WHILE economic recessions mostly bring forth misery, they can also lead to new ideas. Chefs have been hit hard in recent years, but the better ones have adapted and gotten creative.
Pop-up restaurants such as Crackbird and Skinflint run by Joe Macken, of Jo'Burger, have led the way by offering inexpensive tasty food in trendy settings. By their very newness and transience pop-ups create excitement -- they are the equivalent of a must-see blockbuster.
The monthly Sett Dining Club is this and more because they are a once-only experience -- one highly creative menu cooked for one night only. Blink and you will miss it.
Tom Lynn (musician/artist/chef) and Hugh Cooney (comedian/artist/maitre d') founded Sett last summer to help pay the rent on their three-floor warehouse space on Great Strand Street. Last Friday evening, I decided to experience Sett for myself and I invited Corinna Hardgrave, restaurant critic for Irish Tatler. We went along as diners rather than as critics, but food this good should not be kept a secret.
The bare-walled SupaFast building was made warm and welcoming with dozens of candles, some creative decorations on the table and walls and Super-Savers heaters for warmth. Three dozen gorgeous 20-somethings and two middle-aged restaurant critics sat at one long dining table waiting excitedly for the meal to begin.
First came a ramekin dish with thick slices of barely seared ultra-fresh tuna on a bed of popped crispy rice and garnished with radish slices and salty, powdered cheese.
Walnut custard was next on the menu, attractively served in eggshells held in our hands. The hollandaise-like nutty and savoury creaminess was off-set with homemade spicy beef jerky.
Anise-smoked ray cheeks were balls of sweet fishy flesh, served with a vinegar foam which countered the sweetness of the fish and added piquancy to the light, spongy pea bread.
Sharon fruit (a type of persimmon) sorbet was topped with a splash of sparkling prosecco -- a sweet peachy palate cleanser.
Next came a ballotine of ever-so-slowly cooked chicken leg, topped with a delicate chicken liver parfait-mousse, surrounded by sweet potato crisps and a bitter mandarin sauce.
Thick red-pepper coulis was mixed through with black mustard seeds and topped with a feather-light feta cheese mousse. Corinna felt there was too much black mustard in hers but I liked the strong contrasting flavours.
Final course was a sweet rice pudding topped with bitter chocolate sauce -- nutty and sweet plump rice grains fighting manfully with bitter-sweet melted chocolate.
Yes our meal probably took too long and not every dish arrived as hot as it should, but we hardly noticed -- this is finely judged cooking with a genuinely creative use of ingredients and melding of flavours and textures.