Acapulco, Limehouse Issue 2

So it was a Sunday night, and I was in the mood for a double date. However, Dave and Carrie flaked. No other way to describe it, guys. Luckily for me, my boy Orlando can keep me entertained all by himself, so we both got dressed up for each other and walked into Acapulco, on 7 South Great Georges Street.

The twinkle of fairy lights and the sound of people laughing inside is kind of magnetic. We were seated upstairs on their balcony. It’s only when you’re up there that you can see the restaurant at its best – from the metal lanterns over the diners to the brightly painted wooden chairs and fairy lights at every table.

From reading the starter menu, which had options like Mexican Potato Skins, Quesadillas, and Buffalo Wings, we both decided to share the Chilli Sizzlers, and a potion of Nachos Supreme- it’s more fun to share this kind of food. While we sat, talking about what this restaurant would look like if we turned it into a house, our waitress came with our drinks – water for me and a Coca Cola for Orlando. Problem was, the Coke was flat – and Orlando was wondering whether to send it back, but our waitress passed by so he started by saying, “I don’t mean to sound like an asshole, but…” Anyway, the waitress apologised and so she gave him a new one on her, which I thought was nice. Although it was just as flat as before, Orlando remarked that it “didn’t taste like spit”, and therefore the waitress was good in our books.

Then the starters arrived. The Nachos Supreme (€7.50) was an overflowing bowl of homemade Tortilla chips topped with melted cheese, creamy guacamole, salsa and soured cream. It was while we were destroying these Nachos with our hands that I was kind of glad that Dave and Carrie weren’t there to see how shambolic we are with our food.  Alongside the Nachos were our Chilli Sizzlers (€6.50). These were six Jalapeno Peppers filled with cream cheese and coated in breadcrumbs. When our waitress was taking away the plates, Orlando and I were talking about going up to Bia Bar afterwards for Sundown. However, it was doubtful that I’d make it that far, because I was feeling very full, and at that point, I could only manage to sit kind of slumped in the chair, listening to James Brown and the sound of the other diners.

From the large choice on the Main Course menu, such as Flautas, Chillies, and burgers, I had ordered the house speciality, a Fajita Platter (€16.95) with Spicy Chicken, and Orlando had the Pizza Mexicana with Chilli Beef (€13.95). Both dishes were available with different meat toppings. We also got a bowl of Wedges (€3.95) and a Side Salad (€4.25) between us. My Fajita Platter was, frankly, really impressive. The Spicy Chicken, and char-grilled vegetables were served on a hot platter, still smoking as it arrived. Then, in a small lidded basket were four warm homemade flour tortillas. It was served with Salsa, Soured Cream and creamy Guacamole. Although I have to say that the flour tortillas were smaller than I would have expected, it probably worked in my favour, because after two of the over-stuffed Fajita wraps that I assembled, I couldn’t even think about eating any more food. It was a pity, too, because they tasted beautiful – I imagine that it’s what authentic Mexican Fajita’s taste like; soft, barbequed and slightly sweet. I will have to say, though, that they were a bit too oily, and I would have liked if I was served cheese with it, too.

Orlando’s choice – the Pizza Mexicana, I had tried the last time I visited Acapulco. The base of the “Pizza” was constructed from two Flour Tortillas, baked with refried beans, Chilli Beef, cheese and vegetables. Orlando said it was even better this time , but I honestly just took his word for it on account of my jaw refusing to open for any more food. Of what I recall about the Pizza, it is the kind of thing that you close your eyes to eat, just to savour each bite. Absolutely wonderful.

