Japanese shamrock: Mitsuba, 154 Parnell Street, Dublin 1. Tel: (01) 814-6999
Mitsuba had only just opened its doors when she visited, but Lucinda O'Sullivan encountered a warm welcome, superb service, a huge choice, great value, and, most importantly, food to die for
We are not, it seems, the only ones with a shamrock. The Japanese have one too, called mitsuba. However, they make better use of it than us Paddies, who only drown it. Known also as Japanese wild parsley, honeywort, san ip and san ye qin, its flavour is refreshing, with a celery-like taste, the menu at the new Mitsuba Japanese restaurant in Parnell Street tells us. They use it in salads, and to garnish soups and sushi, describing it as a three-leaf clover -- so get out on Paddy's Day and not only display your shamrock, but give it a bite, too.
Parnell Street is euphemistically described as the Chinese and ethnic restaurant quarter in Dublin. There aren't many there I would go out of my way to visit, but Mitsuba would most definitely be one I would.
It looks simple enough from the outside, with its flashing neon and rotating illuminated pictures of Japanese food in the window, like the laminated dessert pictures you sometimes see in Chinese restaurants. On departure, I was fascinated by a very arty picture of tempura prawns complete with fans of tempura vegetables, and I said to my friend, Rena, "That is exactly what we got on our plate, and it was stunning."
Mitsuba was only open a few days and, as I stepped through the door, I was greeted immediately by three very welcoming Japanese girls in kimono-style outfits. The waiters were also in black and red kimono-style wrap outfits, while the chefs wore white with red headscarves. The restaurant is long and narrow, and I was ushered to the rear where there is also a teppanyaki table. This is the venture of Leo Bofete, a smiling chap, previously the teppanyaki chef at Wong's Restaurant in Castleknock, and also at Teppanyaki in Rathmines. Bofete wanted to create his own Japanese restaurant serving authentic Japanese food. The head waiter was formerly in the Herbert Park Hotel and service was tip-top.
There is a large sushi menu with makimono, mat-rolled sushi; temaki -- hand-rolled; and nigiri -- fish laid on top of the rice. All are freshly made to order -- scallops, crabstick, squid, eel, flying fish egg, Japanese omelette; it goes on. The teppanyaki table was in full swing with Russian and Japanese diners. Prices run from €14 for hibachi eel fillet through rack of lamb, and salmon, to filet mignon at €25.20. They also have combinations of land and sea, splash and meadow and so on; they are slightly more expensive. Teppanyaki prices include miso, rice, vegetables, and green tea.
There is a huge choice. I wanted to try something different and, between us, eschewing salmon head from the shioyaki -- salt grill -- section, we ordered ebi shioyaki king tiger prawns (€10.50); Agedashi tofu (€5.50); gyoza chicken dumplings (€6.50); spicy seafood ramen (€12.95) and yakisoba (€10.50). Ebi shioyaki were big, crunchy, lightly battered prawns standing proud, shielded by an erect, battered-courgette fan -- stunning. Gyoza dumplings proved to be a quintet of symmetrical segment-shaped 'dumplings' artfully seared on one side, plain on the other. We dunked them in a little bowl of chilli soy sauce and they were delicious. Agedashi tofu was four whisper-light cubes of deep-fried tofu sitting in a light broth in a heated iron dish. As we ooohed and aaahed, a big, black casserole arrived with our spicy seafood ramen, filled with salmon fillets, squid, prawns, seaweed, greenery, noodles, and some unfamiliar-looking, but delicious, things. The yakisoba -- stir-fried egg noodles tossed with baby corn, seaweed and chicken -- was equally tasty.
With a glass each of Babington Brook Shiraz (€9.98) bringing our bill with optional service to €59, we felt we had the steal of the century. It's a long time since I've said I'm going to work my way through any menu, but I can't wait to go back.
154 Parnell Street,
Tel: (01) 814-6999
Sunday Indo Life Magazine