Cather­ine Cleary eats at Night­mar­ket Thai Restau­rant, Ranelagh, Dublin 6

Food at the Night­mar­ket is a cook­ing legacy passed from grand­mother to grand­daugh­ter

The Irish Times Magazine - - INSIDE - RE­VIEW CATHER­INE CLEARY

Who needs lip en­hance­ment when there’s Thai food? My eat­ing ap­pa­rat us has been bl ow­torched and it feels like the swelling may be per­ma­nent. It’s not, of course. The smart­ing is just part of the joy of a chili- laced mango salad, coleslaw with beestings laced through its sweet juicy strands.

We’re in the Night­mar­ket in Dublin’s Ranelagh. It’s a small place along the last strip of shops be­fore the vil­lage pe­ters out into a sweep of grand houses. The place used to be An Bhialann and the Night Mar­ket has been here for roughly four months.

Its name prompts mem­o­ries of the Night Garden, sleepy tod­dlers and a the­ory that Makka Pakka’s song may have been a recita­tion of a Thai menu. Then the gid­di­ness sub­sides and the se­ri­ous eat­ing be­gins.

Ju­tarat Suwan­keeree is the chef and her part­ner Conor Sex­ton is front of house. She was born in Malaysia and moved as a small child to Chi­ang Mai in north­ern Thai­land, where her grand­par­ents had a food stall.

She be­gan help­ing her grand­mother at the age of six, ac­cord­ing to the restau­rant’s web­site, go­ing to the 4am food mar­ket and help­ing to pre­pare the dishes be­fore school. She’s up­stairs in the kitchen, Sex­ton tells us. He clocks the vis­it­ing critic as soon as we take our seats. Next month they plan to have 50 more seats up­stairs be­side her.

The Night Mar­ket feels like a place Ranelo­ni­ans have taken to their hearts as a neigh­bour­hood favourite. We’ve t aken an early t able i n or­der t o squeeze in. A man drops off a birth­day cake for a cel­e­bra­tion later on.

It’s a small space down­stairs, the decor sub­stan­tially un­changed since its last in­car­na­tion. It’s more bistro than mar­ket stall with bare wooden ta­bles gath­ered around a small bar, a her­ring­bone tim­ber floor and white painted brick­work. The Thai touches are low- key like the lo­tus flower tealight hold­ers and long green strips of pan­dan leaf in the wa­ter carafes along with rib­bons of cu­cum­ber.

All the en­ergy is on the plates, in dishes that are in­spired by Thai night mar­kets, vi­brant busy places that bus­tle with life, heat and smells af­ter the blaz­ing sun has set. The menu is di­vided into small plates on one side and heftier cur­ries and wok dishes to the other.

Thai style prawn crack­ers are browner and crunchier than the com- mu­nion wafer Chi­nese take­away ver­sion. They come with sweet chilli sauce and a rub­bly brown peanut sa­tay that tastes like it was made from nuts roasted freshly in their skins.

We’ve been warned that the mango salad is hot but there is still that dis­so­nance be­tween the mild look of the match­sticks of shred­ded mango and the punch it packs. Pass the pan­dan leaf wa­ter. The salad is a side to the hoy shell yang, grilled fresh scal­lops, cooked with their roe on, their but­tery sweet­ness taken in a more thrilling di­rec­tion with lime juice and co­rian­der and shreds of chilli.

The yum poo nim are palm- sized soft shell crab fried in a feather light bat­ter and eaten whole with fish sauce in the salad dress­ing to ping pong the deeper fishy flavours back and forth.

There’s mi­ang kham, a beau­ti­ful plate of cha plu or wild pepper leaves with small mounds of crunchy, spicy, sweet and tangy things on them in the form of shal­lots, dried shrimps, tiny lime tri­an­gles and peanuts. We roll up the soft leaves and dip them in a sludgy palm sugar and dried shrimp sauce. It’s a re­ver­sal of that crunchy out­side soft in­side spring roll ex­pe­ri­ence. Here the skin is all silky pep­pery leaf with the crunch all in­side.

The meat dishes are the stars of the night. Baby gem let­tuce leaves serve as boats for spicy chopped duck breast in the larb ped esan. Again there is heat and sweet in this dish and crunch too in the form of pieces of duck skin flayed so they look like tiny four- limbed starfish crisped to be­come duck scratch­ings.

An 8oz Vil­lage Butcher rib eye has been grilled and sliced into juicy rib­bons be­fore be­ing tum­bled in a bowl with salad, half moons of light skinned Thai aubergine sliced raw with a creamy flavour. There’s lemon­grass, fresh mint and lime leaves and shal­lots, along with the reg­u­la­tion chilli. The por pia tod are nicely ex­e­cuted rice pa­per rolls, skin thin cov­er­ings over tofu avo­cado, thick sweet basil leaves with mint and car­rot with a rice vine­gar and soy dip to add zing.

There are western desserts but I try the khao niew ma­maung, a Thai riff on nurs­ery rice pud­ding. Sticky rice has been cooked in co­conut cream into a sort of sweet risotto and then topped with cres­cents of mango and crunchy yel­low bean. I like it but I’m in a club of one.

Food at the Night Mar­ket is a cook­ing legacy passed from grand­mother to grand­daugh­ter, which l ends that bleached out word “au­then­tic” a lit­tle more heft. There’s fire in this restau­rant but there’s also fresh­ness and the best kind of ca­sual fun din­ing that hap­pens when proper street food goes in­doors. A meal of three small and three larger plates with shared desserts, one gin­ger beer and two beers came to ¤ 94.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.