Ten­ta­cles to tan­ta­lise the taste buds... a big gra­cias for the best squid ever!

Irish Daily Mail - - Food And Wine - Tom Door­ley

IT was the last dish – of many – that we or­dered, and it was the best thing I’ve eaten all year. In fact, the squid a la plan­cha at Uno Mas was, I reckon, the best squid I’ve ever eaten, any­where.

And it wasn’t even on the menu. We were dither­ing over what to have to fin­ish and our waiter sug­gested it. By the time you read this it will be there for all to de­light in.

This was sim­ply pieces of squid cooked very briefly – very, very briefly – on a blaz­ing-hot metal plate, salted and driz­zled with ex­cep­tional olive oil. It was juicy, smoky, barely cooked, tast­ing in­tensely of it­self.

But what did I ex­pect? Uno Mas is the heav­ily Span­ish-in­flu­enced brand-new restau­rant from Liz Matthews and Si­mon Bar­rett, the peo­ple who have been de­light­ing us with Etto for sev­eral years now. It has been the most ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated open­ing in Dublin since it was an­nounced this time last year.

We ate there on its fourth night, but this in­fant of a place didn’t miss a beat. Ad­mit­tedly, we didn’t try the main cour­ses but stuck with the smaller plates that show­case what the place is all about: very sim­ple dishes but very clever and exquisitely ex­e­cuted.

And it was full on its first Mon­day, the clien­tele a vir­tual Who’s Who of many of the city’s best restau­rants, peo­ple who are se­ri­ous about food and who un­der­stand what, I suppose, we could call the Etto way. I think that my­self and my com­pan­ion, along with a critic from an­other news­pa­per, were the only civil­ians present.

Any­way, to ta­ble. We started with two lit­tle skew­ers of gilda – a type of pin­txo – each con­sist­ing of slices of a raw padrón pep­per, an olive and an an­chovy. Small but burst­ing with savoury good­ness.

This palate-opener pre­ceded a plate of padrón pep­pers, nicely wilted in hot oil, and sliv­ers of ten­der, gelati­nous pig’s ear, each crisply coated.

Lit­tle tinned Span­ish scal­lops in a toma­toey mari­nara sauce, other­wise known as zam­buriñas, were pre­sented in their oval tin with small slices of crisped bread and a wedge of lemon: very savoury with a hint of sweet­ness, a re­minder of child­hood pilchards in tomato sauce but much more at­trac­tive.

Need­less to say, jamón Ibérico, thinly sliced from the shoul­der of the ham, was ex­actly as ex­pected: the near­est meat gets to melt­ing in the mouth and with that flavour that can only be achieved when the free-range pig has pigged out, so to speak, on acorns.

Mor­cilla, the Span­ish black pud­ding, came in two thick slices, each topped with a lit­tle fried quail’s egg and fil­a­ments of smoky piquillo pep­per. The har­mony, and the con­trasts of flavours and tex­tures in this breath­tak­ingly sim­ple lit­tle dish, worked like a sym­phony. And what was that sub­tle, haunt­ing flavour in the back­ground? The faintest sug­ges­tion of dill, pos­si­bly, but I’m not sure.

Potato and onion tor­tilla was not just per­fectly sea­soned (not easy with any­thing in­volv­ing spuds) but per­fectly ooz­ing when cut, the an­tithe­sis of ta­pas stodge.

Veni­son carpac­cio, in lit­tle discs, de­liv­ered de­li­ciously bloody, min­er­ally flavours that were bal­anced with slen­der leaves of Tre­viso, the posher, thin­ner cousin of radic­chio, tart pick­led walnuts and a touch of horse­rad­ish that, to nig­gle, could have been a bit more as­sertive.

Then came the squid. The ex­quis­ite squid. What a way to fin­ish.

Ex­cept, of course, we didn’t. We shared a lit­tle mil­ho­jas. Think mille­feuille. Or – as we did, again re­minded of child­hood – of cus­tard slices.

This was a com­bi­na­tion of thin puff­pas­try leaves sand­wich­ing mas­car­pone en­riched with caramel-like dulche de leche and a driz­zle of the syrup from the prunes in red wine for which Etto is fa­mous.

Yes, we ate far too much and we ex­plored the wine list with the help of the staff – all of whom seem to know it in­ti­mately and who take a beam­ing, smil­ing pride in what is be­ing done here on Aungier Street.

The bill came to €140.

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