Recently, my job had me heading off on a short trip to Dublin, Ireland (for those curious about my day job, I was attending the AIAA 21st Aerodynamic Decelerators Conference at Trinity College Dublin), and while almost all of my time on my work trip to Dublin was tied up with, well, work (and work-related outings), I did have a long lunch break on my second day to try and rustle up some local food.
So I decided to see what I could find that was actually Irish, since actual Irish cuisine is quite challenging to find in the US, especially in predominantly Irish areas like Boston, since the Irish-American culinary traditions have diverged a fair bit from the mother country (for example, while “corned beef” is pretty much a staple food of any Irish-American place, it’s virtually unknown in Ireland), with little reference to the original. So I wanted to get out and find a place that at least was trying to do justice to the Irish culinary tradition.
Well, a quick search of several sources led me to The Pig’s Ear. Nestled in a very narrow and easy to miss storefront on Nassau Street across from Trinity College, the actual restaurant is in a fairly small but bright dining room upstairs. The menu is designed to be “Irish food done creatively”, featuring dishes such as black pudding, terrines, whiskey-cured salmon, cottage pies, and the like. While apparently they do occasionally offer a “pig’s ear terrine” on the menu, they didn’t offer it when I was there. So I settled on two courses: a starter of black pudding, followed by the beef cheek cottage pie.
The black pudding was quickly served up with apples, greens, and nuts on a bed of mustard with a few fingerling potatoes. I’m always a little disappointed that black pudding hasn’t caught on back here in the states (aside from little pockets, like seeing kiszka around Passover and Easter in Michigan, right as the pączki hit the streets), because it’s generally quite a good dish, with good flavor, and texture. The black pudding at The Pig’s Ear was no exception, in fact, it was one of the finest black puddings I’ve ever had, with a really good texture and nice barley notes, complemented very nicely by the apple wedges, greens, and nuts, and mustard (the last of which was subtle to not overpower the dish). Nicely presented as well, this was a good way to start the meal.
Next up was the Guinness and Beef Cheek ‘Cottage Pie’, which (seen at right), unfortunately didn’t photograph well, since you can’t see the actual nicely braised beef cheeks and veggies hiding under the topping. But it was a pleasantly done dish: the beef cheek had been nicely braised and was tender but not completely without texture, the other vegetables in the pie (celeriac and carrots, and possible a few other root veggies) were also tender and soft without falling apart. Like so many dishes I had in Ireland, the sauce was flavored with Guinness, but in a manner that was more beefy than malty. Topped off with a nice mash, this was a great dish.
Overall, The Pig’s Ear was a solid success. The location was convenient, the staff pleasant and efficient, and the food having enough Irish tradition that I was pleased by it (but if I return, I’ll hope to see one of their actual pig’s ear dishes on the menu…). And at €15.95 for two courses at lunch, the price wasn’t too bad, either.