Meal Ticket: Klaw, Crown Alley, Dublin 2

Despite the delicious oysters and crab claws, Klaw is not a place to linger

   
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Klaw

A quick pre-movie dinner at Klaw does not start well. I’d go so far as to say it’s pretty krap. Talking Heads blare out from the sound system. A seven- piece busking band blares in from the pavement. It’s deafening. We can’t hear each other, the waitress can’t hear us. It takes three attempts to order. Midway through the third attempt, David Byrne’s Psycho Killer starts to feel more like a prediction than a catchy tune. It can only get better, and thankfully it does.

This is a new ramshackle, slightly chaotic seafood shack rather incongruously dropped in the heart of Crown Alley. It’s a long, slender place, just enough room for a counter on one side and a couple of small high tables on the other. When diners reach double figures, it’s crowded.

Down the back in an open kitchen, they’re shucking and cracking and plating raw and chilled shellfish for a menu that includes three kinds of oyster, available naked, dressed or torched; half-pints of Atlantic prawns with a brandy-spiked Marie Rose (€9.50); crab (or krab, as unfortunately the K spelling kontinues) served whole (€12), on toast (€10) or a platter of claws with a yuzu aioli (€10). There are lobsters in the shell (€16 for half) or on rolls (€14) and a rather impressive-looking seafood platter (€38) with lobster, crab, prawns and four oysters.

We opt for a round of oysters and choose Achill, although there’s also Galway Bay and Waterford. They’re €2 a pop (€2.50 dressed, €3 torched). They’re very, very good. Fat and fresh, served on ice in a large silver platter, and despite the eardrum-perforating din, they transport you to the sea. There’s just a squeeze of lemon on the naked fellas, while the dressed ones are “bloody mary”-style – with some chunks of chopped tomato on top (“more caprese than bloody mary” is one quip). There’s no Tabasco provided, but there’s some on the end of the bar if you go on the hunt.

The torched oysters are quite the production. They’re sitting on rock salt, in a platter suspended by chains while our very excitable waiter brandishes a blow torch with the slightly reckless glee of a 12-year-old who’s found his dad’s lighter. Bacon lardons and a pool of Worcestershire sauce bubble and spit on top of the oysters. Unfortunately, this looks and sounds better than it tastes. The bacon feels somewhat rubbery compared to the oyster, and the three salty flavours fight rather than work together.

A platter of crab claws is better. Half-a-dozen meaty Lambay claws come with a pail of buttered and salted toast – although you’ll need more – and the cracking of shell and picking of meat is a satisfying endeavour. There’s a delicate yuzu aioli to dip your spoils in (we squeezed more lemon in to give it more of a kick) and it’s a fun, messy way to eat. Some good-looking bowls of chowder pass us, served with brown bread, but there’s no time to try more.

This isn’t a place to linger anyway. It’s ideal for a lunch, or even better, a really tasty start to an evening, before heading on for a leisurely main course elsewhere. There’s a decent selection of beers and wines by the glass, plus a deal online for three oysters and a glass of bubbles for €10 until the end of September. They don’t take cards yet, so come with cash. One major quibble though – there’s no finger bowl or hand wipes provided, and no bathroom to wash your hands, so your Klaw experience lingers a little longer than you might like.