Dax Restaurant is one of the best fine dining restaurants in Dublin city centre offering modern Irish-French cuisine for lunch and dinner Tuesday to Saturday. Winner of the RAI best restaurant award for Dublin in 2014, Dax is owned and run by Olivier Meisonnave, and Paolo enjoyed a very good lunch in the main restaurant with Sinead Ryan.
It's been a while since I reviewed a lunch; for some reason I tend to go out for dinner instead. And yet I enjoy a good lunch. I can remember Dublin a few decades ago when lunch commonly lasted from midday to 4pm. Quite how much work got done after these long lunches I can't say, but what is definite is that those heady days are well gone.
I was in Dublin this week at lunchtime and so I arranged to meet Sinéad Ryan. Dax has been in a basement on Pembroke Street for some years now and I last reviewed it in 2005. We stopped for a moment to look at the menu displayed outside and Sinéad said, "I wonder will we see Gerald Kean? He eats here a lot".
Downstairs we were greeted by Olivier Meisonnave, who owns it. People with very long memories may recall that Olivier was Kevin Thornton's sommelier before he opened Dax, which explains the long wine list. He showed us to our table and we started with the menus.
I have to say that there is a very high level of service in Dax; professional and expert. You also have a table set with good napery and quality glassware,
There were a few starters that looked interesting to me, especially the poussin and the sauté squid. Sinéad was torn between a salad with crumbed egg, blue cheese and croutons, and the broccoli soup.
In the end, she chose the soup with the sea trout to follow, while I picked the poussin to start and the asparagus and pea risotto for my main course.
The wine list is pretty impressive. It's long, well sourced and more than a little pricey. It runs to 20 pages, but there's only about a dozen wines that come in at under €30, and those are in the upper €20s. We chose a half-bottle of Albert Pic Chablis, which was listed at €29.
It was after we'd ordered that I heard a "Hello, Paolo" and I turned round to see Gerald Kean, who had come over to our table. After our 'hellos' he asked what we'd ordered.
"You didn't order the squid? It's the best starter on the menu. I'll get Olivier to send you some to try, you'll love it."
Sure enough, the first thing that arrived at our table was a dish of squid divided on to two plates for us to try. I have to admit Gerald was right: the squid was properly cooked and tender and was served with a herb salsa and chilli jam, making it a very good dish.
After that, the starters that we'd ordered arrived, broccoli soup for Sinéad and the poussin for me. I asked Sinéad what had made her choose the soup.
"All the starters are quite hearty dishes, and I'm having the rather delicate sea trout, that's why." She had a point: the menu didn't have the usual goat's cheese salad, and at first glance looks more designed for the male appetite that the female one.
The soup was good, and I enjoyed the poussin, which came with pickled mushrooms and candied hazelnuts. Then came the main courses -- the sea trout, which came with boiled potatoes, asparagus and a very good salsa of tomatoes and cumin, and the risotto for me.
The risotto was good; for once the rice was cooked as it should be and the peas and asparagus supplied the contrasting crunch.
Of the main courses, I think I had the better of the two. These days, wild sea trout can't be sold, so what you get in restaurants is necessarily farmed. Even the best farmed fish have less flavour than their wild siblings.
Sinéad couldn't resist the cherry and hazelnut 'financier', which is a moist French sponge cake and not a banker. I had the vanilla crème brÃ»lée, which came with a delicious raspberry sorbet and a shortcake biscuit. These were two very good desserts which finished off our meal nicely.