Sunday, March 25, 2018
Restaurant review: The Greenhouse
"There is no such thing as a neutral context" Professor Charles Spence on eating
The lighting focuses on the tables, creating a sense of the table as a stage. The waitress lays out the napkins with a white glove. A song from "Moon Safari" quietly playing in the background gives a nostalgic retro-futurist Gallic soundtrack.
Greenhouse, Dawson Street. Daniela has the four-course dinner menu; I go for the vegetarian equivalent. Being a veggie I am unqualified to comment on Daniela's menu; suffice to say she enjoyed it. Since the Greenhouse are known for working with a pretty serious sommelier, we go with the discovery wine selection. The amuse boches (pictured) include crispy seaweed and a pleasantly warm blue cheese.
First course: ravioli of comté, onion buillon. It's served in one of those huge bowls where the rim takes up most space, with the content in a central indent. The ravioli is pleasantly creamy, and a gang of tangy little mushrooms are swimming in the onion buillon. Wine: Riesling with a citrus acidity. Daniela's has a different Riesling that is bigger on acidity but also on sweetness.
Second course: roast cauliflower, hazelnut, truffle, sheep's curd. Having one medium sized piece of cauliflower as the centre of attention in a dish is ballsy. But it's great; caramelised dark brown on top with a milky, creamy stalk. Wine; Chardonnay; a hint of Belgian beer.
Third course: hand-rolled gnocchi, hen of the woods, parmesan, vin jaune. Form is important here-I always think of gnocchi as imperfect spheres, but here they are handrolled into fat snakes, and the hen of the woods cuts a different dash than the average mushroom. This dish follows the culinary adage that you should use as much salt as is just short of too salty. Wine: pinot noir - a very subtle red that pulls things back compared to the Chardonnay.
Dessert: chocolate soufflé, vanilla ice cream. The late Paolo Tullio, who previously wrote a rave review of this place, had a memorable moment when he dipped his cutlery into a chocolate pudding on RTÉ's "The Restaurant" and exclaimed "gooey choccie!" while bouncing in his seat. The chocolate soufflé here too had a liquid centre (although the exterior was more crispy than a pudding). There was a saltiness to the dessert as well that was complemented by the ice cream. Wine: a lovely Madeira.
Espresso with petit fours-choux pastry with hazelnut cream and a chocolate passion fruit. I made the mistake of knocking the latter back in one go, giving a slightly overwhelming hit of the passion fruit.
The Greenhouse is definitely a treat for the senses. The dishes are all well presented, although none showboat excessively with the sauces etc. Daniela mentions a feeling of fullness that has as much to do with richness of the dishes as fullness of the stomach. The staff are attentive and friendly. It is quite expensive but worth it for a special occasion; regardless of why you go, once you're inside you definitely won't feel that you're approaching the food in a neutral context.
TV review: Chef's Table