A quarter of a century ago, in the nineties, Ireland was far from being a multicultural society and ‘ethnic’ in restaurant terms almost always meant a Chinese. It is a completely different story today, we have a bewildering choice of world cuisines, including many far better Asian offerings than before. One cuisine that was slow to establish was Japanese, initially the arrival of Wagamama caused some excitement in Dublin back in 1998, and, although sushi bars are now popular both here and in the capital, the idea of dining out on almost exclusively cold food remains strange to many Irish people.
When RAW - sushi in the sky opened a few years ago at the Radisson Blu Hotel and Spa, we already had a couple of well established Japanese restaurants in town. RAW is very much a one-man operation, Hisashi Kumagai (Kuma ), the gifted Japanese-born chef, has earned a well deserved loyal following. Kuma is no stranger to Galway, having been part of the culinary success of St Cleran’s Country House in Craughwell for several years before it closed.
He has delighted us all, whether old sushi hands or new to the genre, with his food, even bringing a respected Georgina Campbell Award for Ethnic Restaurant of the Year to Galway in 2016. On Friday October 20, we enjoyed traditional Japanese sushi perfectly paired with the wines of the Rías Baixas at the restaurant on the fourth floor of the hotel. A dramatic location with views overlooking the city and Galway Bay makes an interesting setting for this unusual restaurant. With modern furnishings in purple tones, crisp white table linen and napkins, and gleaming glass, it makes for a unique dining experience. The room is spacious and airy with views of Lough Atalia, which on the rainy evening we visited provided a dramatic backdrop to our meal.
Wines from Spain partnered with RAW at Radisson Blu Hotel to create a tasting dinner showcasing the popular wines alongside the foods of Japan. The wines of the Spanish Denominación de Origen Rías Baixas delivered a delicious blend of minerality and tropicality that paired beautifully with fresh light dishes of seafood, nigiri, and maki.
Food and wine writer Leslie Williams matched a selection of exceptional Albariño wines with a series of Kuma's signature dishes. Featuring cured wild halibut, six hour marinated duck with julienne daikon, daigaku imo, and teriyaki-balsamic and traditional Japanese soups and desserts, paired with a selection of wines from the three main sub-regions of Rías Baixas. Williams gave us a true insight into the exceptional wines while we experienced how the Japanese dishes brougt the intense aromas of the wines to the fore, showcasing the different styles from the saltier notes of the coastal areas to the riper, more aromatic, flavours found in the warmer inland areas. The evening was both informative and delicious — tasting evenings like this are always good value and well worth keeping your eyes peeled for.
If you have not been to RAW, Kuma is an exceptional chef, a must visit for fans of Japanese food at its best. Radisson Blu Hotel and Spa, Lough Atalia Road, Galway. Phone: +353 91 538 300. Email: [email protected].