A se­lec­tion of the best restau­rants as cho­sen by

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - SEVEN DAYS GOING OUT - Rachel Collins rcollins@irish­times.com Twit­ter: @or­rcollins

CORK

ORSO KITCHEN & BAR 8 Pem­broke St, Cork City, 021-2438000, orso.ie ¤ Opened by the same team be­hind Mar­ket Lane, El­bow Lane and Cas­tle Café, this small but per­fectly formed café brings Persian flavours to Pem­broke St. Dur­ing the day you can or­der from The Bar, a long counter filled with Ot­tolenghi-style large bowls of sal­ads and sun­dries.

Break­fastis daily from 8.30am-11.30am and high­lights in­clude the warm ba­nana flat­bread with a creamy lime zest fill­ing (¤4.50) and the Break­fastMoglai – a crispy dough­bread stuffed with ba­con, egg, cheese and co­rian­der (¤6.50).

For lunch, go for the Manoushi, a Le­banese flat bread filled meat and cheese (¤8.90) or for a salad of pearl cous­cous with ca­pers, cu­cum­ber, pomegranate and pars­ley (¤7). The sweet treats are plen­ti­ful; we’ll be back for their cour­gette cake (¤4.25) and their rose­wa­ter and pis­ta­chio meringue (¤4.50).

Night­time sees the Kitchen tak­ing over, and the Mid­dle Eastern in­flu­ence is strong in this menu too. It’s ca­sual – the menu isn’t di­vided into starters or mains and shar­ing is en­cour­aged. There are plenty of smaller dishes at around ¤8, such as Moroc­can spiced beef pat­ties (¤8), and bulgar wheat and chick­pea falafel (¤8.50).

There are more baked goods from Le­banon, this time in the form of Sfee­has, de­li­cious mini pies that are also stuffed with meat (¤8). They’re served at Orso with a crispy kale and a creamy dip. The menu holds a cou­ple of larg­ers plates for the heftier ap­petite, in­clud­ing a slow cooked lamb tagine (¤18.50) or a sea­sonal game pie with their own Orso spiced pota­toes (¤17).

There’s a small but well-se­lected choice of craft beer and cock­tails, and ser­vice is fast and friendly. They also host regular barista classes, led by their “pro­fes­sional cof­fee mas­ter” Yuliyan. The next classes are on May 10th and May 25th, and they’re open to peo­ple who want to up­scale their hos­pi­tal­ity skills or just those who re­ally loves cof­fee and wants to find out more about brew­ing. AMcE

DONE­GAL

HARRY’S RESTAU­RANT Brid­gend, Inishowen, Co Done­gal, 074-9368544, bit.ly/Har­rysBarFace­book ¤¤ Have you ever heard of the kind of restau­rant that sits on a less than idyl­lic spot, per­haps next to a petrol sta­tion, but that food­ies fawn over? Have you ever heard of the kind of restau­rant that sits off the beaten track, per­haps next to a petrol sta­tion, that has food en­thu­si­asts clam­ber­ing into their cars to get to?

Harry’s is that kind of place. A to­tally unas­sum­ing lo­ca­tion gives away to a pas­sion­ate crowd of food lovers, whose main aim is to shout from the top of Malin Head about how great Inishowen pro­duce is, as well as cel­e­brat­ing other great Ir­ish pro­duc­ers.

You can fol­low pro­pri­etor Donal (that’s Harry’s son) on Twit­ter (@Har­rysDonal) and if you ask him, he’ll tell you all about their walled gar­den a few min­utes from the restau­rant where they grow as much pro­duce for their kitchen as pos­si­ble. Check them out for lunch, early birds and evening meals. It’s a big place, with a large dining room with a good view of the kitchen pass, and an old-school fam­ily pub next door.

Their Sun­day lunch is get­ting hard to beat, and three cour­ses costs ¤20.95. For that, you could find your­self en­joy­ing a walled gar­den onion tart with Coolea cheese, slices of roast Done­gal turkey and ham with but­tery onion and sage stuffing, fol­lowed by lemon pos­set with rhubarb. So, if you’re hun­gry when you ar­rive in the beau­ti­ful Inishowen penin­sula, make sure you stop off at Harry’s to eat.

