Dublin Calling

In his novel Ulysses, James Joyce introduces hero Leopold Bloom with a description of the man's appetites: Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls... Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine. The typical Irish supper is the diet of poverty, of potatoes and innards, of cabbage and salted beef. Somewhat amazingly, 100 years later, Irish cooking in this country has come to signify the most authentic of comfort foods. The olde pub is a convivial place where you're not meant to dissect too carefully your shepherd's pie — just shovel it down, basking in fellowship, music, and Guinness. You don't go to the pub to critique your fish and chips — you go to talk art and politics, to flirt and fight.

Happily, at Dubliner (2000 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, 561-630-0590), their new Irish place in Palm Beach Gardens, Rodney Mayo and Scott Frielich (who also own Dada in Delray Beach) offer less visceral fare — no kidneys here! They've taken the concept of "pub" and given it sparkle, tweaking it for an audience of boomers and X-ers — there's valet parking and photos of edgy intellectuals on the walls: Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw. You'll find polished-up Irish standards — smoked poached salmon, Guinness fondue, beef and lamb stew, corned beef and cabbage.

We only sampled appetizers and desserts, but they were mostly hits — chicken drums marinated in a shiny, tart-sweet Guinness and honey glaze ($8.50) were completely addictive; a fresh and sprightly chop-chop salad ($7) composed of frisée, spring mix, and romaine was sprinkled with walnuts and raspberry vinaigrette; Irish corned beef sliders came on miniature burger buns to slather with sweet mustard and horseradish cream. A potato pancake ($6) of fried mashed potatoes served with honey, sour cream, and applesauce didn't suit our New Yorker, but we of Irish ancestry set him straight. By that time, we'd been recognized (full disclosure: I worked for several years as editor of Mayo's magazine, Closer) and the free sweets were arriving fast and furious: our desserts (all $5.50) were pretty fabulous. We particularly loved Grandma's oatmeal cake, which I understand originates from the Irish manager's grandmother, a moist and spicy winter treat; and the banana bread pudding, "steeped in Jameson's whisky for a day." The band climbed up on stage and launched into (authentically not-Irish) Earth, Wind & Fire tunes. Who knew happiness was this easy?

 
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