There's a new Italian in town, and it is raising the level of Italian culinary to a new level. It is entirely possible this team could hit Michelin standards in a chic neighbourhood restaurant.
Bellagio Italian restaurant has been in Terenure forever, but a few years ago it turned into an architecturally designed contemporary space serving very good Italian food to the good people of Terenure and Rathgar. That has now changed with the arrival of a new chef, who has raised the stakes to a new serious high with dishes that are authentically Italian, but using where appropriate fresh Irish products, combined with the best products from Italian artisan producers. The results are impressive, and the new menus and dishes have raised the game for neighbourhood dining in general, and for neighbourhood Italian dining in particular.
A tasting menu is a great way to see what a kitchen can do, and the nine, yes nine, course menu we had on the same day the children returned to school melted away the stresses of a day stuck in traffic and generally doing hassley stuff.
An amuse bouche made it ten, and a crabmeat confection with mango in a shot glass got us off and kicking. Yellow fin tuna lightly smoked in the restaurant comes dressed with toasted pine nuts, peeled orange segment, a mixed herb salad and citrus vinegrette.
The seafood continued with steamed Roaring Bay mussels with Collina tomatoes and grated Pecorino Romano. Light and delicate, there is a depth of flavour in the broth at the bottom of the bowl and the tomatoes, roasted, taste of the Italian sunshine.
We switch from the sea to the land next, with a selection of cured meats from Tuscany. Each has its own flavour and the textures are firm, not fatty. There is a perfume off the meats that comes from care and time; this is a selection to be savoured.
We stick with prepared meats for the next offering, a handmade rolled porchetta, with La Divina di Mondragone buffalo mozzarella from Campania. Porchetta can be good or just okay, but this was a superior product, and the mozzarella was as good as you will get in Ireland. It comes from Italy, and so will never be as fresh as they like it there, where a mozzarella is best eaten on the day it arrives, if not the late morning of the day. However, this is only a day older, so full marks.
Risotto makes an appearance; a perfect Carnaroli rice with saffron and girole mushrooms, but the star here is the braised rare breed pork shoulder, tender and almost sweet, with a braising liquor that is a reduction of a reduction and packs a flavour punch that is memorable.
The next course is the part of the menu that would be the main course in a more normal dinner. It's a study of veal, with an ossobuco confit, braised rump with new season Irish peas and a cheek poached in milk. That is pretty much the menu description, but the eating and the writing are two different things.
I love the idea of a main course that takes one ingredients, and presents it in different ways in terms if texture and flavours. Why have one cut when you can have several presented in different ways to showcase their glory? So it is here.
Desserts follow, and a cheese board, but I am flagging by now. Suffice to say the meal ended on a high note. The new menus featuring these dishes will be launched over the coming weeks, and if our preview was anything to go by, a visit is a must.