When our waitress came around, we asked could we have doggy bags – waste not and all that. I was regretting not being physically able to eat a dessert, because their Mexican Fried Ice-cream looked amazing, and I promised myself another trip back there one day. After that, it was a long wait for the bill, and we were anticipating standing up and trying to walk – not actually knowing if we would be able to manage or not. The bill came to €53.10, which is reasonable for the amount of food we ordered, but more than I would have paid in hindsight. I mean, I could have done without the side salad and wedges. Anyway, we donned our coats and left, walking up to Stephen’s Street. It wasn’t until the next afternoon that I cracked open my leftover Fajitas. As I sat at home, watching the Soprano’s on the internet, I was glad that Acapulco gave me so much to eat. The Americans give it such bad press, but based on that night, I’d consider going there for Spring Break.

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La Paloma – from Limehouse Magazine Issue 1

Look! After a week of college and general boredom, I was anxious to get out of the house on Friday evening and treat myself to a meal out with my best friend, and favourite lady, Megan. After much indecision, I decided to set the date for La Paloma, Dublin’s oldest Spanish restaurant, set in Asdill’s Row, Temple Bar.

            Upon entering, I immediately noticed that Ricky Martin’s Livin’ La Vida Loca was being played, which was a bit unfitting. Actually, as the night went on, I came to the shocking realisation that his entire album was on repeat – Shake Your Bon-Bon being the highlight. A bit odd, I thought, but as I glanced around the room I forgot about that initial bit of kitsch and realised that this was actually a pretty nice find. The walls were a lemon colour, adorned with a collection of framed Spanish posters and odd images of matadors, flamenco dancers and seafood. It is just really fun to look around the place – it’s all a bit over the top, which I think is brilliant. The room is full of little touches; tacky blackboards, postcards from Spanish tourist areas, and wrought iron wheels with lights in them. What stands out when you first walk in is a low, whitewashed wall which separates the dining room in two – a cute feature I thought – trying to squeeze a Spanish Villa into Temple Bar is a pretty hard feat. I was seated in a blue corner snug, and as I waited for Megan to arrive, I read over the menu.

Being the poor student that I am, I had to order from the Early Bird menu (€13.95 for starter and Entrée), but as I read it I was surprised to see a wide range of Tapas on offer for a starter. As well as a range of garlic and tomato breads, there were mussels in vinegar, Crab in Almond milk, and quite a few Chorizo dishes to choose from. The waitress soon came back with a jug of water for me. Me, wanting to secure a place in the Early Bird time slot, I had to tell her that ‘My friend will be here in a minute’. Pretty shockingly, she answered with ‘Yeah… sure’. That was the exact response that she gave me, not in an aggressive way, but in a sad, empathetic way that made me feel like taking Megan as soon as she arrived, and shaking her in the waitresses face.   

            Anyway, after a brief chat and catch-up, we both ordered. For my starter, I chose an Orange and Chorizo Risotto, and Megan chose the Patatas Bravas. They were served within five minutes, which might have had something to do with the fact that there were only two other couples seated at that time. Anyway, I wasn’t complaining. The risotto was cooked perfectly- creamy with a slight bite. The chorizo was the first flavour I got – salty and lightly spiced. However, the orange left a refreshing, citric taste, which made the whole dish more enjoyable, just because I sometimes find that the creaminess can be overpowering and heavy.

            Megan gave me a taste of her tapas too – potatoes in a rich, tomato sauce with a sweet aftertaste. All in all, we were both pleasantly surprised with our choices, and as we sipped on our “Spanish Screwdrivers” (a cocktail described as surprisingly alcoholic on the menu, and priced at €4.95, clearly for ladies in our situation) we gave out about a myriad of things, including an English woman sitting by us, who was allergic to seafood – choosing Spanish cuisine probably wasn’t the smartest idea she ever had. The Early Bird gives a choice of two Entrées; Chicken or Seafood Paella. However, for the richer restaurant-goer, La Paloma offers dishes like Seabass Fillet with Chorizo, Catalan fish stew and Crispy Chicken stuffed with Spinach, Pine-nuts and Manchego Cheese. But since this wasn’t an option, I chose the Seafood Paella, and am so glad that I did. Fresh Mussels and King Prawns adorned my plate, shells and all. The rice was full of vibrant flavours and served with a lemon wedge, it was just an amazing dish. The portion was the perfect size – any more and I would have been clutching my stomach as I finished it off. Megan chose the Chicken Paella, and we both ended with clean plates.