DUBLIN

THAT’S AMORE 107 Monkstown Road, Dublin, 01-2845400, that­samore­monkstown.ie ¤ That’s Amore is one of the most au­then­tic Ital­ian eater­ies in Dublin and even its en­dear­ingly cheesy name can’t take that away. Squeezed into a tiny space in Monkstown vil­lage, just a short walk from the Dart sta­tion, this vi­brant lit­tle restau­rant is burst­ing with the flavour and per­son­al­ity of Italy.

Own­ers Sil­via Leo and Marco Va­leri run an Ital­ian Deli out of this space too, which means that the in­gre­di­ents for lunch and din­ner are flown in from their favourite sup­pli­ers from the home­land. They have one of those huge books of a menu with plas­tic pages filled with some familiar favourites and some dishes slightly less trav­elled; there’s an­tipasti misto (¤11.50) along­side a carpac­cio di pesca spada (¤11.95 for sliced smoked sword­fish). There is home­made gnoc­chi, tonnarello and penne on the pasta menu (rang­ing in price from ¤11.95 to ¤16.95). The piz­zas are hand-stretched and stone-baked. They’re also enor­mous. Try the Capric­ciosa (¤14.95), a grilled ar­ti­chokes, boiled egg and Parma ham beauty that will take up nearly the whole ta­ble yet some­how you won’t be able to stop your­self from eat­ing it all. With­out help. There are daily spe­cials as well, and the fluffy slice of creamy tiramisu (¤6.95) I had there was one of the best I’ve had ever

So they’ve turned their at­ten­tion to tacos in the old Odessa bu­lid­ing on Dame Court. It looks very much the same as the old Odessa – for­giv­able when it’s a tem­po­rary set-up – with ban­quettes along the walls and lots of 4-top ta­bles in the cen­tre. Mu­sic is great and on the night we visit it’s busy all evening (in­clud­ing a few lost souls seek­ing Odessa, which has moved up onto the first floor).

The menu com­prises a hand­ful of starters – Mary­land crab cakes (¤11.95), sweet and sour chicken noo­dle soup (¤.6.95); mains in­clude half-adozen tacos and a few other Tex-mex style dishes – “su­per” na­chos (¤14.95), a rather ter­ri­fy­ingly large burger (¤17.95) and grilled sword­fish steak (¤19.95).

The tacos aren’t cheap – rang­ing from ¤14.95 to ¤22.95 for a sashimi yel­low-fin of­fer­ing. How­ever they are large – with­out the usual Mex­i­can fillers of rice and beans. The stan­dard fish taco (¤14.95) has three good flour tor­tillas, chunky tem­pura hake fil­lets with lots of let­tuce, salsa and some very good smoky charred corn. The Chi­nese five-spice duck is bet­ter (¤16.95) with sweet, sticky chunks of sesame seed speck­led duck and sliv­ers of leek, cu­cum­ber and Chi­nese cab­bage – plus an ex­tra pot of hoi sin sauce in case it isn’t run­ning down your arms al­ready.

Sides are good value – street style char­grilled corn (elotes) come slathered in mayo and parme­san (¤3.50 for two serv­ings) and in a rather in­con­gru­ous nod to Canada, there are some pou­tine fries – sliv­ers of fried potato drown­ing in black pep­per sauce, melted moz­erella and flecked with chunks of ba­con, de­clared “filthy, but good filthy” by my din­ner com­pan­ion. Desserts echo the heart attack-in­duc­ing dishes in San Lorenzo’s, in­clud­ing their Nutella choco­late cheese­cake (¤7.95) and a pail of pop­corn slathered in hot caramel sauce and three large scoops of peanut but­ter ice-cream (¤6).

They don’t take reser­va­tions here – you’ll have to rock up and take your chances at get­ting a seat be­fore they move on to the next trend.

