese beer for Himself. The waiting staff were flawlessly perfect throughout, often cracking a joke, but always attentive. 

China Sichuan straddles two worlds effortlessly. On one hand it is sleekly modern, frequently by wealthy South Dubliners, while on the other hand, the food from the kitchen is authentic and true. It's a true marriage of modernity and tradition, showcasing a vibrant and modern Chinese cuisine. After all, it's hard to resist the allure of dishes like tea-smoked duck or pork shreds in the tantalising tasty "fish fragrance" sauce. (By the way, there's no actual fish involved, it just means that the sauce was traditionally suited to fish).

China Sichuan isn't cheap overall, but if you're on a budget there is a two course lunch menu on offer for €15.00, while the Early Bird offers two courses for €20.00. With the Stillorgan Luas stop just literally 2 minutes walk from the restaurant, it's hard not to find a reason to give it a try. If you fancy a Chinese dalliance, then China Sichuan is a good place to go.

China Sichuan, The Forum, Ballymoss Road, Sandyford Industrial Estate, Dublin 18
Tel: +353 (0)1 293 5100
Twitter: @ChinaSichuanD18

China Sichuan on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 14, 2014

[Competition] Wine dinner for four at the Kilkenny Cafeé Supper Club

I love competitions and I will enter each and every competition that I come across. What's even better is giving my readers a chance to win some great prizes. I was recently contacted by the Kilkenny Shop on Nassau Street, who are launching their Thursday Night Supper Club at the Kilkenny Café, located upstairs in the shop. The cafe serves up artisan Irish food, made fresh on-site daily for breakfast, lunch and supper. Bonus marks for the fact that most dishes are gluten-free. 

From Thursday, April 17th, the Thursday Night Supper Club will feature a supper main for €12.95 along with wine specials at €3 between 5-7pm each Thursday, along with live music throughout. To celebrate its return, Kilkenny is giving you the chance to win a delicious supper for you and 3 friends! With live music available throughout the evening, it's surely the perfect way to finish your shopping trip or simply unwind after a busy day.

The prize consists of a main course and glass of wine for the winner and three friends. The Supper Club runs on Thursdays only and the prize is valid until the last Thursday in May. To be in with a chance of winning this tasty prize for you and your friends, answer the simple question below. You can either leave a comment on this blog post, or email Please make sure to provide contact details, as anonymous comments can't win.

Q: How much does a main course cost at the Kilkenny Café supper club?

The competition will close at 8pm on Monday, April 21st and the winner will be randomly selected from all correct entries. Good luck!

(Deadline extended for the Easter Bank Holiday weekend).

The competition is now closed and I am in the process of contacting the lucky winner.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

[Review] Salt Lick, Ranelagh, Dublin 6

Back in my student days, I remember a cafe in Cork that used to open as a tapas bar in the evening. Apparently a visiting Spanish chef had struck a deal with the cafe owner to use the kitchen at night, which had the dual purpose of giving me delicious tapas as well as meaning that the venue was busy both day and night. 

From what I recall, the deal didn't last long (there was some gossip), but I thought the idea of a multitasking venue was clever. I can't really remember many examples of this taking place in Dublin, which is surprising considering the high cost of rents. Plus, it's a great opportunity for some young chefs to take charge of a kitchen, trial out dishes and test them on a willing audience. 

Given this, I'm delighted to see that every Friday and Saturday night, new venture Salt Lick will set up shop in Hobart's Cafe in Ranelagh. It is the brainchild of Brian McCarthy and William Toft and comes with a very simple idea. Every month will see a short, themed Table d'Hote menu (it's currently Taco month) with two courses for €20 or three for €25. As Salt Lick doesn't have a drinks license, you can mosy up with a bottle of your favourite wine or beer, with recommendations available from nearby Redmond's of Ranelagh. Alternatively, bring a bottle of your chosen spirit, and the clever Salt Lick people will mix you up a cocktail using their house ingredients. 

The simple menu meant that ordering was a doodle. My starter slate of beetroot, avocado puree, pickled fennel and crumbed feta was very much of the current fashion, but lifted away from the norm by the addition of the fennel. A portion of deep-fried cubed bacon was deliciously fatty and crunchy and each of the three dipping sauces (beetroot syrup, ginger beer glaze and sriracha aioli) was well-chosen to deal with the fattiness. This was the stuff that bacon dreams are made of.

(Apologies in advance for the extremely poor photos - it was pretty *romantic* in there).
Deep-fried bacon with dipping sauces
Mains consisted of a plate of three tacos, with 3 different taco flavours on offer. So, rather sensibly, we got one of each variety. The clear winner for both of us was the confit lamb belly with cannelloni bean, parmesan and olive smash with herby feta salad and streaky lamb belly bacon. Delicious flavours and lovely balance. Next was the classic braised pork taco with adobo, salsa, sour cream and tempura pickle. It had all the classic slow cooked pork flavours but with a little touch of freshness. Finally, there was the slow roast shin of beef, miso duxelle, horseradish creme fraiche, capers, rocket and crispy onion. Unfortunately, the capers completely dominated the beef and horseradish, leaving only saltiness. However, we loved the deeply crunchy fries and peppery rocket and parmesan salad served on the side.
Taco selection
We declined dessert (although the fried bread with dips and the three milk coffee & caramel pudding both sounded tempting) but we were delighted to receive some perfect little meringues with our bill for sweet nibbling.
The bill with those perfect little meringues
We didn't have time to organise ourselves with a bottle or naggin of spirits (which might have invoked memories of student days), so we didn't get to try the tasty sounding cocktail options at Salt Lick, and instead we made do with a bottle of prosecco. Next time out, I'm bringing a couple of bottles from the spirits shelf and I fully plan to let Salt Lick do their best. I love a good cocktail and I'm up for the challenge. 

Long and short, it wasn't 100% perfect at Salt Lick. But it's also worth stating that it was their first weekend in business. It was obvious from the (literal) dancing in the aisles that the staff are enthusiastic and enjoying their gig. In the end, there were more than enough high points (that deep-friend bacon, that sriracha aioli and those lovely fries) to make me want to return and sample another of their one-off menus. At €20 a head (for 2 courses), it's a good night out.

Salt Lick (at Hobart's), Ranelagh, Dublin 6
Twitter: @SaltLickDublin
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