Sunday, August 13, 2017

O’Connell’s Ivory Tower. Fusion but No Confusion

O’Connell’s Ivory Tower 

Fusion but No Confusion
One day in the late 60’s, I inadvertently disturbed a blonde American draft "dodger" hiding behind a couch in an upstairs artist's studio in Princes Street. Another fair-haired artist, chef Seamus O’Connell, works here these days and there’s no disturbing him in the kitchen of his first-floor restaurant, the Ivory Tower, Ryanair’s destination restaurant of 2011.

Open Thursday to Saturday 19:00 ’til late, the Ivory Tower currently offers two menus, a three course Market Menu (€33.00) and a seven course Tasting Menu (€50.00). Watch out also for special menus. Probably the best place to keep up to date with the Ivory Tower (where Seamus has been chef for over 15 years) is their Facebook page here

Though all ingredients are bought fresh each weekend and sourced locally in Cork, the cuisine is influenced by many countries, especially those in the far east and in central and southern America, not to mention those closer to home. Both menus (they change each week) are peppered with references to Japan, Korea, Mexico, Indonesia and so on.

Take the Tasting Menu (seven courses), as we did, and you'll start with Mackerel, lime & shiso sunomono. The fish is beautifully marinated and admirably paired with the sunomono (a Japanese vinegar-ed cucumber salad). We were nodding affirmatively to each other across the table as we nibbled this one.
And it just got better. Next up was the Korean Beef Dumplings with the Cantaloupe Kim Chee, another perfect match. More nodding. The palate was well and truly alive now, ready for anything!

And an Irish-Japanese duet emerged next: Kerry Chanterelles and Asparagus Tempura, delicate and delicious. 

And now soup. In the middle of a meal? Why not? Especially when it is his fantastic Duck, Carrot and Orange Soup. The crispy duck bits come in a separate dish and you just sprinkle them in. I had taken a spoon or two of the soup first and found it excellent but it just got better with the duck. Seems to be a particular magic of O'Connell that he can put two and two together on a plate and come up with five stars!

We were well on our way to a strong finish here in this first floor restaurant where one large window overlooks Oliver Plunket Street. We weren't admiring the view though, admiring our plates instead as the Octopus Risotto Nero Niçoise arrived. It looked dramatic and was yet another winner. Again, a superb combination. The risotto was amazing but each of the main parts would have been lovely on its own.
And now for the meat, the Wagyu Beef Steak adoborojo. The last word there, I think, refers to a Peruvian treatment and the Wagyu, from Cork, was all the better for it. Purple potato too. The steak was cooked to perfection and could have cut with a plastic knife, no bother. Not a bit left.

There would be a sweet finalé, of course: Flourless Chocolate and pecan cake, accompanied by Scandi liquorice ice-cream. We had no worries about the quality but, in advance, were wondering if there’s going to be too much! But, no, the chef had also judged the quantity to perfection and we enjoyed the crisp topping, the crunch of the nuts, the soft centre and the coolness of the ice-cream and flavours of the dish as a whole. Quite the finish to quite a meal.

We enjoyed a few glasses of wine too, a couple of Cotes de Rhone and a crianza as well. The Ivory Tower has quite a selection, about 40 in all, with three of each colour available by the glass. 

Service, by the way, was excellent throughout. A change to the menu was notified at the start and we got extra info on each dish as it arrived in a rather grand, if somewhat faded, room. Babel may have been a tower of confusion; just food fusion here though. Very Highly Recommended.

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