Restaurant review: Lucinda O’Sullivan at Boojum, Pablo Picante, Tolteca and Cortina’s
The latest hot cuisine to hit the country will put fire in your belly, but it can be a hit-and-miss affair, says Lucinda O’Sullivan, who offers around - up of the Dublin restaurants situated down Mexico way
Jonathan Ross devoted the opening chapter of his book Why Do I Say These Things? to the "joys" of Mexican food he experienced on a trip "south of the border".
As you might imagine, Mr Ross pulled no punches in his description of the results of having eaten a Mexican lamb delicacy, which involved the meat being wrapped in a banana leaf and buried for three days before it was cooked.
My mission down Mexico way was a more delicate one: in pursuit of the rise and rise of Mexican cuisine on our fair shores. Mexican is the new Thai, which was the new Chinese, which was the new . . . Anyway, with a tequila in mind, we took off to try the burrito/fajita/taco connection around town.
It’s street food by any other name; in some places you can eat in, others are takeout only. For the uninitiated, there are instructions on assembling your burrito and, in some cases, how to eat this torpedo with dignity — head on — or sideways like a nun eating a banana. A burrito is a tortilla wrap of unleavened flatbread filled with rice, pinto beans or black beans, grilled steak or chicken cubes, shredded beef or pork, topped off with mild, or eye-wateringly hot, chipotle pepper salsa. You can add extras such as sour cream, cheese and guacamole. The tortilla’s ends aretucked in so it becomes a fat roll; the word burrito means little donkey.
Boojum on the Millennium Walkway have their service counter just inside the door so you might have to queue outside — not great sans the Mexican sun. Brendan had a burrito barbacoa — shredded beef (€6.45) — and I had the burrito bowl with chicken (€6.45): all the fillings in a salad box without the tortilla, and with a double portion of guacamole, 75c extra — the best bit for me. The chicken was fairly minimal. As the eat-in area was packed, we sat outside, which was pretty bleak, with a couple of the chairs broken.
Pablo Picante in Baggot Street is in a veritable corner kiosk, but we liked it better — smiling faces and good grub. The burrito and burrito barbacoa here were €5.95. In fact, this massive burrito weighed in on my kitchen scales at 16oz. Tolteca on Upper Baggot Street is the latest ultra-cool Mexican hot spot. With sleek decor and long communal tables, Tolteca is more expensive, with its burrito barbacoa at €8.50. Tolteca’s beef, pork, and chicken are sourced from Irish free-range farms. Vegetables, where possible, are organic and everything is made in-house, including the chips, salsa, and guacamole. We chowed down in-house on tacos (€9) which consisted of three crispy tortillas, with tasty cubes of medium-cooked beef; and the chicken bowl (€8.30) which had good-flavoured chook.
We really liked Cortina’s in Dundrum Town Centre, with its friendly staff; they do great cocktails and have dairy-free, wheat-free, and coeliac menus. Plus, their salsa and tortilla chip starters (€4.50) offered free unlimited refills, of which we availed liberally, plus a margarita (€8.75) for me and a Brooklyn Summer Ale (€5) for Senor. He then had a trio of quesadillas (€7.75) from the botanas — Mexican-style tapas selection — which were grilled tortillas stuffed with three cheeses, refried black beans, chicken, served with salsa and a creamy drizzle, and a portion of sizzling roasted potatoes (€3.50).
Chipotle shrimp (€15.95) was a good helping of prawns grilled in a sweet smoky sauce on a decent bed of healthy diced courgette, with a timbale of lime rice, salsa and lime. We really liked the vibe here.
Boojum, Millennium Walkway, Dublin 1. Tel: (01) 872-9499
Pablo Picante, 131 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2. Tel: (01) 662-9773
Tolteca, 38 Upper Baggot Street, Dublin 4. Tel: (01) 668-8604
Cortina’s, Dundrum Town Centre, Dublin 16. Tel: (01) 216-4668 www.lucindaosullivan.com