Monday, April 15, 2013

Paradiso: Paradise Found

Paradiso: Paradise Found

Spring is here and so are the new greens from Gort na Nain farm including the "new kid on the block, cime di rapa, aka broccoli raab amongst other aliases". That green, see picture below, was new to me at least and not the only "surprise" during a superb weekend dinner at Cafe Paradiso. 

In this elegant, intimate and comfortable space, the food is top notch, as is the service. Asked one of our servers about part of the amuse bouche and got all the details, from the ingredients to the recipe to the various possible finishes. More than just training, I think, at play here. This lady likes her job!

And it looks as if that goes all the way from the front of house (great to meet Geraldine on her home turf) to the kitchen where Denis Cotter has brought this cafe, founded in 1993, to a multi-award winning top class restaurant. One of my friends, who travels widely in the hospitality industry, tells me that it's "not alone the best vegetarian restaurant in Ireland, it is probably the best restaurant in Ireland".

Tartlet of caramelized beetroot & Bluebell Falls fresh goat’s cheese, salsa verde and olive-crushed potato.

Marinated Toonsbridge buffalo mozzarella with Gort na Nain leaves, roasted grapes, crushed fennel , crispbread and pomegranate syrup and pistachio dukkah
These were our starters. The tartlet was in a class of its own. These can be fairly skimpy in some places but not here! Never had mozzarella served like this before! Fantastic combination. By the way, Gort na Nain farm supplies the bulk of vegetables used by Paradiso. 

Spring cabbage dolma of spiced carrot & chickpeas with smoked pepper-almond sauce, orange mint yoghurt, crushed saffron potato cake and broad beans
 Looks like a work of art, too good to eat! A majestic main course and, if you want the recipe, check it out here
Leek & roast squash gratin with hazelnut & Hegarty’s cheddar crust, citrus rosemary cime di rape, braised borlotti beans.
This is where I met the cime di rape for the first time! Tasted well, like broccoli to be honest, as it played a supporting role here to the magnificent roast gratin. Like many of the dishes served here, this is (well, was) beyond my imagination but certainly not beyond that of Denis Cotter. Superbly executed. 

Crozier Blue cheese, apple, Gortnanain honey, glazed pecans

Cardamom set custard with poached rhubarb and pistachio shortbread
With a visit to Cashel Blue coming up this week, I was delighted to get the opportunity to taste their Crozier, served in such a simple yet brilliant way. And more of the same with our other dessert. Hasn’t the humble rhubarb come a long way from the neglected corner of the back garden!

If the food is the main story here, the wine list has recently claimed a mention. Better let Denis explain it himself: "As promised, we've torn up the wine list and put it back together in a new way. There are two major changes that we're very excited about. Firstly, every wine is now available in four measures. And we've radically changed the way we price wine to drag the top end of the list down into the middle. Get the scoop here, then come in and play with it..."

The result for the customer is brilliant: a new list, new measures, and new prices. There are about forty wines available, all by the glass (150ml), the quartino (250), the mezzo (250) and by the bottle. You also have a choice of aperitifs and digestifs.

We started with a quartino of Dos Victorias ‘Jose Pariente’ Verdejo 2011. With the mains, we each enjoyed a glass of the Cullen Margaret River White 2011. Picked the Cullen in anticipation of a WineGeese event in Paradiso. On Tuesday May 28th the restaurant will, in association with Liberty Wines, host a Presentation & Tasting with winemaker Emma Cullen of Cullen Wines from Australia's Margaret River. Book direct with Paradiso.

Oh, nearly forgot the gorgeous desert wines. One was a brilliant port, the Quinta do Infantado Senior Tawny Port, and the other was Californian Essencia Orange Muscat 2010. Sweet ending to a lovely evening,

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