With my current wife, I recently fled the enervation of the Liberties for the nurture of nature. We enjoyed abysmal food, tree-shaded on a bank of the beautiful Barrow and ate the finest Sunday roast beef in a tent on the grounds of an old millhouse. It was all quite lovely and almost parodically middle-aged. My return however coincided with the resurgence of rave culture, pyromania and most unfortunately, infection rates in the city.
This piece then, which was to have been (broadly) about eating French food sur terrace has been guillotined by the novel coronavirus, encouraged by that growing cohort of imbeciles who seemingly wish the rest of us dead. With fewer and fewer dining rooms to review then I will be leaning even more heavily into the realm of fond recollection, again plundering material originally set aside for my forthcoming dyspeptic food memoir Eat, Drink, Repeat (On Me). I can’t reasonably be expected to generate a thousand words on a couple of new takeout options alone.
In prelapsarian times Pang on Kevin St specialised in Summer Rolls and Pho and also pedalled the best bahn-mi in town, perhaps even as good as the one that Killer Sandwich did back in the day. After the fall they’ve decided to pivot away from Vietnam and have leaned heavily into the world of LA’s hamburger pop-ups to create Dash Burger. I never want it to pop down.
Dash is not the first bring the ‘smash’ burger style (with the patty weighted on the flat-top to produce more surface area) to town, that distinction probably belongs to Wow burger. However the returns from that brand have diminished considerably. The offering has become careless, a little joyless. It has gone from golden arches to golden shower. The contrast couldn’t be greater here. The double or triple(!) smash burgers here are paragons of the form. Aggressively seasoned, juicy and housed in the textbook soft potato roll, they are grenades of pure umami. The Chipotle double, with the smoke and heat that implies, is even better.
Speaking of golden, we appear to be living through a golden age of French fries in Dublin, although this is likely to be reduced to a mere footnote by the blinkered chroniclers of these times because of, you know. The ‘not too skinny’ specimens here are pretty much perfect.
The Arancini on the menu seem like an oddity for a place slinging hamburgers and French fries and they are. The Sicilian street food staple of rolled, stuffed and deep fried pucks of rice doesn’t normally keep company like this. I once made a pilgrimage to the Sicilian town of Ragusa to worship the little oranges of chef Alessandro Pace. We sat outside his cantunera at a table on the sun-bleached square, gawping at the baroque splendour between bites of truly transcendent Arancini, each variety with its own shape and sporting a diminutive flag. These Arancini are not those. These are jalapeno-popper Arancini.
This is Sicilian street food that had too many shots of shit rye in a San Antonio sports bar and started a fight in the parking lot. An unholy hybrid and a delicious bastardisation, they are deeply savoury and too easy to eat. Open the app now. Double your order.
In my chapter titled ‘Reminiscences of Rices past’ I recall the eating of an unforgettable Paella on Valentia Island, prepared by a couple of seemingly stranded spaniards and propped, in its pan upon an old dry stone wall. It was rich with langoustines, razor clams and tender rabbit. While the coneys hopped and bob-tailed about the hills before us, we devoured their second cousins, twice removed, with relish. It’s actually quite likely that they were hare but nevertheless, we (watership) downed it, seasoned with Atlantic spume and sluiced back with not quite cold enough beer. Halcyon days.
Recently opened on Victoria Quay, and previously home to an ill fated (and ill advised) vegan chipper called Beast, I had initially feared Yellow Rice to be an insensitively named Chinese joint with a racially insensitive name but thankfully this is not the case. A nationwide catering operation, they have now tightened the menu to offer full take out. From the Tapas section we enjoyed a properly homely wedge of tortilla, a selection of great croquetas and some excellent wine-braised chorizo. From the Paellas we sampled the Valenciana with chicken, based on a good stock and amber with saffron. Best of all was the Marisco, heaving with good prawns, mussels and shellfish.
There was little evidence of the socarrat, those sticky, toffied scrapings from the base of the pan so prized by aficionados but for larger orders they will deliver the paellera itself and collect the next day. What better way to celebrate an occasion in-house than with one of the world’s great rice dishes.
On side-walks and road-sides ad hoc outdoor dining ‘installations’ are beginning to appear throughout the city, showcasing a combination of desperation and ingenuity. Good luck to them, but as the weather begins to worsen it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the sector needs some joined up thinking to keep both restaurants open and restaurant workers safe.
As I prepare to file this copy there are grim mutterings of a level five lockdown, so takeout and delivery might be the only lifelines for food businesses to cling to. I might end up reduced to sharing recipes. I can’t afford to give up any more of the memoir.
Words: Conor Stevens
Dash Burger, Kevin Street Lower, Dublin 2 (Wednesday – Sunday).
Ph: 01 563 8702
Yellow Rice, 41 Victoria Quay, Dublin 8. Ph: 089 611 9089