Re­view

Klaw Poké is the type of trendy seafood joint that will help Ir­ish peo­ple get over pen­i­ten­tial hang- ups

The Irish Times Magazine - - NEWS - CATHER­INE CLEARY

Cather­ine Cleary gets a grip of Klaw Poké, on Capel Street, Dublin

It’s pro­nounced “pokay”, like some­thing an es­tate agent might whis­per dis­creetly for some­where a tad on the small side. But Klaw Poké is less poky than its teeny- tiny sis­ter res­tau­rant on Crown Al­ley in Tem­ple Bar. The sec­ond crab­shack in the Klaw fam­ily is on Capel Street, be­side Caryna Camerino’s bak­ery. This is a street shak­ing off its shabby and shut­tered feel one in­de­pen­dent trader at a time.

Klaw Poké doesn’t take book­ings. It shouldn’t be dif­fi­cult to get a seat at 7.30pm, they tell me on the phone. But the place is heav­ing when I ar­rive. Luck­ily two stools free up at the zinc bar, where chef- owner Niall Sabongi is cheer fully shuck­ing oys­ters, blow- torch­ing any­thing that stands still long enough and charm­ing cus­tomers, in­clud­ing a first- time oys­ter eater who seems hap­pily ad­dicted by the evening’s end.

My friend, who is for­tu­nate enough to live on Capel Street, ar­rived in on Klaw Poké’s open­ing night in May. He had been stalk­ing ( sorry fol­low­ing) their progress on In­sta­gram. They didn’t take cards ( they do now) so he left with­out pay­ing and strolled in the next morn­ing with the cash, as you do with your new neigh­bour­hood place.

The vibe takes ca­sual to a new level. When it’s not served in card­board bowls or on paper plates, the food ar­rives in the hot pan in which it’s just been cooked. Nap­kins ( plan for plenty if you or­der the shell- on prawns) come in the form of rolls of kitchen paper dot­ted along the counter. So it feels as if you’re at a cook- up in some­one’s house by the sea. All that’s miss­ing is the sand be­tween your toes.

There is a long, shared table in the win­dow, those stools at the counter and a few more on the back wall. Some peo­ple stand, as if they’re just here for a quick beer and a snack be­fore mov­ing on again. Ev­ery­one looks to be hav­ing a blast.

A purist’s poké is a bowl of small chunks of salted or mar­i­nated raw fish – just the fish, noth­ing else. You might eat it with steamed rice. But the orig­i­nal Hawai­ian dish has been Amer­i­can­ised into a mix­ture of lots of things com­bined with the fish, a sort of bento box in a bowl. And that’s what they do here.

But first we start with four kinds of farmed Pa­cific oys­ters ( the wild nati ves are out of sea­son), f reshly shucked and naked. Chardon­nay vine­gar with pink soaked shal­lots is on the counter in a small jar, along with a jalapeño pep­per one. Like the oys­ters in the Tem­ple Bar Klaw, these come with their own flavour story. Each one is dif­fer­ently de­li­cious in per­son­al­ity, size and tex­ture, a briny and un­pre­ten­tious les­son in ter­roir.

Then juicy gam­bas ar­rive in their pan, swim­ming in a but­ter sauce with just the right amount of chilli and petals of diced gar­lic. The cook­ing juices are too good to l eave be­hind and there’s cia­batta to mop it up, if spoon­ing melted but­ter into your mouth in pub­lic feels like a step too far.

You can de­sign your own poké, as­sem­bling it with rice, quinoa or noo­dles, adding your choice of pro­tein ( there’s tofu for a ve­gan op­tion) and then gar­nish it a flurry of herbs, veg­eta­bles, or nuts. But they have some house bowls al­ready de­signed, and we go with them. We are not the only de­ci­sion- weary din­ers, ap­par­ently. Most peo­ple go with the house bowls.

The Ahi tuna bowl is a gen­er­ous bowl of nutty brown rice topped with lus­cious chunks of sesame mar­i­nated tuna. There’s sweetly pick­led sunomono cu­cum­ber. Barely blanched edamame beans bring their lovely mild green flavour to the mix. The sea­weed comes from Howth, Sabongi says, and pick­led gin­ger and slices of soft av­o­cado fin­ish off the whole de­light­ful bowl.

The Octo poké comes in at un­der a ten­ner – although you should dig deep and add the house kim­chi for an ex­tra ¤ 1. Slip­pery noo­dles soak up the juices of salty pineap­ple and sam­phire ( from Achill). Radishes are sliced to add their clean mus­tard bite and a sprin­kling of toasted macadamia nuts rounds it all out with a toasty crunch.

Poké is trendy and could even be de­scribed as “clean eat­ing” but don’t let any of that put you off. Any­where that serves a pan of melted but­tery cook­ing juices with a spoon and a roll of kitchen paper at your el­bow is do­ing some­thing very right. We still need to grow up about fish and shed the last of our pen­i­ten­tial hang- ups about pre­cious ma­rine re­sources. Mak­ing fish fun is the best way to do this, and Klaw Poké is do­ing it in spades.

Din­ner for two, with house sparkling wa­ter, came to ¤ 60.

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