I usually don’t do restaurant reviews. There are a number of reasons. The ‘Great Unwashed’ get to leave their reviews, for what they’re worth, on Trip Advisor. This is a good place for a slighted diner to vent their swollen spleen and to force some standards on offending eateries. Some counter by sneaking a positive review or ten into the Trip Advisor system to get what they believe to be a semblance of balance. Perfect it is not. In my opinion, it’s corrupt and undependable.
I have seen no need to add sarcasm to the clatter of offended diners out there. That is until today. But, I want to do it differently, I won’t share the name of the restaurant. Social sharing can lead to disaster for a downtrodden owner and unemployment for the inattentive chef. That may be a good thing. But, I’ll stick by my guns. I will send a link to this post to the restaurant owner. They can take it up with me in private, should they wish.
Firstly, let me mention the serving staff. They were hyper efficient. No sooner had we ordered than our starters arrived. We were in no hurry but, their military like precision did little to make us feel relaxed. Each time we sipped our wine, our glasses were recharged. We were also repeatedly asked if we wanted to order more sparkling water. We didn’t.
Side note on cheap tricks: Our sparkling water was served in 250ml bottles. No other size being available. This represents chicanery of the lowest form. Serve larger bottles for goodness sake. Don’t expect us to reorder and reorder undersized and overpriced water. It’s a silly, low shot that does you no favours.
Our starters – Queen Scallops
The five Queen Scallops were served, on a large plate with two half baby tomatoes, a twisted slice of lemon and a milk-thin dill sauce. By my best reckoning, as we ate on a Friday evening, the scallops were first cooked at some time on Thursday. Their leather-like exterior, when sliced, revealed an overcooked, lifeless interior. The near flavourless mollusks weren’t rescued by either the tomato or the dill milk. I ate what I could and left the rest. The Wife (who was with me) had too been attracted by the scallops and had an equally disappointing experience. On the side of this travesty, our bread was served with a jar of extruded butter substitute. This in an Irish owned restaurant. Ireland, the home of Kerrygold. Pitiful.
Our main courses – Two of the Worst Ever
The copywriting of the menu was the best thing about the meal. The wife opted for duck. It arrived, better in description than reality. It was a big portion, breast sliced and spread to showing how over-cooked it was. The leg perched atop a large lump of potato. The balancing act completed by a branch of thyme sticking out of the leg. The duck was probably cooked a full day before the scallops. How else can one turn good meat into a semblance of bailing twine wrapped inexpertly around a stick?
I had ordered the Asparagus Risotto with Parmesan Shavings. This was indescribably badly cooked. Indescribable, but let’s have a go; I have never before eaten a risotto that was cooked on cream. The glutenous mess was clawing and not helped by the slabs of Parmesan heaped on top. The other adornments for my risotto included some chopped red, green and yellow peppers, two half tomatoes, a branch of dill and a physalis fruit. Yes, a physalis. What the hell was the chef thinking?
I like my risotto ‘al dente’. However, the rice has the ‘bite’ of small lumps of hardened clay. It was underdone by a good twenty minutes. My mood was partly rescued by a half decent bottle of Chardonnay and an Irish cheeseboard. Bizarrely, we were served real butter with the cheese.
Why did I not complain? Partly because I had promised the Wife that I would be on best behaviour and partly because I was dumbfounded by the dire standards.
Asparagus Risotto – A Lesson for the ‘Professionals’
For the elucidation of the professional team that put our dinner together, here’s how to cook an Asparagus Risotto with Parmesan Shavings. Please forgive my bungling amateurism, you guys are, of course, the professionals.
- 300 grammes of risotto rice (Arborio in this case)
- 1 litre (2 pints of chicken stock)
- 1 bunch of asparagus
- 1 onion
- 1 clove of good garlic
- A block of Parmesan cheese
- 1 glass of white wine
- Some olive oil
- Salt and pepper to season
- A few small knobs of butter
Break the asparagus spears by bending them as I do in the photo.
This will guarantee the spears snap in the right place, leaving the woody ends removed without any need for guesswork.
Slice the onion and the garlic, nice and small.
Soften the onions and garlic in some olive oil slowly bringing them to translucent. This is best done by turning the heat down to lowest, placing the lid on the pot and leaving them alone for 10 minutes or so.
While the onion is preparing itself, slice the asparagus into small pieces, reserving the tips for dressing. Grate a couple of hands full of Parmesan. Shave a couple of slices too.
When the onion is cooked, add the rice and stir well to cover the rice with onion / oil.
When the rice has absorbed the oil it will feel a little gritty as you stir it. Turn the heat up to about one-third and add in the glass of wine. When the rice has absorbed the wine and the alcohol has evaporated, it will feel gritty again. Add a ladle of stock and stir it until this has been absorbed.
Repeat this process. You will spend up to forty minutes at this process. Thanks be to goodness for wine. Swilling a glass while preparing a risotto is one of life’s greatest pleasures. As the rice approaches being cooked, do something the professionals didn’t do, taste it. If it tastes like chewing a piece of wallboard, it is not cooked. If it starts to taste creamy and with a slight bite, it’s as done as it needs to be. Season as needs be. Add the sliced asparagus and a final ladle of stock.
Stir it in. Add three or four knobs of butter and sprinkle the surface with Parmesan.
Replace the lid. Turn the heat off. Let The risotto rest for 5 minutes. Remove the lid, stir and serve, decorating with a shaving of risotto and some of the asparagus tips.
The difference between my novice effort and the pathetic output of the team of professionals is a shocker. Mine really was a delight and I strongly encourage you to try it. Yes, even if you are a chef in the restaurant I refuse to name.