Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Seapoint, Monkstown, Co. Dublin

Monkstown is in my opinion underrated as one of Dublin’s great suburban foodie hubs.  A bit out of the way for those living closer to the city centre, especially with Ranelagh and Ballsbridge’s offerings, but well worth a visit.
On a recent visit Seapoint became a newly discovered gem, alongside my personal favourite, Valparaiso. Sucked in by the value of the early bird, a glance at the a la carte and all sense of making good economic decisions went out the window.  The menu is exciting, setting expectations high. 
My very healthy friend stuck to the two course value menu, choosing the salad of smoked chicken, tabouli, warm caramelized apple & celery, mint & cucumber dressing for starters and the grilled marinated salmon, buttered spinach, mango & grapefruit salsa, olive oil & spring onion mash for the main course. I went straight to the main, choosing the pan-fried coconut encrusted monkfish, butternut squash risotto, sweet onion & chilli sauce. Tap water times two and a free basket of bread was delivered without request.
The starter was devoured graciously. A good sized portion, the smoky flavour of the meat defined the dish. The Bulgar wheat salad full of good things was not just the usual afterthought you get from so called starter ‘salads’
Wooed by the description of the monkfish dish it arrived and certainly looked the part-a pleasingly generous portion and all its component parts. Getting risotto just right is the test of a good kitchen. The disaster is when it turns to a stodgy mush which can happen so quickly. The risotto here was very much on the al dente side and maybe would be too underdone for some tastes, but it suited me fine. The rich fish broth it was cooked in, coupled with lots of cream was TO DIE FOR, but butternut squash did not feature. The sweet onions were sticky and delicious, but not a hint of chilli. The fish was beautifully cooked and flaked onto my fork, strangely so for monkfish that I am 90% certain it was cod...  Finally the coconut crust was more crust than coconut. In fact I could not detect a hint of coconut at all! If the dish had been below par I certainly would have pointed out the anomalies but I actually really enjoyed what I did get. Unfortunately the salmon dish did not work out so well. The fish was described as watery and while the mango worked with the cooked salmon, the grapefruit did not. Grapefruit and smoked salmon is a familiar partnership, but this was one inspiration too far.
And so onto my speciality…dessert :) Unfortunately I was not very tempted by any of the desserts on offer so I decided go for the most unusual sounding. This turned out to be rhubarb tartlet served with strawberry and balsamic ice cream. Obviously it was the latter component that drew my attention. I had previously heard of the wondrous strawberry-balsamic combo, but had yet to try it so was expecting something a bit wow. Well…it was pretty much just plain old vanilla ice cream with a bit of a strawberry streak through. But where was the balsamic flavour? Again, poetic licence taken too far I think. The rhubarb tartlet didn’t impress much either. Instead of a shortcrust pastry base, the kitchen had cut a corner by using puff pastry. Works great in tarte-tatin because it is baked pastry side up, allowing the pastry to puff up giving its characteristically flaky texture. But when the pastry is piled down with fruit which is 90% water, unsurprisingly the magic doesn’t happen. The rhubarb was also cooked in cardamom which made for a surprise appearance that was not to my taste.
Despite the disappointments of the evening and a bit of a snooty floor manager (cheap ass students only drinking tap water…), I would definitely return for that main course and to try many of the wonderful sounding starters and mains that caught my eye. Seapoint could do well to revise its dessert menu and pastry chef (no excuse of an off night!) to match the standards met elsewhere in the kitchen.

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