            For dessert, we shared a Crème Catalana (€5.95), which is a Spanish version of the Crème Caramel. Also on offer were Chocolate Chip Leche Frita and Chocolate Mousse, among many others, displayed on a blackboard above the bar. Actually, as we read it, we couldn’t come to any conclusions about what Leche Frita actually was – roughly translating it as ‘fried milk’ in the little Spanish we know. Turns out that’s exactly what it is, so I’m happy we had the sweet, unfried caramel dish.

            Eventually, we asked for our bill and put our coats on. I concluded that La Paloma was worth going to again. The atmosphere of the place, as well as the brilliant food, really impressed me. Even the bad aspects of the restaurant were so tacky that they were funny, and made me like it more; for instance the fact that although it is ‘Dublin’s Oldest Spanish Restaurant’, it is actually only 16 years old.  Funnily enough – as we were leaving, I noticed that almost all of the tables were full, unlike when I first came in – suddenly I noticed the music being played was a soft, traditional Spanish piece as opposed to the Shake Your Bon-Bon of an hour earlier -two facts that were almost definitely related.

 

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Chameleon, 1 Fownes Street Lower

Click Image to see Location Map

I had reserved a table for two at Chameleon about 3 weeks before February 14th, mainly because I didn’t want to be eating in MaccyD’s in my glad rags on Valentine’s day. Myself and Orlando had been drinking wine and champagne in our flat before nine, so when we arrived at the restaurant we were a bit messy, and very much in the mood for food. After a brief wait, we were guided by our waitress past three floors of lovers at candle-lit tables. We were seated on the top floor (the best one). It is called the Opium Room. The seats are just thick, velvet cushions with throw pillows for your back, and incense and ornate rugs on the walls. With Nouvelle Vague playing quietly in the background, we ate what must have been the biggest prawn cracker I have ever seen, and read our menus.

The Chameleon specialises in Indonesian Rijst-tafel dishes, which is basically between 6 and 9 taster dishes for a set price. Our waitress explained the whole system to us, and we both ordered the Vegetarian Rijst-tafel – one choice of six set menus, and their cheapest bottle of white wine (We had spent a lot on money on our champagne breakfast earlier that day)

Suddenly, as if an apparition, the waitress brought out our plates of Indonesian delights. It’s hard to know in which order to describe the dishes, so I’ll do it in the order I ate them, because in my most basic drunken state, it must have been the natural order of eating them.  The Nasi-Kunig – a chilli and onion fried yellow rice, was what I had expected. It was just a perfect bowl of fragrant rice, and I foolishly ate it in small mouthfuls to make it last, but finally got too full and couldn’t finish it. The Asinan was a salad of melon, chinese leaves, cucumber and black sesame dressing. It felt more like a dessert because it was so sweet, but worked perfectly to cool down my mouth from some of the more spicy dishes that followed. Next was a crispy, breaded hard boiled egg roll, with a tomato salsa. I’m actually not an egg fan, but it brought both sweet and savoury flavours together, and I ended up eating some of Orlando’s too. I was a bit disappointed, though, because the menu listed a fried banana, but it was replaced by the egg that night. That was annoying, because fried banana is my favourite, and I like having pudding to finish a meal.

