The food in Amuse is using Asian flavours and ingredients, some dishes with a taste of Japanese, others with a touch of South-East Asia, but all with Dempsey's own interpretation. The cookery is ambitious, combining many, sometimes powerful, components on the plate. On most dishes, on the 8 course tasting menu, this is done with aplomb with the resulting dish delivering a complex, yet clean flavour. Hamachi with the fragrance and slight bitterness of bergamot, worked well with the slight heat from a horseradish yoghurt. Cod with a Kamebishi (3 year old fermented soy) sauce was another highlight - the richness of the sauce was cleverly contrasted with a sushi rice cream. The Kamebishi was more complex then a normal soy; deep umami, rich and slightly sweet, but it didn't overpower the fish. A serving of perfectly cooked Anjou pigeon with aubergine and kombucha (a fermented tea) was also another noteworthy dish.
A very clever dessert of passion fruit 'Tom Kha Gai' was another beautiful offering; sweet, but not overly, well textured and light. Tom Kha Gai is a coconut soup, a savoury dish we have had many times in Thailand, a strange name for a dessert then, but the flavours are reminiscent of the original. The menu also starts with many quirky amuse bouches, a pre-dessert and some good petit-fours. All of these are extras and not included in the 8 courses.
A couple of courses were a let down however. Guinea fowl with courgette and coconut did not work. Another was the final course, a door-stoppingly dense dark chocolate ganache, too heavy to end an 8 course meal, served with unpleasant soapy violet.
The food in Amuse is respectful to cuisine of Asia that inspire it and the produce that it uses. Some dishes have that deep, but delicate umami synonymous with Japan, while others blend the sweet, salty and bitter balance that is the trademark of food from South East Asia.
The 8 course tasting menu is €90, which may appear on the high side for Dublin, but when you consider the number of extras, the work involved in the menu and the quality of food, then it is actually very good value and feels generous. The service is friendly, informative with waiting staff taking an interest in the enjoyment of the diner.
In an industry where many restaurants are following trend, copying others, or looking for something that will sell to the masses, Conor Dempsey is, maybe bravely, choosing gastronomy and high end dining and you get the sense here that he is passionate about both. Since our last visit nearly a year ago the food has progressed and the dining room feels more comfortable, so it very encouraging to see a restaurant investing in the right things and it will be interesting to see if Amuse can continue to improve.
Amuse is a great addition to the Dublin food scene, serving fun, and clever food with some interesting Asian produce, delivered with skill and care by a talented chef. We certainly won't be leaving it a year to our next visit and, the fact we are eager to return, says a lot.