Flowers on tableflowers smallflowers small back

Ukiyo Bar at the beginning of what turned out to be a full-house for Raw Foods

It’s wonderful what a few fresh wild flowers can do to a room.  We arrived at Ukiyo Bar on Exchequer Street last Sunday night around 7pm, ready for a raw food extravaganza.  The room had been set up with long communal tables, with vases of wild flowers lit up by candlelight.  It was like walking into a country peasant communal feast and immediately gave the night the relaxed, friendly feel that was to follow until we left, full of food and good health, a good five hours later.

We were in Ukiyo for our second Tasting Menu, and the fourth that has been held in Ukiyo since the beginning of the year.  We had enjoyed the Taboo Tasting Menu hosted by ECCAFD.  Tonight was to be an entirely different type of night – a night, in fact, on the complete opposite spectrum of the food chain.  Instead of potentially offensive foods such as Foie Gras and Lamb’s Brains, we were to be treated to an entirely guilt free Raw Food night.  Kind to the environment, kind to your belly.

Natasha’s Living Foods is a one-woman company with a mission to bring raw food to the forefront of the Irish dining landscape.  She was very much a part of the night, an absolute poster girl for the benefits of eating a diet of raw foods.  She seemed to have endless energy, as she bounced around the room checking on everybody, telling us about  the dishes as we were being served, singing jazz songs at towards the end of the night – and this after having foraged in the woods earlier in the day.  As well as twenty shops around the city, her produce is available in The Farmers’ Markets around Dublin including Saturday’s Meeting House Square market.

Natasha had sourced a large amount of her produce from Sonairte an Interactive Ecology Visitors Centre in Co Meath, which she bigged up the centre during her between-course talks.  Looking through the website gave me a sudden urge to head off into the wilderness with wellies and a will for foraging.  It really does look like a remarkable place, with a shop, cafe and gardens, and volunteer placements throughout the summer.

Once we had been seated, the night began with course after course being presented to us alongside our matched wines for each course, for which we paid an extra €20 each.  The tables were communal so we were seated next to strangers as well as people who were familiar from the last Taboo tasting menu night.  It’s always a bonus to share positive experiences with relative strangers – it certainly added to the evening for us.  Especially since we were seated next to Ciaran, the Taboo Chef himself, who helped us to identify some of the more unfamiliar raw ingredients.

We were treated to more mid-course entertainment, this time in the form of poetry from Steven Smith and a live jazz two piece.

Watermelon Square with longans, thin silvers of horseradish with micro greens, fresh ground black pepper and olive oil

Watermelon Square

We kicked off with this beauitfully light and summery Watermelon Square.  The longans are the grape type berry sitting on top of the square.  The mix of flavours weren’t extremely strong, but the over riding impression was one of refreshment and, well, health!  The little flower/plants that you can see on either side of the watermelon square are a type of micro green, which I believe were sourced at Sonairte. They were the most delicious mustard-type peppery little plants that, along with the delicately shredded horseradish, added an extra kick to the dish.

It was paired with a shot of Korean So Ju, which is a Korean Rice Wine.  It was ice cold yet still managed to burn the back of my throat.  Good shit.

Yellow Courgette Pasta with sprouted walnuts and hazel pieces, with marigold, thyme, oregano, mint flowers, fennel and basil leaves, hemp seed hearts, marinated with cold pressed olive oil, lemon and Himalayan crystal salt with a dressing of red pepper and creamed sprouted sunflower seed

courgette pasta front

Isn’t this a beautiful looking plate of food?  The courgettes had been finely sliced and marinated in about a million different delicious juices.  Although they were completely raw, they were soft and floppy while maintaining a perfect amount of crunch.

This was a fantastically nutty, crunchy, colourful, tasty dish.  You can see the pesto and mushroom sauces swirled over the plates – these were packed full of flavour and nuttiness that complimented the courgettes beautifully.  It was a deceptively filling dish and it was as if I could feel the nutrients building up in my system with every mouthful.  Delicious.

courgette pasta side

The edible flowers not only added the spectacular colours to the dish, but their rich taste was the cherry on top of the combination of nutty and fresh flavours.

This was paired with a lovely glass of Vire Clesse Macon Chardonnay ’06.

courgette flower


Nut Cheese Roll wrapped in various olives and sundried tomatoes, with cayenne, cumin, basil and spucy pine nuts and tomato vinaigrette served with garlic chips, purple basil, micro greens and dragon crackers

nut cheese roll

This was a spectacular dish.  Apart from the process of the cheese making, which was fascinating in itself, the tomatoes’ ripeness took this dish up on to another level of tastiness.

