Dublin has no shortage of spots to get your sushi fix when the mood takes you, from old reliables like Michie to new kid on the block Sisu Izakaya. For me however, Dublin’s sushi Mecca is housed in a George’s Street temple and I have many times climbed the stairway to flavour heaven to take my seat at the counter at Taste by Dylan McGrath.
Upon hearing a new chef, Ken Komatsu, had taken up the mantle, it seemed absolutely necessary to make a trip to ensure my go-to recommendation for Dublin’s finest sushi (one I delve out at least once a week) was still accurate.
A 5.30pm post work booking had me feeling like the early bird with all the spoils, perched at the counter with a birds eye view of the masterful chef at work. While an extensive tasting menu littered with tempting dishes far beyond just sushi is offered alongside an early evening menu for €45 a head, the concept of Omakase had us intrigued.
Meaning “I’ll leave it up to you” in Japanese, this style of dining gives full control to chef and allows him to serve up a selection of bespoke nigiri that Taste is best known for, designed by McGrath with his innate understanding of the five tastes on display in every mouthful.
An amuse of Brik Tamaki with guacamole, a petite but tightly packed Peruvian cone, is destroyed in one bite and awakens the tastebuds ahead of our first platter of delicate nigiri creations.
Six works of omakase art appear before us, each more tantalising than the last. Tomago Yaki, a bento box staple of rolled omelette cooked in dashi, can’t compare to the sweetly delicious Native Prawn tail beside it, slick with a coating of luxuriant lobster butter.
Sea Bream with a pop of lip-puckeringly sour lime, reminiscent of ceviche, almost jumps off the platter with zesty freshness, a fine contrast to an earthier incarnation of this underrated catch with luscious lardo and truffle.
The star of the sushi show for me is always tuna-based, and even the most exciting nigiri were outshone by the opulent Otoro. Unabashedly rich and marbled fatty tuna belly, heightened with micro parmesan crisp and scallion, draped itself across my tongue like melting butter and made me wonder why you would ever willingly settle for dry, fridge cold cuts of sashimi elsewhere.
My dining companion prefers the lighter non-fatty Akami Tuna with wasabi, and eating them side by side allowed us to admire the merits of each, a lesson in the versatility and sheer beauty of this most prized fish, expertly prepared and adorned.
From sea to farm, the king of beef, the irresistible Wagyu sirloin gets the lick of a blowtorch and is anointed with umami-rich smoked olive oil in the first instance or punchy chimichurr for another hit of South American flair. I want to eat all six of this meltingly tender morsels and make a mental note to rule out sharing next time.
This hot and juicy half dozen was a sublime example of the incredible produce McGrath insists on serving, treated with the utmost care and respect to create explosive flavour. No less impressive a way to end a procession of precise waves of sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami was a torched Scallop creation with crushed and roasted crisp garlic and darkly delicious black garlic purée. Deceptively simple and undoubtedly memorable.
While predominantly Japanese, there are spells of South American magic and witch craft at play at Taste – the kiss of a blow torch here and kick of mint and coriander there – this pick and mix of accents and flavours sings in unison to create something deliciously different to anywhere else in Dublin.
If, like me, your tastebuds get fatigued when presented with a bowl of ‘every bite the same’ blandness, your next restaurant reservation needs to be here, where Chef Ken will be your sherpa on a sensory journey you won’t soon forget. It is safe to say nigiri nirvana awaits you at Taste.
Chef’s Omakase Nigiri selection is available for €24 for six pieces or €46 for 12.
Taste at the Bonsai
South Great George’s Street
T: 353 (0) 1 526 7701
REVIEW BY DARINA COFFEY