Temple Bar isn't exactly the location that immediately springs to mind for Dublin's latest fish shack restaurant. Rather than being perched moodily overlooking the sea, Klaw is neatly tucked into a narrow space on the cobblestoned Crown Alley. Owner Niall Sabongi is on a mission to make diners fall in love with fun and casual seafood, and after all, Temple Bar is the party central of Dublin.
Once you pass through the open doors, Klaw is small and narrow, with customer seating to the front, and the wide-open kitchen at the rear. (In fact, to get to the toilet, you have to walk through the kitchen). The space may be tight, but if you're lucky enough to grab one of the three small tables, you can settle in nicely.
|Interior at Klaw|
The menu changes according to availability of the day, but there are certain constants. Plump and meaty Irish oysters from the wild foaming waters of Achill Island, Galway Bay and Dungarvan can be enjoyed naked, dressed or torched. The torched option involves the arrival of a staff member with a large blow and and equally large wicked grin, as they prepare to scorch your oysters table side. We loved the nam jim dressed oysters (lovely light Asian flavours) and the Rockerfeller-style torched oysters. First-time oyster eaters are treated to roars of "Shuck and suck" - which now comes with its own Twitter hashtag.
Krab (sic) and lobsters feature prominently also. A generous portion of Lambay Island crab claws are served chilled with picks and crushers, while crab toasties come with lots of sweetly fresh crab meat atop toasted bread rounds. The classic lobster roll is a star attraction here, with lobster filling tucked into a buttery, slightly sweet, brioche-style roll. At €14, it is a little expensive, but also top notch. On our second visit, one roll simply wasn't enough and I ordered myself a second roll to enjoy as I watched the world go by outside.
|Lambay Krab Klaws|
|The luscious lobster roll|
|A selection of naked and dressed Irish oysters|
If you manage to make it through the seafood fest that is Klaw, there are some sweet options on the menu to send you home. The American classic, Whoopie Pie, can be enjoyed in its original sandwich format, or else served mess-style with lashings of cream and strawberries. In keeping with the simple attention to perfect seafood, the wine choices are similarly slimmed down with just a handful of wines, and craft beers.
|Peanut butter whoopie pie|
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Klaw is fun and vibrant. Customers are encouraged to write notes and peg them up for other customers and staff to enjoy. The carnival of oysters being torched table side is fun (albeit at a safe distance) and the enthusiasm of Niall and staff carries through it all. But all this would be for naught without the mountains of oysters, crabs, lobsters, periwinkles and whatever else gets caught in the traps. Klaw is the kind of restaurant, along with Mourne Seafood, of which we need more. Restaurants that celebrate and honour the wonderful bounty of seafood that lives on our shores.
Oh and remember to "Shuck and Suck"!