Bleu Bistro on dawson Street has closed and The Greenhouse has emerged from its ashes. Mickael Viljanen is executive chef here and, having sampled his work in Gregans Castle last summer, I knew we were in for a treat. MrW and I dined here on a Thursday night and the forty-seater restaurant had just over a dozen patrons which was not enough to give a buzz to the place. However, the small crowd ensured that we got a great deal of personal attention! When we arrived we were shown to our table and offered water and presented with copies of the menu to peruse. It didn’t take us long to decide to opt for the five course tasting menu with matching wines. We gave our order, sat back and waited for the culinary show to commence.
Our first serving was a ‘pre-amuse bouche’ which consisted, we were told, of apple meringue, herring roe and bacon fat. It was really tasty and, surprisingly, not a bit fishy. However, my postprandial research has revealed that the herring roe and herbs were missing from our meringues. Here’s what we should have had.
A small sack of bread arrived at the table along with a miniature loaf of Swedish rye bread, and a dish of soft butter – which meant we didn’t have to do battle with ‘straight from the fridge’ stuff. This is the first time I have tasted rye bread that I actually like – so full marks for that! The official amuse bouche was then served. This came in an eggshell. It was a Parmesan custard over which a mushroom sabayon was poured at the table. A side dish of Parmesan crisps came with it. It was delightful yet strange because one anticipates an eggy experience when one eats from an eggshell – but this dish had no noticeable egg flavours.
The next course was a foie gras dish with frozen apple and walnut. It was served with a light dessert wine which worked really well with it. The dish was beautifully presented and garnished with pretty edible flowers. We both really liked it but MrW was particularly delighted with it. This course was followed by the one course that I wasn’t looking forward to – mackerel, veal tongue and eel cannelloni and lapristi. I am not a great fan of mackerel but I am very happy to report that Mickael has managed to make this fish very palatable. I’ve eaten tongue before but this was much nicer than what I have previously experienced. Combined with the other flavours this dish was quite sublime. The wine to accompany this was Choo Choo Pecorino from the Marche province of Italy. This biodynamic, organic wine worked very well with the oily mackerel.
What followed next was a selection of celeriac and duck hearts. This was my first encounter with duck hearts and I have to say there was no mistaking the duck flavour! They were tasty, and a bit chewy, but I cannot pass judgement on the texture as, up until now, the only hearts I have ever eaten were ‘love hearts’. I really liked the celeriac – it is one of my favourite vegetables although it is a pain in the A to prepare it. The wine pairing for this dish was,unusually, a white Chateau Neuf de Pape. Again the wine worked very well with the food.
MrW chose lamb for his main course and I chose pollack (pollock to most of us). This was a deliberate decision so that we could actually get to taste the entire menu without actually having to eat seven courses! The lamb was served with a light Rioja from a modern, innovative Spanish winemaker. The pollack was coupled with an Austalian Pinot Noir a 2005 vintage (I think). The lamb was very pink which MrW didn’t mind but it might not be to everyone’s liking. I tasted lamb sweetbreads for the first time too! The wine matching was, once again, superb.
We each chose a different dessert. I opted for the sea-buckthorn presentation and himself was left no choice but to go for the rhubarb/celery medley. I had never heard of sea-buckthorn before and the waiter explained that it tasted a bit citrussy and slightly like fermented mango – he was quite right. It might sound like a strange flavour but it was lovely. It was a most refreshing dish and I would definitely recommend trying it. A sweet dessert wine was served with my dish and the rhubarb was accompanied by an in-house concoction of pastis, ginger and soda water.
We had a wonderful evening at ‘the Greenhouse’. The wine lady was very informative, helpful and friendly. The food was absolutely fantastic. The service was smooth and efficient. Dubliners are lucky to have this great chef working in the city.