Kai: Could we call it Irish flair?
As we passed the threshold of Kai, in Galway city, the cosy dim-lit restaurant couldn't have felt more on-point with what we needed. After a particularly rainy day on Inishmore, which saw us getting completely soaked as we were cycling around the island, I just couldn't get myself to warm up, even after a long hot shower back on the mainland.
It is only after we sat down in Kai, right beside the kitchen, that my blood finally started heating up. Was it because our reservation wasn't taken properly and that we realised upon arrival that we actually didn't have a table? Maybe, but once the waiter sorted out the situation, we walked to our table and got to appreciate the intimate atmosphere of the restaurant. A rustic cafe during the day, Kai turns into an elegant country-style restaurant at night.
The menu offered five options for entrees, mains and desserts; a combination of the classics you would find on an Irish carte intertwined with seasonal and trendy ingredients, it all sounded really appealing. My entree, Fingal's bresaola, cratloe, black figs, walnuts, was a classic yet delightful combination. The sweetness of the figs, the generous amount of slightly caramelised walnuts, the sharp sheep's cheese and the well-seasoned leaves complimented the delicious cold meat. On the other side of the table, the West coast crab, celeriac and trout roe; fresh and simple, were also a hit.
The main impressed me even more. The beautifully crispy monkfish was served with clams in a rich madras broth. The rich bouillon made the dish warm and hearty, yet the coriander aioli gave kept it light and very fresh. Surprisingly, my meat-lover boyfriend went for the vegetarian dish - I suspect he didn't really realise it until the plate arrived on the table, but the hedgehog dolmas, with rainbow beans and romesco sauce left him very satisfied. Dolmas are a classic Mediterranean food and seeing it reworked in such a tasty and clever way showed the chef's love of food and good ingredients. Could we maybe call it Irish flair?
For dessert, we shared a wild strawberry pavlova with lashings of cream. It kept all its promises. The distinctive flavour of the fruit, the crunchy meringue and the generous serving of cream tasted like heaven.
While the entrees and desserts all stayed under the 10 euros mark, the mains were priced around 25 euros, exception made of the vegetarian option. I can't help but notice that with the recession behind, the prices have significantly gone up in Irish restaurants in recent months, and while I always admire the work of talented chefs, I find 25 euros for a main in a "cafe-restaurant" somewhat overpriced. Luckily, I didn't pay for the meal (my boyfriend's treat) but it was the only fly in the ointment during this otherwise delightful dinner.