I’ve wanted to visit Éan, a sibling of the Michelin starred Loam, since it opened last year. And now that I’ve been, I can’t wait to go back.
A bib gourmand landed a few months ago, with Michelin acknowledging its high-quality, good-value cuisine, noting that “very seasonal, locally-sourced, artisanal ingredients play a key role”. The chef is Christine Walsh, who has one of those resumes littered with clayey establishments like Chapter One, Noma and allta, making the prospect of eating her food very enticing indeed.
During the day Éan functions as a cafe and diner – I only hear good things from my Galway friends – but at night things take a slightly more serious turn.
The menu is one of those rare birds (sorry no gaeilgeoir but I know the word for bird in Irish) and in response you want to be able to say “One of everything please!”
In fact we try, but our gracious waiter gently talks us down from that greedy height, fearing it would be way too much food.
We start with three dishes from the snack section. The sourdough is impeccable – if I lived in Galway I’d be a regular customer picking up my daily bread – and the tartness of the bread paired with the lactic flavor of Cuinneog butter and sweetness and texture from a scattering of crunchy, caramelized shallot leaves make for a tasty sip.
Walsh tops a trio of Lissadell oysters with a kimchi granita so shockingly cold it’ll freeze your brain. It’s the dish to order when you need a jolt to start the evening.
A staple of the best drink parties of the 1970s, the Devil’s Egg is about to have a revival – maybe Éan is the beginning. Here, Walsh combines the egg yolks with dillisk, mustard, rice vinegar, and horseradish cream before topping it with smoked eel (always a good thing), grated fresh horseradish for punch, a sprig of dill, and a sprinkling of dehydrated dill powder. It’s squishy and delicious, the eel and egg a beautiful partnership.
And then it’s on to the first of the sharing plates, the squid toast, which is already destined to become one of Walsh’s signature dishes. The lighting is dim enough to make it difficult to see exactly what’s going on, but essentially it’s deep-fried toast stuffed with minced squid, seaweed, lemon, chives, and miso, which Walsh copiously dried Katsuobushi added fermented skipjack tuna (aka bonito flakes) and dollops of miso mayo with squid ink for good measure.
The flavors and textures are brilliant, as found again in a Dexter beef tartare with Castelvetrano olives rather than the more traditional capers and whipped marrow, topped with crunchy breadcrumbs slow-cooked in beech-smoked marrow.
Tartare is having a moment right now — it’s on almost every menu I’ve seen in the past few months — and a dissertation needs to be written about how different chefs riffle the classic dish. Walsh’s version is a beauty, on par with Paul MacNamara’s at Uno Mas, here served with charcoal-grilled sourdough slices smothered in rendered Dexter fat.
Black Garlic Roasted Yeast Brassicas sounds humble but delivers an umami hit that could become addictive. According to Walsh, it’s the most popular dish on the menu and it’s easy to see why. It’s not often you get a plant-based dish that delivers so much flavor for €10, and for people used to soggy broccoli and cabbage it has to be a life-changing experience. The only large dish – and also the most expensive at €38 – is a meaty slice of turbot with turnip leaves, celery, mussels and chimichurri; it is impeccable.
To finish, a beautiful confection of Ryan’s rhubarb with cherry blossom, a crazy looking mousse (the result of choosing the wrong frother one day, but Walsh likes the result), rhubarb jelly and a touch of white chocolate crumb for texture.
We drink The Juice Asylum’s lively biodynamic Maggie Mae 2019 (€60) from an intelligent list focused on wines with minimal intervention from small producers, and the bill comes to €168.50 before service. Less greedy folks could get away with spending a lot less and have an equally good time.
Pop in for morning pastries and coffee or midday sandwiches without breaking the bank.
Snacks, a few platters to share, desserts and cheese could set you back €120 for two before wine or service.
Éan, Druid Lane, Galway; eangalway.com
https://www.independent.ie/life/food-drink/food-reviews/ean-restaurant-review-the-bill-comes-to-16850-before-service-but-less-greedy-folk-could-get-away-with-spending-far-less-and-have-just-as-lovely-a-time-41571813.html Éan restaurant review: “The bill comes to €168.50 before service, but less greedy people could get away with spending far less and have an equally enjoyable time.”