Taste at Rustic is Dylan McGrath's latest creation, and is the most exciting thing he has done since Mint. Taste is the result of many months travelling and many more in an experimental kitchen with a team of top chefs, devising and revising a menu based around the four flavour groups, and the addition of a fifth, with the introduction to Ireland of Unami, a taste sensation from the Japanese culinary tradition.
Taste is located on the top floor of Rustic Stone, the result of Dylan travelling the world looking for new food ideas. He wanted to share his food experiences, influenced by travelling through Japan, Spain and South America. He said he ‘loves the flavour release of some of these cooking techniques. I find something special in the use of their immediate, quick heat.’
The decor is really on trend, with a bronze, mirror-tiled ceiling, black-leather seating, natural wood and red brick; earthy colours and textures that feed into nature. The chefs are working behind an L-shaped bar, at which you can also sit and eat comfortably while watching the theatre of cooking.
We started with pre-dinner drinks in Bar at Rustic, located on the middle floor. There's a fabulous drinks list with great cocktails, wines, sake, specialist whiskies and Japanese beers. I had a pink peppercorn sour which was a bittersweet vodka based cocktail with sweet notes of honey and vanilla with a fresh sharp finish of pink peppercorn while Fred had a bottle of Asahi, this was Japan’s first dry lager.
As we were enjoying our drinks Mark came and walked us through the menus; it is complex but don’t worry as when you go up to the restaurant they will go through it with you again. The ‘a la carte’ is designed like an enormous accordion style menu, full of nutritional information symbols and key information of all dishes. Initially you work through the vertical sections covering broth, sushi, sashimi/ceviche, kushiyaki grilled meat; and nabemono dishes and a light dessert finish. Once you've sorted those, you have to work horizontally through further sub-headings of the taste elements: sweet; salt; bitter; umami; sour and the final page of extras
There is also a set menu option with four choices – 6 pieces of nigiri for €15, 12 pieces for €25, a €40 menu offers 5 courses or there are 6 courses for €60. These offer you a chance to try a selection of the menu as chosen by Dylan, which is a pretty cool way to see that Taste is all about.
Alternatively, the A la carte is exciting, so if you are feeling a bit more adventurous, the A la Carte deserves some time and I decided to go for it while Fred went with the €40 set menu.
There were two wine lists, one with a selection of wines specifically chosen to compliment foods in Taste and an extensive one for the building – we went with the Taste list – ranging in price from €30 for a bottle of Cassa de Vila Verde ‘pluma’ vinho verde 2014, a Portuguese choice, up to €53 for an Austrian Riesling. We chose the Domaine de la Pepiere Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie 2014. A crisp, fresh wine with hints of lemon and lime priced at €40. All wines were also available by the glass.
We kicked off with an amuse bouche (brick temaki) a dice of raw fresh tuna bound in herbs with avocado served in a free standing crispy cone shaped pastry, which did indeed get the taste buds in a good mood for more.
Fred started with 3 pieces of raw, fresh fish presented on a marble slab served on well-seasoned rice – there was a fatty tuna which was served with spring onion and topped with sea urchin cream and parmesan, a wild Alaskan salmon warmed and caramelised with palm sugar, John Dory with lardo crudo, smoked olive oil and smoked salt. All were delicate and full of flavour, and this really expressed the combination of flavours of the Orient with South America and a touch of Spain.
I chose 4 pieces, native prawn gently heated with a sweet lobster butter (€4); tuna akami marinated in soya sauce with a touch of wasabi (€2.25); turbot with Japanese plum puree and kumquat zest (€2) and a piece of wagyu tataki with chimichuri (€3.50)A mix of textures and flavours that delighted and gave me pleasure and some surprises.
When it came to the mains Kushiyaki/Antichuchos arrived for himself; really good quality beef placed on metal rods. They are deliberately kept large to retain the flavour. A small charcoal pit was brought to the table so you can cook the steak to your liking.
I had ordered the roasted salmon served with white asparagus, baby radish, shard and baby fennel with soya (€23). Along side was the Miso broth; Miso is a Japanese paste made from soya beans, it is used to season soups and stocks. Here is can be done in three different ways, sweet, salt or umami – mine came as sweet, scented with herbs and vegetables. It was placed on a burner to keep warm and I could dip my fish and vegetables in. It was such a different experience, I thoroughly enjoyed and would highly recommend.
Once we finished mains the Miso broth was taken away, and chef did his magic by adding some secret ingredients including a carrot juice to turn it into a drinkable soup and represented it at the table in bowls for both of us to enjoy.
Light dessert finish offered a choice of ginger flan; smoked Japanese cheesecake or doughnut sticks on the set menu. Other choices were a cereal pannacotta, mango & passion fruit mocha; chocolate and Japanese pepper mousse; roasted pineapple or greet tea brulee.
I chose the doughnut sticks cooked in coconut oil with black salt, sake ice cream and a salted Miso dipping sauce (€8). Fred had the smoked Japanese cheesecake with soya caramel, fresh banana, salted caramel and frozen popcorn cream. The desserts were so different so good and left a great lasting impression as we finished a terrific meal.
Taste at Rustic has raised the bar for fine dining in a casual setting, something that doesn’t really happen very often in Ireland, where fine gets conflated with formal. Treat yourself to a different Taste.