In a city with an ever-changing dining landscape, it is always advisable to have a few reliables up your sleeve, guaranteed winners that hit the spot every time – places that would never be considered a gamble. In a way, 777 restaurant is just this, but far from being like your trusty fallback, this uber cool spot manages to keep you on your toes, however many times you visit.
In-keeping with its impossibly on-trend vibes, 777 takes no reservations and offers a changing contemporary Mexican menu which encourages a non-commital approach – sticking to one or two old faithful dishes would feel like a crime, or at the very least, ill-advised monogamy.
On my most recent fix, a post work drop-in means the doors are barely open and already a good handful of the limited seating is taken up by gangs toasting to Friday Eve with a margarita and gearing up for a guac fest.
The atmosphere is electric and the clock hasn’t even struck six, with killer beats harmonized with the clatter of cocktail shakers. Groups of two, including ourselves, line the bar – some are spicing up their love lives with a quirky date, others are shaking up their midweek routine with the perfect apres-office pitstop – we’re seeking some seriously delicious food and a sneaky cocktail to ease into the weekend.
Tiled walls depict murals of fiery passion, and this heat carries through to the seductive menu and a foursome of fiery elixirs on the counter, willing those who dare to douse their dishes in liquid flames.
But first, a more potent elixir to start. I have many times fallen prey to the 777 Margarita, it is almost legendary at this stage, so I decided to shake things up with an Adelate Chico!(€14), a stout and punchy Reposado tequila based Old Fashioned of sorts, with a drop of nothing less than…Unicorn Tears, a glittery gin liquer. Potent indeed.
For my non-tequila drinking amigo, Nino Salvaje (€12)was a fruiter pomegranate and white rum spiked punch, which although less of a slammer than my own, still packed considerable heat in the boozy stakes – not that we were complaining after a hell of a long week.
All tostadas, tortillas and chips actually taste like corn and are made on site with masa flour, the same ground maise used in Mexican households, to create authentic vessels actually worth eating. A trip to this Dame Street dive bar is, down to these little details, a far cry from your typical Old El Paso adventure.
No added heat is needed for our first dish of House Blend Chorizo(€11), free form and hot paprika spiked sausage, a drizzle of cheesy crema and sharp coriander onion salsa gets things off to a spicy and promising start.
One of my favorite things to spot on a menu and a welcome new addition to the line up, soft shell crab Congrejo(€14) is fiery, crispy, zesty and not at all greasy, having been coated in a light and boozy mezcal batter. Pickled red onion and creamy habanero sauce made for a trio of bulging tortillas neither of us want to share.
Our next dish breaks the theme of indulgence but impresses nonetheless – Amarillo’s(€16) roast pineapple and watermelon is a breath of cooling fresh air, hand cut to mirror the yellowfin tuna ceviche and spiked with black sesame and dotted with creamy avocado purée.
A healthful deviation from the otherwise treat yoself nature of the extensive menu, with bright refreshing flavours bursting from the bowl. I’d eat an entire bowl of the crowning glory garlic crisps speckled on top, if it wouldn’t be the nail in my dating career coffin.
You can have chips and guacamole, (as well as salsa tipica and salsa verde) and those masa chips are glistening fresh out of the fryer and stupidly addictive, but 777 has so so much more to offer.
Our final dish, Lamb Tlayuda(€26) arrived after the cautioned 45 minute cooking time, a hand stretched flatbread fresh off of the barbeque and strewn with rubied slices of charred lamb. Even the smokey and sharp pickled mushrooms tasted like a carnivorous delight, and along with oozing feta fondue and a fearsome green chili flecked chimichurri, we couldn’t leave a bite behind despite the size of it.
The lone dessert of Bread and Butter Pudding was a no go for us, and nearing the end of our fiesta of flavour, 777 is packed to the rafters, as are we. Ties are loosened and heels kicked off, and an evening of revelry and ravishing plates of perfectly pitched Mexican delights lays ahead – every night feels like Friday here.
Things can get fairly messy in 777, be it habanero sauce stains or margarita madness, but it is the kind of place worth getting your hands dirty for. Our bill, for four dishes and two cocktails, came to €92. That said, a visit on a 777 Sunday or Taco Tuesday would be far easier on the wallet, with all dishes €7.77 on the Sabbath or a mere €6 for two tacos on Monday’s ugly sister. Like we needed yet another excuse to sneak back in sooner rather than later.
Unit 7 Castle House
Great South George’s St.
REVIEW BY DARINA COFFEY