herald

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Being hip is no hardship at buzzy Damson Diner

Growth in the economy may be limping along but still the new restaurants keep on coming -- "chef shortages" was even a trending topic among restaurateurs on Twitter this week.

Damson Diner (DD) is a new venture from the brothers Bereen of Coppinger Row who have partnered with Oisin Davis, formerly the (somewhat legendary) barman/mixologist at the Sugar Club.

Located in the old South William, this is part bar, part diner with lots of on-trend references -- cocktails, vintage-style furnishings and a menu that is a mix (not a fusion, they insist) of American and Asian dishes.

Last Saturday afternoon I attended the march for Savita while the Engineer cooked lunch for an old friend, and the intention was that she would join me in town later.



atmosphere

They were well into their second bottle of wine when I phoned at 6pm, so I realised I was going to have to do this one alone -- less of a hardship than it sounds given the pretty staff and buzzy atmosphere.

Without the distraction of a date I was also able to perch on a stool at the open kitchen and watch my food being prepared and ask the chefs questions.

The cocktail menu is the star here and includes various spirit infusions such as whiskey with cherries, rum with raspberries and gin with gooseberries and elderflowers. My Berry Martini with creme de cassis and lemon was a little too sweet but worked well as an aperitif.

The wine menu is functional enough, but I was a lot less impressed with having to pay €3.90 for a 330ml glass of Murphys (the only decent beer on a list dominated by commercial blandness such as Sol and Heineken). I gather more beers are on the way so let's hope they also get some pint glasses.



crispy

I started with some breaded chilli and salt gambas, which were wok-fried until crispy and topped with fermented black beans that added a pleasant pungency. There was easily a dozen or more prawns so this is clearly a dish for sharing.

Louisiana crab cakes were made with lots of fresh crab and the holy trinity of celery, onions and red peppers -- the base for all Creole cooking, so the chefs have done their homework.

Barbecued pork chop was almost an inch thick and served with Asian slaw, which was a refreshing mix of cabbage, sugar snap peas and red pepper in a pungent dressing made with nam pla (Thai fish sauce).

I finished with some barbecued chunks of fresh pineapple, which were threaded on to skewers and popped under the grill and served with creamy coconut ice cream.

All of these portions were large so I asked for my leftovers to be wrapped and the food tasted just as good the next day for brunch.

DD is still settling into its stride and although it ultimately hopes to be open seven days, it only begins serving lunch from today (Philly cheese steaks and Banh Mi rolls).

So another on-trend restaurant you need to visit to stay hip to Dublin's groove, but I promise it won't be a hardship.

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