Monday, August 24, 2015

The grub is great in Galway-and ANIAR is on top with a Michelin Star (8-18-15)

Aniar is a tiny unassuming spot in Galway's Claddagh district and has risen to great acclaim over the last several years. Aniar  is Gaelic for "from the west" and it prides itself in that virtually every ingredient is organic and from the west of Ireland. The Fior Uisce water, the organic pressed drinks Samuel had such as Pink Lemonade and Apple/Raspberry Juice (farm pressed), the foraged vegetables and fruits and even the spices (see later) are all from Western Ireland.
Richard proudly explained the menu which consists of seven sections and is broken into 4/6/8/10/12 or 14 course meals with or without pairings.
Samuel chose four items he was thrilled about once each one was explained (read on) which took some time and he was rightfully confused yet again. We anted eight and explained to Richard that the whole table could not do the same number of courses as the menu specified; he said not to worry at all, and we took off.

The first grouping was cold pre-starters of which Sam was allowed one, and we were allowed two each.
First on the list was "Turnip, Radish, Lovage" so you can see why we needed more info. This turned out to be a local farmer's produce but with a dressing of Chicken Fat Emuslion which used the chicken skin reduced as salt, since the only other salt in Western Ireland is local sea salt. None of us had this, but we were enthralled by the concept behind the dishes.

I started with Clam, Samphire, Nasturtium which was steamed clams, blanched samphire and nasturtium gel -all presented as "Sea Flower" which was a dashi broth made from local foraged mushrooms, clam & seaweed with Sea Asparagus. The portion was small, but full of flavor in each and every different spoonful.
Will chose the Mussel, Cucumber, Seaweed which was Steamed Mussels, Charred Cucumber and Marinade, Seaweed Cream with trout roe and of course nasturtium flowers (they were everywhere in every dish).
It was as tasty as my clams and then all three of us went on to a true highlight of the trip:
Beef, Tomato, Oyster which was a Tartare made with Oyster Emulsion as a binder and then topped with Oyster Ice Cream. The tomato was semi-dehydrated and then roasted for the sauce. Samuel, who did not like the ice cream, gobbled up the tartare despite its slight oyster flavor, and then asked each of us for a bite of ours.
Breads arrived and all were baked on premises with Rustic White, Bran Soda, and the most glorious Blue Cheese Soda Cracker Scones(I got an extra to take home for breakfast) all presented by the pastry Chef Claire with Achill Island Butter with sea salt.

Will and I did not want to do pairings as they often were beer or other non-wine drinks, so we choose a bottle of Rocca del Dragone 2012 Falanghina which Richard said was a great go-with-everything we had ordered in the first several courses.
We moved on to a carafe of Cristina Sampietrana 2013 "Principe Moro" Negroamaro which is a full bodied red and it was great with our main meat courses. I actually went back and forth as you shall see we had many different types of food that went with white or red.

The second set of foods was hot starters of which again Sam could have one and we could have two each.
I started with the Pigeon, Barley, Onion which was Pigeon poached in a waterbath with 2-1/2 week fermented Barley (I couldn't tell the difference) and Roast Onion Puree with Hazelnuts. Well if poaching in a waterbath does this for birds, I'm in for it.
Will had the Trout, Pea, Curd, Watercress (one of the few items with 4 ingredients n the menu) which was Poached Trout, Fresh Peas, Goat Curd and Watercress Puree with Fermented Carageen Seaweed Moss. Don't ask, but it all tasted GREAT! For his second hot dish he was joined by Samuel in the decadent Potato, Bone Marrow, Mushroom which was Cooked Overnight Purple Potatoes in Duck fat with Bone Marrow Sauce and Wild Mushrooms including Girolles, Hedgehog, Canterelles & Mushroom powder.
My second dish was the Pork belly, Beet, Cherry which had also cooked overnight belly,Poached Fermented Beets and Slated & Sugared Cherry. the crust onn the belly was salted and crusted to perfection, perhaps one of the ebst ever.

We all enjoyed the very herbal Tea/Berries Sorbet  with borage(flowers) as a palate cleanser (they gave it to Sam even though it's not included in the 4 course menu).
I should note these menus run 55 euros for 4 courses (just over $60) and 85 euros for 8 (which is about $95) and at that price we were all completely stuffed before the end.

We each chose one main course and they were all different.
Samuel went for the vegetarian Celeriac, Snow Pea, kale which he raved over and gobbled up all the Celeriac Puree, Hay Sauce(yes, made from hay) and dehydrated Mushrooms.
Will had Ox Cheek, Carrot, Leek, Fennel where the cheek was cooked for 96 hours with Carrot Puree, Leek and Charred Fennel.
I think I won with the Monk, Ham Hock & Sea Vegetables, and no, it was not a priest like Sweeny Todd! This was monkfish with an 18hour cooked ham hock and seaweed broth of sea purslaine, kale, sea spinach which was quite creamy and rich but had no dairy added.

There were two desserts and two cheese plates and Will and I chose one from each, while Sam got to choose one dessert.
He went with the Blackcurrant, Sheep's Yoghurt, Birch which was a mousse that he liked very much.
Will & I chose the Elderflower, Gin, Oats which was an Elderflower Panna Cotta & Gel  with Gin Ices and Toasted Oats that was very refreshing.
He went with the Cheese, Chutney, Rye Crisp which was several cheeses including Dureen and a very very sharp cheddar as well as a blue which Richard explained was one of the few things that was not from Western Ireland (it actually came from Ulster in Northern Ireland) as he said the western blues were not as good.
I chose Goat's Cheese, Pear, Hazelnut which was a Goat Cheese Ice Cream, Hazelnut Puree & Praline

Richard explained that you get more courses of the above mentioned dishes if you go and only the 14 course meal includes the rare and expensive digestif of Forager's Tea made of mint, nettle, borage and fennel cost so much, we skipped it.
Claire had some little treats for us afterwards as if we had not eaten enough:
Madeleines  with Apple Syrup
Hazelnut Praline
and Licorice Rock, which you know I wouldn't even touch as it is one taste I truly dislike (my mother sad never to use "hate").
We indeed loved our meal and the entire experience and I think it opened Samuel up to a whole new way of dining.....we shall see.