YO SUSHI

Brown Thomas, Claren­don Street, Dublin 2, 01-672 8950, yosushi.com/restau­rants/ dublin-claren­don­street ¤¤ YO Sushi is part of a Bri­tish sushi and Ja­panese food chain that has two out­lets in Dublin – on Claren­don Street, and in Dun­drum Town Cen­tre – and they of­fer the only sushi trains in the city. A slow-mov­ing con­veyor belt snakes around the restau­rant, bring­ing small plates of food to din­ers who pluck off what­ever they like the look of. Plates are colour­coded, so you pay ac­cord­ing to the hue of your plat­ter: green is the cheap­est at ¤2.25 (six small pieces of cu­cum­ber roll), mov­ing through half-a-dozen colours up to sil­ver for ¤6.65 (soft shell crab tem­pura). The menu has sushi, sal­ads and 30 or so small hot plates. They rec­om­mend five dishes to make a meal – but depend­ing on how you or­der, the bill can shoot up. Also, if you suf­fer from eyes-big­ger-than-belly syn­drome (ahem) you can eat a se­ri­ous amount in a blink of an eye. There are calo­rie counts on each plate, so at least you know what you’re putting away.

A new menu launched last month, in­clud­ing pop­corn shrimp tem­pura (¤5), six or seven large prawns in a very thick fried tem­pura bat­ter – more cinema na­chos than pop­corn – they’re dressed in a creamy miso sauce which is quite sweet, but tastes good with a squeeze of lime. A bet­ter dish from the hot menu is the chicken yak­i­tori (¤4.50). Skew­ers pierce ten­der dark pieces of thigh meat, sep­a­rated by charred spring onion and cov­ered in a sweet, sticky soy and mirin sauce. A duck and hoi sin salad (¤5) has tasty slices of duck breast in hoi sin and sprin­kled with sesame seeds, sit­ting on a salad of man­do­lined cu­cum­ber, sliv­ers of daikon radish, let­tuce and red onion. From the sushi train, there are the usual sta­ples such as spicy tuna mini rolls (¤5) or an umami-rich crispy fried salmon skin roll (¤2.25): two pieces of maki stuffed with chopped crispy skin wrapped in rice and sliv­ers of spring onion. A tuna tataki and ponzu (¤5) has four gen­er­ous slices of fatty yel­low fin seared and coated in pep­per, topped with car­rot, crispy shal­lots, chilli and a cit­rusy ponzu sauce. There’s far too much pep­per on this to re­ally work, but a lighter touch and it would be de­li­cious. There are of­fers to make a visit good value. All plates on the con­veyer on Mon­days are ¤3; a ¤10 deal gives one blue, one or­ange and one pur­ple plate plus a wa­ter or miso; or you can do all you can eat on Sun­days for ¤20 (with a limited menu).

MAD HAT­TER CAFÉ

Unit 1, Keenan’s Lane, Cas­tle­d­er­mot, Co Kil­dare, 085-7148085, mad­hat­ter­cafe.ie ¤ A pleas­ant sur­prise on a dark, stormy Sun­day af­ter­noon, this cosy café open for break­fast and lunch seven days a week. There’s a range of sand­wiches, soups and wraps, plus shelves of good­ies to take home, in­clud­ing breads, cakes, pre­serves, oils and cof­fees – there’s a ta­ble of freshly pot­ted jars of home­made chut­ney await­ing la­bels when we pop in.

The menu, which feels a lit­tle dated, but ob­vi­ously works as the place is jammed, in­cludes an all-day break­fast (vari­a­tions on a full Ir­ish, from ¤6.50 to ¤8.75 with juice, tea or cof­fee) and home­made gra­nola with yo­ghurt and coulis (¤4.95). The panini, which has qui­etly skulked out the back door of many lunchtime es­tab­lish­ments, lives on here, named af­ter char­ac­ters in

(the mo­tif is car­ried through to the menu and dé­cor). The Twee­dle­dum (¤7.25) has goat’s cheese, house-roasted veg­eta­bles, sun dried tomato and pesto.

