Beef about the steak
Bon Appetit has a brave new bovine menu but can they cook it to our liking?
MALAHIDE is a strange place. It is probably the wealthiest village in Ireland but contains not one decent food shop. Bon Appetit has long been one of the few decent restaurants in the village and its reputation has only risen since Oliver Dunne took over in 2006.
Recently a Bovine Menu has been introduced to Bon Appetit's basement brasserie celebrating dry-aged and unusual cuts of rare-breed Irish beef.
My guest was Eric Fraad, the artistic director of Ex Early Music Ensemble and Heresy Records, and as a New Yorker living in Malahide he misses a good steak restaurant.
The menu outlines how the different breeds of cattle are reared and the best way to prepare and cook them. Every fortnight a different breed will be featured and first up is Aberdeen Angus.
To give the menu a fair chance, we decided to order three different steaks, even though there were only the two us.
The omens for the meal began early. Wine lists are difficult enough for the average diner but this was one of the priciest and least helpful I have ever seen.
To give two quick examples; a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo was said to be Sangiovese (the grape is Montepulciano) and a Barolo costing €89 was listed with no producer and the meaningless and misleading description: "a great Italian wine full of flavour".
I asked about the Portuguese wine Vale da Clara as there was no description despite it costing €40. After a little to-and-fro, a bottle was found and I discovered it was a typical Douro blend. It was tasty and went well with the steak but was barely worth €30.
Our waiter was helpful but was very reluctant to allow us to order our popeseye and feather blade steaks rare as requested. Given the texture of these steaks, they would taste much better cooked medium-rare, he told us.
We reluctantly agreed on the condition, that medium-rare meant the same as in the picture guide on the menu. We were assured it did. He had no difficulty in us ordering the ribeye rare.
The steaks arrived on large wooden platters with tasteless tomatoes for decoration. All three were tender but according to the picture guide they were not cooked medium-rare but closer to medium-well. Bizarrely, two had also been pre-sliced.
Given the insistence of the waiter that the kitchen knew best, we decided to only send the ribeye back. The replacement was better but was still not rare.
The other steaks had good flavour but would have been so much better if they had been cooked actually medium-rare.
Now this was only the third night of the menu but there is no excuse for not cooking steak correctly.
The best sauce we were offered was duck-fat hollandaise but the others were mostly flavoured butters, which our steaks were not hot enough to melt.
The broccoli was mush and the artichokes watery, but at least the onion rings, frites and dauphinoise were good, as was the creamed spinach. We were too disheartened to order dessert.
Oliver Dunne deserves much praise for introducing this innovative menu so let's hope his chef pays more attention to the cooking of it.