Fans of Dylan McGrath’s gourmet wizardry at the late lamented Mint will be delighted to find him back on form in his latest opening, Taste at Rustic. The third floor restaurant, accessed via Exchequer Street, is a beautiful room, all edgy with a mirrored ceiling, luxurious quilted black leather seats, smooth wood surfaces and mellow lighting. Three floors up, it feels worlds away from dining in Dublin, with a lively, luxurious New York vibe.
A counter seat can seem like a short straw but Taste’s are far from the pack-em-in barstools so many places squeeze in. Here the counter seats are proper long-legged dining chairs and it seems someone has bothered to measure the distance between floor, chair and counter, allowing diners have an extra comfy dining experience.
From here you’ll also have a view of the trickery carried out by several chefs at their stations, carefully plating up or blowtorching some pretty morsels. It’s not intense, like at a teppanyaki joint, and there’s enough privacy that you can watch if you like, or engage with your food and companions without being distracted.
The word on the street says this a Japanese restaurant but the food here is also influenced by Peru (which has a large Japanese population) and Spain. As is Dylan’s wont the menu is long and complex. Despite the clear descriptions of each dish, and sections that include headings like from our robata grill, or appetisers /sushi it can feel overwhelming. Well-trained staff will help simplify matters or you can simply opt for one of three Omakase set menus.
Omakase, meaning ‘I’ll leave it to you’ delivers a nicely balanced dining experience that showcases the best of Taste (named for the five tastes, including bitter and umami). The sushi is superb, probably he best in the land. Taste sensations include native prawn nigiri (the prawn’s heated with lobster butter) and crispy soft shell crab maki.
Maybe you’ll follow this up with poached Dexter beef skewers from the robata grill: brushed in red pepper juice with pickled Peruvian peppers and smoked paprika they’re cooked over white Japanese charcoal before being finished at the table in a mini brazier. Or how about fragrant salmon nabemono, comprising a steaming bowl of broth, a dish of fresh herbs to add as you wish and glistening chunks of fresh salmon. It’s hands-on cooking and you can turn down the heat when you want to halt the cooking process. After you’ve eaten your fill they’ll whip away your bowl, reduce down the stock and return a dense broth for you to finish.
Desserts are as unusual as the main offerings, perhaps a green tea brulée with yoghurt mousse and or chocolate and Japanese pepper mousse.
Service is warm, helpful and efficient – beginning when you check in at reception in Rustic’s bar on the second floor and a host walks you up to the third floor, creating a nice sense of occasion, it’s clear everyone has been trained to high standards. The wine list is accompanied by a smart selection of sake offerings and cocktails designed to complement the unusual food, showing how every little detail has been considered.