Amuse is a new restaurant in Dublin's Dawson Street, just a few doors up from the excellent Green House. The chef, Conor Dempsey, was formerly at Dax. It's called Amuse, perhaps because its intention is to amuse your bouche. I arrived to meet Gerard Carthy, his wife Deirdre and his daughter Abigail.
We had a window table giving Gerard and me a view of the street, while the girls faced the restaurant. A selection of maybe six breads, all freshly made, came to the table as did the menus - three of them. You can choose from the set dinner, which gives you the choice of three courses for €35 or two for €29, plus there are two tasting menus. There's a five-course tasting menu, which is €55 and you can add matching wines for €35, or for the real gourmands, there's a seven-course tasting menu for €76 and you can add matching wines for €50.
Looking around I couldn't help but feel a dichotomy. Normally when you read a menu like this, you're in super smart surroundings; you know, starched linen, glistening glassware, plush carpets, but here we sat in some simplicity: varnished wooden tables with no linen and comfortable but plain chairs. In short, the menu is very fine dining, the room less so.
It's also the kind of menu where a dictionary would be useful. The first three courses on the five-course menu contain these words: avruga, daikon, lardo, nori, yuzu, kewpie and sea aster. There's three there that I haven't heard of, and I do this for a living. Anyway, you can see there's a strong Asian influence on the menu.
What I can tell you is that chef Conor Dempsey hasn't put these ingredients together randomly. His flavour blends are inventive and delicious. We all four chose from the set dinner menu, which gives you a choice of three starters, three main courses and two desserts.
I started reading down the wine list, only to discover that no one wanted wine, so I ordered a glass of Godello, a white from north-west Spain also known as verdello. Crisp and bright tasting, it was a perfect accompaniment for my main course.
So with four of us ordering across the menu, our starters were two roast quail, one sea trout and one prawn dish. The prawns were pan-seared and came with a red cabbage slaw, coconut and a Vietnamese dressing. The sea-trout had been cured, so it had the look of gravadlax about it and I have to say, made an extraordinarily pretty plate. It came with a avruga (caviar) marinated daikon (winter radish), orange and cucumber, which combined well.
Lastly, we had the quail, and this was a dish to show off the chef's skills. Perfectly cooked quail breast and confit legs, and surrounding it on the plate chickpea curd, dates, squash and palm purée and a few slices of black figs. A really good dish.
It was the same with the main courses. Between the four of us we got all three dishes on offer - two lamb, one chicken and one hake. The lamb dish was slices of rump of mountain lamb, served with fermented kimchi (a Korean vegetable side dish), kohlrabi and turnip. Each element was a pleasure to eat, and that was true of the other dishes. The hake came with an array of autumn vegetables and a very tasty saki and mussel emulsion, deeply redolent of the sea. The corn-fed chicken had a Korean glaze and came with girolle mushrooms, hazelnuts and coriander,
I couldn't manage a dessert, but the other three could, having the pistachio cake and the Roquefort cheese with beetroot and raspberry. I did taste the cake, and just as it so often is in Sicily, it had a dry mouth feel. In Sicily that's rectified with a judicious application of Marsala, which could easily be adopted here.
The bill for the four of us came to €169.90, which considering the quality of the food and service is astonishing value. Amuse is yet another great restaurant in the Green area, sitting alongside The Greenhouse, One Pico, Graham Neville's 41, Patrick Guilbaud's and Pearl Brasserie.
Long may it prosper.