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