For the last thirty years, I’ve been craving proper sushi. Nowhere in Dublin has ever come up with the goods. It’s not a matter of just making some short grain rice and fecking some salmon or tuna on board. Proper sushi has correctly seasoned rice, cooked to the right consistency. Sushi rice should be vinegary enough that even after the steam has taken the bite out of it trace amounts linger. It should retain a tiny bit of heat from cooking (just above room temperature), and every grain should cling together but still have HD edges. To achieve this, the rice has to be hand washed in water six or seven times before cooking to get rid of the extra starch that makes it gloopy.
Getting the rice right is so important that trainee sushi chefs in Japan do nothing but make the rice for at least a year before they’re allowed to move on to the other ingredients. It’s said that a champion sushi chef can even get the grains to all face in the same direction when preparing a hand-pressed nigiri (or rice ball).
Dylan McGrath’s new Japanese-inspired Taste at Rustic (above Rustic Stone on Sth Great Georges St), isn’t interested in aligning rice grains but it has nailed the essential taste and presentation of sushi like no other restaurant here before. This is damn good sushi, sushi I’d be proud to share with my Japanese family. I’d really like to come here regularly, ignore the rest of the menu, plonk myself at the bar and just concentrate on it and Taste’s deft interpretation of new style sashimi and nigiri. The standouts for me are the lobster tataki, the scallop nigiri- scallop, John Dory with lime and Wagyu. I love the way the rice to fish ratio is low- often there’s just too much rice and it overpowers the fish, which should be the star of the show.
The menu at Taste offers a lot more, however- hotpot dishes, skewers, salads, all of which were also delicious though not as transcendent (the skewers are hefty lads, not delicate kushiyaki wherein every bite is infused with flavour). It’s all a bit confusing even if you are familiar with Japanese food; the menu’s divided into matrices focused on the different kinds of tastes- sweet, savoury, salty and umami- the X factor of morish ness, all cross referenced against different courses, hot and cold. Well-trained trained staff are on hand to help navigate it, but it does take some brain power to decipher which may not suit people on fragile first dates or those who’ve enjoyed a few cocktails downstairs.
I recommend my approach. Keep it simple. Start off with a miso broth- this rendition bears no relation to the packety kind of stuff trotted out in most restaurants, which is nice but in the way Avonmore instant is nice on a cold day at your desk. Next (and maybe this is where you’ll stop and stay), experiment with all the different kinds of sushi and new style sashimi. It’ll be memorable.