While perusing the menu, a few of us at our communal dining table were questioning what Garlic Chips might be and were only slightly disappointed that we weren’t served raw potatoes with some kind of aioli cream.  Instead, the crispy slivers of garlic were much more enjoyable.

cheese roll close-up

The nut roll, which you may be able to tell from the close-up, was a special type of ‘cheese’ which is made by creating Rejuvelac from the water released by sprouted wheatberries.  This liquid (the Rejuvelac) is then used to ferment cashew nuts, which after about five days, produces the nutty cheesy stuff.

Although it had a mildly cheesy taste, its texture was (naturally enough!) closer to tofu than anything dairy like.  No matter, for it was very good indeed, most especially combined with the outer layer of sundried tomatoes and kalamata olives.  Yum.

This  whole dish was really intense.  The zinginess of the sundried tomato and olive nut cheese combined with  the perfectlly ripe tomatoes threw up a surprisingly tangy dish which was an absolute pleasure for the taste buds.

This was paired with an Archidamo ‘Il Meridione’ Primitivo ’05.

Foraged Chiffoned Sweet Cicely Leaves with Wild Foraged and Grown Berries Jostaberries, Red Currant, White Currants, Black Currants and Wild Plums topped with a Wild Water Mint and raw Cacao Nib Cashew Nut Ice Cream drizzled with a deep and dark Raw Chocolate Sauce

berry dessert with chicory leaf

This was to be the beginning of our desserts.  The foraged berries and leaves were found in the wilds of Co Meath.  The textures of these three little ‘ice-creams’ were curiouser and curiouser.

From the left, we started off with the berry sorbet.  Very straightforward, a beautiful colour and beautiful tangy taste.

I believe the other two ‘ice-creams’ were the Raw Cacao Cashew nut ice cream, which were both rather curious.  We were expecting a smooth, creamy texture but instead we were surprised by a coconutty texture, lots of little bits in the mix.  They both tasted slightly odd – probably because of a lack of the usual unhealthy stuff that you find in desserts – but not odd in an unpleasant way, just kind of… peculiar.

The chocolate sauce accompanying this was kick ass.  A few of the punters in the full restaurant demanding more, so delicious was this raw chocolate sauce.  It’s unlike any other kind of sauce, being pure chocolate and almond butter, but instead of being over-powering complimented the three berry and cacao balls.

You can see the wild foraged and grown berries, like the jostaberries, blueberries and red currants sprinkled around the plate, as well as the simply delicious Sweet Cicely Leaves, which looks kind of like a flattened Cyprus Tree.  We were  encouraged to pop the Cicely Leaf into our mouths and enjoy the sweet, aniseedy flavour that came with them.

berry desserts

My favourite part of this dessert was the Sweet Cicely Leaf.  Although I enjoyed the Berry Sorbet, I wasn’t entirely sure about the texture of the other two and, perhaps because I’m not really much of a dessert girl, I didn’t like this as much as the previous courses.  Still, the chocolate sauce, the Berry Sorbet and the Sweet Cicely Leaves ensured that it was still quite a delightful experience.

Cashew Nut Cheese Selection Three different cheeses wrapped in mixed ground peppercorns, fennel flowers, cumin seeds placed on an array of wild foraged and garden grown chenopadicae leaves (Rainbow Chard, Tree Spinach, Fat Hen, Beetroot, Perpetual Spinach, Annual Spinach, Good King Henry) with sprouted wheat and onion flat bread.

cheese selection

This was, for me, the most interesting dish of the evening.  It may not have been the tastiest but it was the most intriguing.  Again, it was working with the nut cheese process, but the different spices coating each cheese led to a very Arabian style dessert.  The cumin and fennel flavours gave it an almost Baklava without the sickeningly gooey sweetness.  See the brown blob to the left of the pretty little purple flowers in front of the cheeses?  That was a kind of sweet oniony currant sticky chutney which went well with the very dry cheeses.

You can see there was a little blob of honey type substance to the left of the last cheese on the right.  This worked alongside the chutney to add a bit of sweetness to the dish, which went extremely well with all the Arabic spices.

We enjoyed a palate cleansing Tour des Gendres Bergerac Rose Malbec ’07.

A selection of Ecstatic Raw Chocolate Delights

chocolates side view

Our final course was a plate of four unbelievably rich pieces of chocolate, made from raw cacao.  There were two hard, rich pieces of chocolate on the right which had beautifully crunchy nutty middles, while the other two pieces were squishy truffly like balls of wonder.

This was served with a fantastic dessert wine, the lovely Zeni Recioto della Valpolicella ’07

chocolate flower

Give this woman a restaurant ASAP!

These special Tasting Menu nights will continue to take place in Ukiyo Bar in the coming months.  It’s a pricey enough treat, as it costs €40 for food and €20 for wine per head (if you go for the matched wine tasting too).  It’s absolutely worth every penny as both nights I’ve experienced have been unique and thoroughly enjoyable.

So if you have the extra cash in your pocket and are looking for a culinary experience slightly left of centre, keep an eye on Ukiyo Bar’s plans of food activity to come.