A little while back, Date Night was kicked up a notch with a very generous voucher for Taste at Rustic.
It’s a bold move, I feel, naming a restaurant in such a way that you’re making a promise to the customer of a pure, unadulterated, sensory experience. But once you dine there, you understand why.
The Fade Street/George’s Street junction, on the south side of Dublin city, has become something of a mini kingdom for Dylan McGrath, to the extent I’d conspire that there could be a network of secret tunnels under the road. Rustic Stone, has expanded from it’s initial incarnation as the flagship restaurant, to housing the Rustic HQ featuring the original Rustic Stone on the ground floor and in the basement, a chic cocktail bar, aptly named Bar at Rustic, on the first floor, and most recently, the Japanese-inspired cherry on top; Taste at Rustic.
Now let it be said, I’ve long been a fan of Dylan McGrath’s establishments to date. I like the fresh approach to food, how the menus feel like they’ve been well thought-out; not another re-hash of your standard Franco-Italian-Irish hybrids you see all too often around town. The added bonus for we vegetarian folk, is that you’re more likely to get something more interesting than mushroom risotto or goats cheese tart – you’re reminded just how exciting it is to eat out again.
That could not be more true when it comes to the latest addition to the Rustic empire, as the experimental Japanese wing, Taste at Rustic, opened last year. That excitement was initiated by an invitation from foodie-app Zomato, to try it for myself which meant we were able to experiment a little more than we would have had been there under our own steam. Caveat, it’s easier to run up a pricier bill here if you get drawn in to trying a bit of everything, we ordered 4 side dishes along with a “main” each and 2 sweets; whereas you could easily get by on 4-5 plates between two, but we went all out, for research purposes naturally.
Top tip for dining in Taste at Rustic or Rustic Stone, arrive for your table early and start with a drink at the bar. The fluid nature of the table bookings means you can move your tab, along with your expertly crafted cocktail, to the restaurant when it comes time to dine.
Sat at the end of the wrap around bar, we had a perfect view of the chefs at work as they sculpted fresh sushi before our eyes. We both ordered mains that arrived atop smoldering white Japanese charcoal, a robata grill the menu tells me; I enjoyed the poached courgette (a version of which I enjoyed at my first trip to Rustic Stone many years ago) and Himself the smokey Fermanagh beef.
For sides, we shared crispy wasabi potatoes and young potatoes baked in salt (incredible), coal roasted asparagus and deep fried mushroom balls. Everything as delicious as the dish next to it – and as someone who far prefers savoury food to sweet, the salty and umami flavours were unlike anything I’d had in a restaurant before.
Speaking of sweets, though not traditional in Japanese culture, there were a number of light dessert options. The doughnut sticks were the stars of the show here, served with sake ice-cream and a salted miso dipping sauce I could have drank straight from the jar. The dessert menu is broken into sweet, salt, bitter and umami or sour – which, as someone who’s never had much of a sweet tooth, is a revelation. I’d love for more Dublin restaurants to take such a clever risk.
Long story short, it’s not cheap, but it’s not every day you eat somewhere like this. Not every restaurant can be so bold as to call themselves, simply, “Taste” and in doing so, redefine what it means to do so, truly.