Eating Out: Lucinda O'Sullivan at Opium Wexford
The latest Asian restaurant to open on trendy Wexford Street has all the hipsters checking it out, says Lucinda O'Sullivan, who found that the fare on offer could do with a little spicing up
Restaurants seem to gather in clusters. Once one paves the way successfully, others follow hot on its tail -- the Haddington Road area, Upper Leeson Street and Ranelagh are all prime examples. Now the hot-to-trot Dublin city-centre place is Wexford Street, which has seen the openings this year of Las Tapas de Lola and Bunsen, and the area is attracting the around-town hipsters in droves. Opium, a new Asian restaurant and cocktail bar, is the latest hot happening on the street.
In hipster terminology, I 'rocked up' in its early days with my friend, Paul, to find all sorts of cool dudes, long-legged blondes and rock-band types sussing it out. It's located at The Village nightclub, and I really liked the warehouse-like entrance, which leads into a long, Orient-Express-like eatery, with tan leather booths and semi-circular enclaves. Moving on through, you are into a vast cocktail bar with more banquette seating, hanging light bulbs, and red, fabric-draped walls.
The gig here is casual, contemporary Thai and Vietnamese food at prices that won't frighten the horses. Starters and small plates (€7.50-€10.50) included Vietnamese rice paper rolls filled with chargrilled prawns, gari, asparagus, bean sprouts, sweet basil and Sriracha mayonnaise. Scallop and halibut ceviche features, as do gyoza, which were house-made wraps with shrimp, snow pea, pork, ginger, mushroom and smoked garlic; baby back ribs; and BBQ lamb with yoghurt chilli, honey, lime, cashew nut and coriander chutney.
On the dinner menu, mains and large plates (€15-€22) featured red curry duck; green halibut curry; beef rendang; shaking beef; crispy pork belly; pad Thai omelette; Malay laksa, and Szechuan pulled pork.
We dined from the lunch menu, with starters at €5 each, or €12 for three. Chicken satay consisted of three skewers of decent, moist chicken, which was lavishly spread with peanut sauce, and served with a nice sweet-sour pickled cucumber salad and lots of mint leaves. Green curry samosas, which promised mixed vegetables, Thai curry and cardamom yoghurt just didn't hit the mark; they were three very bland, bite-sized samosas with just a little dish of what tasted more like a commercial mayo than cardamom yoghurt.
Massaman curries, which are Muslim in origin, are a rather soft, aromatic Malaysian blend, generally containing ground cashew nuts, coconut milk, meat and potatoes. At Opium, Paul's massaman (€10) was constructed with plenty of good, tender chunks of lamb and was served topped with fried shallots and a dome of rice to the side. I had green papaya salad (€10). It was a good, zesty combination of shredded cucumber, pickled carrot, crisp shallots, and rau ram -- Vietnamese coriander -- interspersed with king prawns and roasted peanuts. We also shared a side of braised Morning Glory (€4); crisp Thai green vegetables, topped with toasted sesame seeds, oyster sauce, chilli and garlic.
Desserts, at €5.95, included coconut and passion fruit panna cotta, artisan Irish ice creams and sorbets, and triple chocolate bavarois. Trifle of pandanus sponge, with passion-fruit jelly, coconut custard and fruit appealed, but it was unavailable, so we passed on puds.
If I had any comment to make, it would be that they could do with spicing up the food a tad. With a bottle of Spanish Valdelapinta Rueda 2012 (€26) and optional service, our bill came to €66.
Worth noting is their Taste of Opium menu, which is applicable to groups of four or more, at €25 per person.
Designed to be shared communal style, this menu gives a selection of dim sum, and five main courses covering two beef, two fish and one chicken dish. It also includes two desserts; perfect for a group night out.
Opium Restaurant and Cocktail Bar
26 Wexford Street,
Tel: (01) 526-7711