Now, the next dish was what stood out to me on the menu the most when I first read it. The Sweet Potato Spring Roll was amazing. The thin pastry was crispy and savoury – the filling was a perfect, light blend of sweet potato chunks, thai basil  and coriander with a spicy mango dip. There were four spring rolls on the plate and I kept wanting more. They tasted really good alongside the condiments we were given too – pickled vegetables, chili tomato dip, and dried coconut with spices.  The variety of flavours in front of us was amazing – the Tempeh Satay tasted like nothing I’ve ever had before- like a peanut falafel, skewered and served on a bed of caramelised vegetables with a creamy, satay sauce. That was Orlando’s favourite dish on the menu, while mine was the Perkedel;  a potato and chickpea cake cooked with banana  shallots, celery, curry and Padang leaves served witha pickled aubergine mayonnaise which had the same consistency of a korma/coconut sauce. Unbelievable. All of the above dishes were served with wok-fried noodles and vegetables, and savoy cabbage toasted in sesame oil.

By the time we have finished our meal, both of us were clutching our stomachs and mumbling about how it was the best meal we’ve ever had. I couldn’t even stand up by myself afterwards- I don’t know if that was the fault of the food or the day’s wine. We lay on the pillows for about 20 minutes after we were done, just digesting and bickering about who sang the song that was being played- Prince or Michael Jackson. We eventually asked for the bill, were given little chocolates in the shape of hearts and stumbled onto the streets feeling both satisfied and exhausted at the same time. The meal was incredible value for the extraordinary amount we ate, the service was excellent, but the atmosphere of the restaurant was what made it the most special. I felt so comfortable and at home there, and I’m definitely going back with a pair of elastic-waisted trousers.

Vegetarian Rijst-tafel (8 dishes) – €30

White Wine – €20

Link: www.chameleonrestaurant.com

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Cornucopia, 19 Wicklow Street

Written: October 22nd 2008

It had been a busy day for the students of Dublin, and after a few hours of yelling “No way, we won’t pay” from O’Connell Street to the Dáil Buildings, a girl like me soon felt the hunger pangs that only an afternoon of lively protest can bring. I was with my friends Miriam and Caroline , and the three of us didn’t have any problem with taking a detour on the way back to college in order to drop into Cornucopia, a vegetarian restaurant on Wicklow Street, to get some lunch.

When the three of us walked in, we were greeted by a cosy room, lightly adorned with Halloween decorations, and filled with single people at four seated tables. Needless to say, the three of us did the deed of looming over the other patrons until somebody budged. Then we ordered at the counter (a self-service type of deal). I chose a Tomato and garlic soup with two of the freshly made breads – a slice of tomato bread and a butternut squash scone with mixed herbs. I was a little surprised that bread didn’t come with the soup, but there were many different types to choose from, which is rare to find anywhere to be honest (or at least in any place I can afford to eat in)

Cornucopia boasts healthy, vegetarian meals. My friends got a caramelised onion quiche, and a Potato and Cumin Soup. Other things on offer today included a mushroom lasagne, a Thai green curry, a selection of salads, and homemade desserts.

The tomato soup, which I expected to be of Mediterranean style, was in fact thick, creamy and full of flavour. I am a garlic fan, and this soup was just right in that sense. It also gave me the feeling that I was eating a meal – something I relish in soups, and hardly ever find, especially with tomato. The tomato bread I ate first. Thick, moist and slightly sweet, it complemented the soup beautifully; although I doubt that there was enough tomato flavour in the bread to let its taste stand up alone. The scone, however, was absolutely perfect. Crispy on the outside, soft and bursting with butternut squash in the centre – I could have eaten two or three of these as a meal by themselves. This one, buttered and torn into my soup, like the unsophisticated lady that I am, was the perfect autumnal filler.  I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch today in Cornucopia. The only real downfall was when I purchased overpriced lemonade, foolishly thinking that it too, like the breads and desserts, would be homemade. The bottled apple/lemon drink I was given just didn’t sit well after such a beautiful meal. Next time I’ll remember to order a fresh juice instead.

Large Soup                  €4.50

Slice Tomato Bread    €0.80

Savoury Scone            €1.95

Butter                          €0.10

Lemonade                   €2.99

The total cost of my lunch in Cornucopia was €10.34. They offer Student discounts at 12% also, which brought my meal down to €9.10. 

Link: www.http://cornucopia.ie/

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