Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sur la Table: Pub Grub and Asian Fusion Cuisine

Sea bass on a bed of vegetables with curry sauce and steamed rice

One late Sunday evening in Ennis, a small town about 30 minutes from Shannon Airport, I was looking for a place to eat and happened to read the menu on the window of a "take away" place. I was famished after an exploratory walk all over town and on my way back to the hotel. After much indecision, I settled for the prawns with sweet and sour sauce and steamed rice. All for 10 euros. While waiting I noticed a steady stream of people coming in to order their dinner. When my order was ready, I received it in a plastic box. No worries about spilling.

I counted at least four Asian restaurants in the center of Ennis which I thought was surprising in such a small community. But further explorations in other cities revealed the proliferation of Asian fusion restaurants. This says a lot about the culinary preferences of the locals. Here are some restaurants and a pub where I had a pleasurable dining experience.

Tamarind - Galway


At the end of Galway City's busy main street on Fishmarket Square is Tamarind Restaurant. It has an enviable location across from the Corrib river and right by the Spanish Arch which can be seen from its large window. As with most restaurants in Europe, the menu is posted outside the door. But I didn't have the chance to review it because a gust of wind coupled with huge drops of rain (in the middle of summer) pushed me into the restaurant. When I saw the dining room, I knew immediately I wanted to eat there. I liked the minimalist, zen like ambience of wood top tables and straight back burgundy upholstered chairs. And the food didn't disappoint. My choice was curried sea bass with rice and vegetables. Since I'm not much of a curry fan, I asked that the curry sauce be served on the side. This was a good move because the fish was succulent and didn't need much to spice it up. Just a little soy sauce. The waitress was attentive and was always within reach. Here's their address:
Spanish Arch
Galway, Co. Galway, Ireland
091 568 010
http://www.tamarind.ie/

Bambu Thai Restaurant - Limerick City

Chicken with black bean sauce

At Bambu, I felt comfortable in simple surroundings. So comfortable in fact that I was the last to leave among the late lunch-goers. I had a plateful of chicken with black bean sauce and steamed rice (you can also request for noodles and french fries instead of rice) which I managed to devour completely. The sauce was just right, neither salty nor greasy. I also had some kropek (shrimp crackers) for appetizer and these were nice and crunchy.  Bambu is located on the main shopping street in Limerick.
116 O'Connell Street
Limerick, County Limerick
http://www.bambu.ie/

Gus O'Connor's Pub - Doolin

Since 1832

Our tour guide carefully explained this pub rule: when you enter the pub, get your table first, then go to the bar and order your food (who's gonna watch my table while I go to the bar?).  So I secured my table, stood up near the bar and looked puzzled, (I was searching for the menu). And one of the staff, reading my mind, came up to me to ask if I needed help. I was impressed with his attentiveness. Menu in hand, I went up to the bar once more and asked for the Atlantic Salmon. (Doolin is right on the coast and seafood is often fresh and varied.) In no time my entrée arrived with 2 scoops of mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and broccoli. A lot of food for one person.


Gus O'Connor's is well known throughout Ireland as the home of traditional Irish music. The pub is alive with music sessions nightly during the summer months and annually in February, when the Russell Memorial Weekend is held in Doolin to remember the Russell brothers, all traditional musicians who helped put Doolin on the world music circuit.
Fisher Street, Doolin
County Clare

I have to say that in all the restaurants where I dined in Western Ireland, the service was very good. The waiter/waitress was always there to check if I needed anything else. This is quite a switch from the poor service I've experienced in other European countries where I've been totally ignored or kept waiting for as long as it pleased the server (even with local company) or condescendingly served. How refreshing to visit a country where the people are genuinely nice and accommodating.

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Images by Charie

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