Fudo Izakaya, Dublin: Keep the fruit away from the sushi, please
Review: This sushi bar should steer clear of novelty and focus on what it can do best
- 28 Mary Street Little, Dublin 7
Little Mary Street sounds like a Dickens character who comes to a sorry end, and the all-knowing map algorithm seems just as stumped as I am. The best Big G can offer when I check is a street in the Melbourne suburb of Spotswood, 17,000km away. The trick is to call her by her proper name of Mary Street Little, my friend explains, after coming out of Fudo Izakaya to stand on Capel Street in Dublin and wave. He has bagged a high table for three with stools so heavy they are best moved two-handed; try it one-handed and you risk looking like a weakling.
The walls of this narrow room are painted dark brown and it feels like a place for a quick bite rather than a long lingering evening. The dinner menu is on one side of the large card and the lunch options on the other, but we can order from both, our lovely server tells us.
Fudo Izakaya can take take a bit of finding in the virtual world. Its website has been coming up blank today. So I’m hoping for good things off the beaten track. For bonus points I could mangle a crouching-dragon-hidden-sushi pun if its dragon roll, the most intriguing offering on the menu, is a winner.
The shu mai dumplings are silky thin skins of pastry, delicious pork, a beautifully judged chilli sauce and crisp rounds of fresh scallion
We start off well. There are nice chunky small bowls for the good soy and chilli sauce options in small bottles like tinctures from a flavour pharmacy that are on the table, and the food comes hot and quickly. We share a plate of shu mai pork dumplings from the lunch menu. These are round parcels like muslin-wrapped puddings, a silky thin skin of dumpling pastry, delicious pork, a beautifully judged chilli sauce and crisp rounds of fresh scallion to be eaten one at a time if your chopstick skills are up to the challenge.
There’s another long platter of steamed edamame beans finished with flakes of good sea salt. They’re one of my favourite snacky things as we wait for the main orders, partly because of the concentration it takes to ensure that the hot slippery little suckers don’t end up shooting on to the floor.
Next, our orders come on one large plate, which is a little confusing at the start. Our three rolls are presented like a billiards triangle with sprigs of greenery (which we’ll come to later) in the middle, along with thick slices of salmon sashimi. The rolls are sliced surgically but presented as a single roll, so the dividing lines between each piece take a bit of ferreting out with the tip of a chopstick.
My favourite is the Ireland roll, so called (I think) because of its green avocado, white rice and orange chilli mayo. The orange condiment seems to be a favourite ingredient, dotted in a line on the side of the plate like mayo Morse code.
The dragon roll is not a hit. The first bite is reminiscent of an Irish summer, but only in the sense of a picnic-bag mix-up where someone left the Tupperware open and the roadside strawberry purchase got tumbled up with the cucumber sandwiches. With added tempura prawn, and avocado and mayo.
The dragon roll features macerated Wexford strawberries, which are a great thing. Just not here. With sushi rice. We try combinations of soy and chilli and finally settle on a slice of pickled ginger, which makes the strawberry almost work. But then pickled ginger makes almost anything almost work.
Similarly, the kiwi on the Hawaii roll is fruit in the wrong place. In both instances the fruit is good, at a perfect point of ripeness, but it’s a headscratcher to figure out why it’s there. There’s a size thing going on here too. The slices are mouth-filling to the chipmunk gathering nuts for a long winter, leading to Carry On-style jokes about not being able to fit things in. One-bite sushi is one bite for a reason.
The unagi, or leathery brown eel, on sweet sushi rice is good, and scrolls of salmon sashimi are fine, if cut a little too thickly. But then we get to the microgreens, which come in what looks like a clump of cooked tuna but tastes like a growing medium, or the kitchen roll you might have used to clean the mushrooms. We figure this was probably not designed to be eaten. The microgreens themselves have so little flavour they could be anything. The verdict from Garden Shed man delivered with acerbic northern tartness? “That’s something for the brown bin.”
We finish with an inoffensive dessert of mochi ice cream – gelatinous blisters of rice filled with ice creams: mango in the middle and vanilla coloured ones either side.
Fudo Izakaya is an offshoot of Susu Izakaya, another Japanese bar where small plates of different things come with wine. Given how good those dumplings were, I’d like to see it expand its focus on the crispy, crunchy, hot, sweet and sour school of tasty things to go with your drinks. Novelty sushi might get customers through the door the first time, but it needs more to get them back again.
Dinner for three with a carafe of wine came to €97.50
- Verdict Kudos for breaking new ground in this location. But less of the novelty sushi and more small plates, please.
- Facilities Small and shared
- Food provenance None apart from the Wexford strawberries
- Music Good
- Wheelchair access No
- Vegetarian options Limited