A beautiful tale in Chapter One
When Sons, Numbers 1 & 2 and I planned our expedition to Chapter One, Ross Lewis still ran the iconic Dublin restaurant – always good enough to earn its Michelin star, often superb in its refined take on contemporary Irish cuisine, DNA traceable back to his legendary and late mentor, Myrtle Allen, and his own epicurean elevation of traditional Irish cuisine on the farm.
However, Lewis is no longer in the kitchen, having passed the baton to chef Mickael Viljanen, most recently two Michelin star chef of The Greenhouse, a deep and breathtaking break in the national culinary firmament.
The Progenys are no strangers to hospitality, but the plush and hushed reception area softens their loud coughs until the restaurant’s aptly renowned welcome reassures them, Chapter One having led the pack for a few years by combining a superb world-class dining service with deceptively laid back charm.
Canapes begin: crispy miniature dough shell, raw Irish Angus flank steak tartare, with yuzu kosho (flavor bomb of fermented peppers in salt and citric yuzu), horseradish emulsion. Viljanen’s proprietary caviar blend adds umami to the hazelnuts, boosting the tenderness of sweet meat. No 2 Son’s ruthless teenage chewing drops a few gears as he records textures and flavors. It’s really good, he exclaims. He is.
An elegant red ovoid perched on a golden spoon requires the simplest bending of the tongue to break the “shell”, flooding the mouth with an exquisite gazpacho of tomatoes, sprinkled with the French favorite Savora mustard, and soothed with olive oil. lush and sweet Tuscan olive. I close my eyes, wanting this to last forever.
Dishes begin, Thornhill’s shimmering amber duck neck jelly, delicately sprinkled with gels and creams, layered on top of smoked eel cream; on a buttered and sweetened foie gras from Maison Lafitte; with Guinness puff pastry and molasses brioche.
The succulent, plump, hand-dipped scallops are centered in crisp elderberry vinegar and Jalapeno broth, topped with macerated cucumber brunoise and Oscietra caviar, the latter’s nut-iodine anchoring an ethereal dish that might otherwise s ‘fly away.
A superb crispy homemade sourdough baguette, with salted butter, becomes our default overnight cover, perfect for leftovers beyond the reach of a knife, fork or spoon.
The browned and shiny tail of the Donegal lobster is barbecued, brushed with chocolate cocoa pod liqueur and coffee and Kari Gosse, a blend of spices emblematic of the Breton “secret recipe”. On the side, the sweet carrot, the citric pomelo, the tangy currants and an abundant mousse of lobster head juice.
The rice with lobster, saffron and sobrasada sausage, is immersed in a lobster head sabayon. What reads like the culinary equivalent of cramming 20 clowns and four elephants into a Mini presents itself in the mouth as a precise, even singular, dish.
Lewis’s kitchen celebrated the finest Irish produce, so serving French Challans black chicken may seem like a radical departure, but Viljanen simply cannot source Irish commercially farmed poultry of this caliber.
A stuffed with delicious game thigh, stuffed with diced truffles, low and slow cooked, glazed on the grill, is brushed with lemon verbena and black truffle, served with kohlrabi poached in chicken fat, a parsley puree and an emulsified yellow wine sauce with roasted skin butter chicken. Riding shotgun is an elegant chicken giblet pie with cream of liver and marinated Granny Smith – the Sunday roast for the gods.
Pre-dessert of whipped and frozen blackcurrant marshmallow, kombu and eucalyptus, milk pearls from frozen blackcurrant leaves, poached lemon meringue paper, goes perfectly from salty to sweet.
The rustic “strawberry pie” is a basic exercise in revealing the “sublime” of a “simple” flaky croissant dough topped with glazed wild strawberries, although sprinkled with gold leaf, quickly becoming the favorite ingredient of the restaurant. n ° 2, accompanied by a Chantilly cream with honey vinegar. The pretty pink chocolate slice is utterly alluring, imploding in an airy parfait of wild strawberries and jasmine rice.
Then consuming Chartreuse jelly, violet ice cream, candied fennel may seem like a wanton indulgence, but it’s a divinely light and glorious song of violet in the upper register.
We reserve the wanton gluttony for the cheese, No 1 Son and I savor the caramel of Cáis na Tíre, sliding the baguette into the indolent ooze of a ripe, creamy Spice.
You simply cannot compare Lewis’ cuisine to Viljanen’s, both so different in style, delivery and culinary temperament, but, tonight, the latter’s sublime craftsmanship, technical precision and quality. masterful manipulation of flavors are often breathtaking, like watching a formation of men fly five kites in a hurricane and never once tangling the strings.
Chapter One is just about the most perfect setting to showcase such talent and is now Ireland’s best restaurant. When the Michelin man calls you, three could very well be the magic number.