I've eaten at Amuse before for the evening tasting menu and was immensely impressed. Unfortunately, the matching tasting wines made an equal impression on me and my photos of that night grew progressively blurrier. But the French-Japanese cooking of chef Conor Dempsey lingered in my memory, calling for a return visit. Then a recent email arrived from Amuse announcing a three course set lunch menu for €35, which includes a glass of wine, a half bottle of water and tea or coffee.
Located at the St Stephen's Green end of Dawson Street, Amuse is a small, but perfectly presented restaurant. The theme is perfectly executed French style cooking with a strong Asian influence. It's utterly unique by Dublin standards and is surely under scrutiny from the Michelin inspectors. (However, I am skeptical about Michelin in Ireland, given the other great restaurants who are yet to land a star).
To start, we were presented with an amuse of pureed aubergine, topped with black sesame and peanut, which concealed a small piece of anchovy sushi. My starter of goat's cheese curd was elegant simplicity with intense dashi infused grapes and quinoa crisps. Pork belly marinated in hoisin was served with apple, a sweet shrimp tartare and kombucha dressing.
|Amuse of aubergine, sesame, peanut and sushi|
|Goats cheese curd with dash infused grapes and quinoa crisps|
|Hoisin marinated pork belly with apple and shrimp tartare|
Both main courses were exquisitely presented on pleasing, simple, white plates with a slightly raised rim. His main course of seared Atlantic cod was meaty and beautifully cooked. It was accompanied by sweet potato, mouth puckering intense baked lemon, a wonderful peanut satay and a shire miso dressing. My choice of guinea fowl absolutely blew me away, especially with the sweet and salty crusted neck (?) meat and wonderful dabs of coconut sauce.
|Seared cod of fillet with sweet potato and satay|
|Guinea fowl with green vegetables|
The superb standard of cooking was maintained with the dessert courses. We shared two desserts, one of milk chocolate with blood orange sorbet and dried ginger and a second being a celebration of strawberries with white chocolate. I often find it hard for restaurants to maintain a consistent standard across savoury and sweet courses, but no such issues here.
|Milk chocolate with blood orange sorbet|
|Strawberry and white chocolate plate|
In addition to great food, the wine service at Amuse is also to be commended. With the set course menu, you are limited to a single red or white, but I was impressed by the crisp Côtes de Gascogne Colombard. Later, when it came to desserts, sommelier Léna Duhamel presented us with two superb sweet wine options, one red and one white. I'm just kicking myself that I didn't take a picture of the labels.
The food at Amuse is complex and joyous. It's a complete world apart from the minimal ingredient approach we recently experienced at Relaæ in Copenhagen. On my first visit, I had been impressed. On this second visit, I was blown away by the increase in performance. The dishes feature flavours that are light and ethereal, but balanced against strong and vibrant notes. Presentation is meticulous with a mind-boggling level of detail concealed in the smears and dabs of every plate.
For me, this is the best fine dining restaurant in Dublin right now. And a €35 lunch is a very affordable way to experience this superb venue.
Amuse, 22 Dawson Street, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 639 4889