A cia­batta spe­cial of turkey, brie, stuffing and cran­berry sauce (in March?) is de­clared ex­cel­lent, de­spite its un­sea­son­able in­gre­di­ents. My toasted club sand­wich (¤6.75) is very good – a triple decker of thick gra­nary bread with ten­der chicken breast, ba­con, slices of cheese, let­tuce and a very good home­made rel­ish.

A very mod­ern touch is the raw choco­late smoothie (¤4.50) made from raw ca­cao pow­der, ba­nana, almond milk and honey. Served in a jam jar, it’s a rich, tasty im­poster on the oth­er­wise tra­di­tional menu.

LA CUCINA

Uni­ver­sity Court, Castletroy, Lim­er­ick ¤ re­al­i­tal­ian­food­ies.com / face­book.com/lacucina When­ever I take a trip to Din­gle, which is usu­ally once a year for the Other Voices fes­ti­val in De­cem­ber, I make a pit­stop half­way to a lit­tle Ital­ian café off the mo­tor­way in Castletroy, Lim­er­ick. I first be­came aware of La Cucina through the blog and tweets of its owner Lor­raine Fan­neran. “@ital­ian­foodie will you have space for two hun­gry pizza lovers at around 2.30 this af­ter­noon?” I’d tweet, some­where around Ro­screa. “@aoife­fork­ful of course!” would come the re­ply. “We’ll get the dough ready for you.”

Lor­raine and her part­ner Bruno (the Pizza Boss and son of Ital­ian im­mi­grants ) opened La Cucina in a busi­ness es­tate in Castletroy in 2003, and have been dish­ing out freshly made piz­zas, great cia­batta sand­wiches and Ital­ian sal­ads ever since. It’s a ca­sual spot. In fact, it’s won Best Ca­sual Dining a cou­ple of times at the Ir­ish Restau­rant Awards. On a good day, the Lim­er­ick sun spills in through its win­dows into this small, buzzing space.

Their piz­zas range in price from just over ¤10 to ¤13.50 and all the clas­sics are there, from the margherita to the fiorentina. You can get a bowl of pasta am­a­tri­ciana (¤10.50) or a plate of br­uschetta parma (¤6.50).

They also launched their own range of Real Ital­ian Food­ies pasta sauces, which you can pick up at the shop or on their on­line store. This is a fam­ily busi­ness worth sup­port­ing. Go visit. And make sure you send them a tweet when you’re nearby.

SHELL’S CAFÉ AND LIT­TLE SHOP

Strand­hill, Co Sligo, 071-9122938 ¤ shellscafe.com Jane and Myles Lam­berth were look­ing for the good life and found it in Strand­hill, Co Sligo. They opened their sea­side café and bak­ery in 2006, think­ing it might be a sea­sonal gig and that they could spend the rest of the year surf­ing. But then they got re­ally busy. Turns out peo­ple travel for a great brunch.

This blue-hued café looks out onto the Sligo shore, and on a sunny day, you can sit out­side on their benches and feel like you’re living Jane and Myles’ dream. Take a walk around the beach and come back ready for nour­ish­ment.

They have spe­cials on ev­ery week. You might be lucky and catch their Buttermilk Pancakes with dry cured ba­con (¤6.95) or maybe their roast chicken, av­o­cado, hal­loumi, cheese and spicy mayo toastie (¤9.50 with a side salad and chips).

They love do­ing break­fast sal­ads as well; when I was last in I had a pork belly salad which came with chunks black pud­ding and a per­fectly poached egg. Woah, momma.

They’re open from 9am-6pm Mon-Sun­day, serv­ing break­fast, lunch and din­ner. There’s home­made cakes, Ir­ish-roasted cof­fee and glasses of wine on of­fer, too. They opened a shop next door sell­ing some of their favourite things. There’s food pro­duce, ce­ram­ics, fancy pa­per and other lovely things. Oh, and did I men­tion the cou­ple have writ­ten two cook­books? Turns out you can get a lot done when you’re living your dream.

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