Sunday 20 October 2019

The new hot spot with a spicy hot dog

Restaurant Review: Dillinger's, 47 Ranelagh, Dublin 6 Tel: 01 4978010

Aingeala Flannery

We must not be late for dinner at Dillinger's. If we're not there within 15 minutes of our allotted time (8.30pm), we forfeit our reservation and they can give our table away. If they give our table away, I shall be very cross and . . . Ui Rathaile does not seem to appreciate the urgency of the situation.

I try again, with less hysteria, and more home truth: Dillinger's has just reopened after a refit, it has gone from being "hip" to being "achingly hip". Everybody wants to eat there. If we're late, they'll probably give our table away.

Of course, we don't have an actual table.

What we have is this: two swivel stools, screwed into the floor, so close to the bar that no fatties need apply.

To fit into Dillinger's you must be agile enough to mount a spinning stool, wearing skinny jeans and stilettoes with a Margarita in each hand – and not spill a drop. For men, the challenge is to throw back a whiskey sour and eat a foot-long Frank without dropping your onions – or dribbling French's mustard down the front of your shirt.

I'm not sure myself and Ui Rathaile are going to make the cut. It's 8 o'clock and we're having a standoff in the kitchen. He's wearing a black leather jacket, and so am I, and we're both refusing to change. I think we match. He thinks we look like a pair o' gacks.

Ui Rathaile has Kool-Aid coursing through his veins. The fact that I can make such a cack-handed observation means that I, clearly, do not. I capitulate, put on a tuxedo, and we are cool. Yes, we are. And we are not late.

At first glance, Dillinger's has the same dive-bar-in-Dumbo vibe as its sister restaurant 777 on Georges Street.

It's sexy and dark and it messes with your Circadian rhythms. It's stuffed with well-hooved media and advertising types who give us the once-over and decide we are sufficiently PLU.

Well, one of us is anyway. The other one is cranky because, unlike 777, you can see of out the window of Dillinger's, and the Spar across the road is wrecking his buzz. A stiff, salty Margarita helps to restore it.

I suck on a treacly Appleton rum Cuba Libre and try to make sense of the menu. The starters veer towards swanky. There's asparagus with chicken skin shards and truffle cream. There's foie gras smeared on brioche, with green tomato relish. There's calf's tongue, lamb belly ribs, and chargrilled sardines. I think I've got the cut of Dillinger's jib, until I get to the main course menu, and it morphs into a truck-stop diner.

They're selling hot dogs and corn dogs, chilli and steak, mac 'n' cheese – and as much ketchup, slaw and mustard as your appetite for irony can take.

The penny drops. This is where rich people get to eat like they're poor. Not egg and chips poor, but American trailer trash poor.

A bit of culinary rough trade – with none of the nasty health risks. The chicken is free-range, the hanger steak is USDA certified, and even the wieners are preservative-free and made to a house recipe.

By rights, Dillinger's should be serving Pabst Blue Ribbon by the bucket, but its hipster principles forbid it. And so Brooklyn lager will set you back €6 a bottle.

Of course, I know that I have no right to wage a class war on Dillinger's. Nobody asked me to drink their rum. But now that I have, I'm feeling bolshy. I'm not long enough off the local authority housing list to find paying €13 for a hot dog ironic. Therefore, I will not eat a hot dog. Ui Rathaile will.

With that settled, I order a glass of crisp, lemony Verdicchio, and he sips Côtes de Rhône while we wait for our starters to arrive.

I love my tuna tacos, the fish is rare and brilliantly red inside, it's cut into meaty chunks that taste fresh and zesty thanks to a spritz of lime juice. The fish comes wrapped in small open tortillas that knock spots off mass-produced floury taco shells.

These are proper tortillas, made with genuine Mesoamerican maize, they taste of hand and stone, slightly sweet and ancient. Add ripe, creamy avocado, smoky chipotle, and cilantro-laced pico de gallo salsa and you have a feast fit for a Mayan goddess.

Ui Rathaile wants me to taste his tongue. It looks like a slice of grilled aubergine. I haven't eaten a calf's tongue before, but given the amount of veal that's passed between these lips, I can't start having a crisis of conscience now.

It has a soft spongy texture, the edges are fatty and caramelised. It reminds me of pork belly, and like pork belly it works very well with fennel, of which there is plenty on Ui Rathaile's plate. But there was something else: the plate was hopping with sweet, aromatic flavours: rosemary, star anise and clove. Lardo di Colonnata: cured lard, made from the back fat of pigs that gorge on pine nuts. Italian pigs, of course. Not Irish-as-a-rasher pigs.

I could eat like this all night, and I'm loath to make the thematic leap from DOP to USA, but there's a kosher sausage, wienering its way towards us. It's arrives smothered in kimchi cabbage relish and hot mustard – sizzling in a foot-long bun. I nudge it towards Ui Rathaile, as a Hereford Ribeye that looks like the hindquarters of a mammoth is put before me.

We have been furnished with two Picard Wielputz steak daggers, so we can fight to the death for ownership of the steak.

If I let Ui Rathaile win, he will carve up the beast and share it with me. This is how the species has survived.

The steak is magnificent. It must be two inches thick, it has a blackened caramelised crust, inside it is juicy, pink and miraculously medium-rare to the core. We feast on it together, harmoniously taking turns. I do not interfere with his side of giant crispy onion rings. He has no designs on my long stem broccoli and neither do I, it's too bland to bother with – and besides there's a bed of wilted baby spinach that's packed with garlic and soaked in steak juice.

I'd happily have left it at that, but I suppose we need to address the issue of Frank.

We each took a bite of him and concluded that a sausage is a sausage, is a sausage. As gimmicks go, this one is wasted on me. Sausages might be a novelty in Ranelagh, but around our way they're normal.

TYPICAL DISH: All beef hot dog with Yeung's wife's kimchi and spicy mustard

RECOMMENDED: Grilled tuna tacos

THE DAMAGE: €120.50 for two starters, two mains, two sides, two cocktails, four glasses of wine


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