herald

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Strange flavours are the sting in Tigers' tale

LA Stampa should have it all.

It has an excellent city-centre location, a fine building with some lovely rooms and a reputation as a fashionable place to be seen. Sadly the restaurants here have rarely worked, except for fleeting moments.

Tigers is La Stampa's new Asian restaurant located in what used to be the nightclub. The website promises a "pan-Asian restaurant and cocktail club".

I visited with a Cambodian friend on a midweek early evening. The room is long and oddly lit and still seemed in nightclub mode -- as did the music which was alarmingly loud for parts of our meal.



Cheeky

For drinks we ordered a mint tea and a Singha beer from Thailand. The fresh mint tea worked well with the food, but charging €3.50 for a pot of boiling water with a few sprigs of mint seemed a little cheeky.

My heart sank a little when I examined the menu and saw that 'pan-Asian' had been taken literally and that the ingredients for the dishes seemed to be taken at random from different Asian cuisines and mixed together.

Pho was our first choice -- the revered beef bone and noodle soup from Vietnam. Whole restaurant chains are dedicated to this soup and eating a good bowl of pho is akin to a religious experience.

Sadly, this was faux rather than pho with dumplings rather than noodles, an intense oxtail flavour rather than the light consomme of tradition, and strangest of all it included roast vine tomatoes and Thai basil oil. Yes it tasted quite pleasant, but promising pho and serving Thai-Italian flavoured dumpling soup is akin to promising foie gras parfait and serving calves' liver with spaghetti.

Vietnamese rice-paper rolls could be stuffed with chargrilled chicken or smoked salmon and asparagus and unsurprisingly we chose the former, which was perfectly acceptable, although the main Asian flavour was the sweet chilli sauce on the plate.

Lemongrass prawns lifted our mood a little, but then it is hard to go wrong with five juicy prawns grilled on fresh lemongrass sticks.

Steamed dumplings with fillings such as pork and garlic and shrimp and coriander tasted good and were well made, but were again lacking Asian flair and spice and came with an inappropriate sweet sticky dipping sauce. We ignored the gloopy sauce and used the light nuoc cham sauce from the prawn dish instead.



Meringue

The main course of Vietnamese chopped chicken had lots of lime leaves and some good flavours and was topped with a soft poached egg to mix through -- our favourite dish of the evening despite the odd addition of oyster sauce.

We ordered the dessert of the day, which was meringue with sweet, chopped pineapple and lychee and was a pleasant finish to a rather strange meal.

I do want to emphasise that many people will be nowhere near as fussy as we were and will probably quite enjoy the vaguely Eastern flavours to be found at Tigers. Just don't bring anyone from Asia.

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