Dylan McGrath cooked what I believe was the greatest meal I have ever eaten when he was in Mint. His talent screamed from the plate, and the flavours that were achieved were sublime. His latest restaurant, Rustic Stone strips things back to good ingredients, great flavours and simple coking, and it is a winning combination.
Rustic Stone is on Georges Street, on the corner opposite The Central Hotel. I arrived early for dinner with Bairbre Power and the restaurant was already very busy. We got a table on the ground floor and were handed menus. The menu is a large, double-sided stiff card and it does have a lot of information on it, creating a food faddist's delight. Every dish is marked with a combination of symbols, each one signifying either low saturated fat, wheat free, gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, super food or Dylan's choice for wine.
The food choices are broken down into sections: bites, which cost mostly less than a fiver, for grazing on; starters, which are more substantial; five pasta dishes, and, last, eight 'on the stone' dishes.
This brings us to the USP of Rustic Stone. What makes this restaurant unique is its use of lava stones -- discs of black stone some eight inches in diameter and two-inches thick. These arrive with your 'on the stone' choice and are pre-heated to a high temperature, allowing you to cook one of six steak or two fish choices to exactly the point you like, at the table. I was intrigued and so was Bairbre, so we both picked 'on the stone' dishes.
The back of this menu continues with salads, side orders, desserts, Dylan's choices and a short wine list. This last comprises nine whites and nine reds, plus two sparklers and three dessert wines. Every wine on the list can be had by the glass, by the half carafe, or by the bottle. We chose a half of the Salice Salentino from Leone de Castris, which our waiter told us they imported directly. It turned out to be a well-structured wine, nicely balanced and easy to drink.
To start, Bairbre chose the crab mayonnaise, which came on thin slices of toast. I'd picked the Asian quail, marinated in soy and grilled on a stick, like a kebab. The crab dish was truly delicious: the crab meat was mixed with mayonnaise, infused with herbs and finished with wheatgrass, which the menu explains is a 'superfood'. The quails were pretty good too, and the kebabs came with radish, mango slices and cucumber.
Good sourdough bread accompanied our starters, which had given us a glimpse of the culinary skills McGrath is famed for. And that's a point to bear in mind if you're going to be eating 'on the stone'. Since you'll effectively be doing your own cooking, you'll need to look elsewhere for McGrath's work, and you'll find it in the starters, the side dishes and the bites. You'll find interesting uses of flavours and cooking methods, and some that are very unusual.
Our main courses arrived on wooden boards that carried the hot stone, a side salad and a knife attached magnetically to the side of the board. Bairbre had chosen a rib-eye steak and I'd picked the rump steak, which came with basil and pine nuts. We also had a dish of truffle chips to share. Both of these mains were already sizzling on the very hot stones. If you're planning to eat like this, don't wear a white silk blouse as you will get spattered with flecks of sizzling fat.
Obviously when you cook your own steak you can have it exactly as you like it, and I had mine pretty rare. Bairbre found that by cutting her steak into slices, she had better control over the cooking. There's something quite enjoyable about eating like this -- it becomes a more interactive experience. I enjoyed the novelty of it and I suspect, given the Irish love of steak, that McGrath may have hit on a winning formula.
Rustic Stone is innovative, has arguably Ireland’s most talented chef in the kitchen, and serves great food. What’s not to like?