Thursday, October 21, 2010

Danté's Gastropub: the first pitstop in a quest to find a good place to eat in Tralee

Where is a good place to eat in Tralee? This is a question I ask myself whenever I am in the town. Despite decades of visiting Tralee on a regular basis, I have yet to find many cafés or restaurants that I would recommend to friends.

I have a particular fondness for Brat's on Milk Market Lane, a wonderfully ramshackle vegetarian café, but I am not always in the mood for and nor am I often in time to eat there. (It has very short opening hours.) So, the quest continues. Where is a good place to eat in Tralee?

A month or so ago, I heard about a new opening in the town. Danté's Bar - on the corner of Bridge and Dominick Street - aims to bring the gastropub culture to Tralee. So, when my boyfriend and I found ourselves hungry in the town on Monday, we decided to sample what this new place had to offer.

The menu consists of quality modern gastropub fare. Chicken liver pâté with sourdough, mushroom and rocket risotto, confit duck with red cabbage and mash; the type of food that's filling, comforting and carries a touch of continental sophistication.

I ordered the fish cakes (which were recommended by staff) and my boyfriend ordered the pork belly. His came with Annascaul black pudding and roast peaches. The pork was excellently cooked, with a crispy skin satisfyingly yielding to a melting layer of oozing fat and tender meat. The black pudding added earthy depths of flavour while the peaches lent acidity to the dish. Overall, it was pretty good. I’m sure he’d have it again.
My fishcakes weren’t quite as successful.

They came with a crisp salad, sour cream and a chilli salsa – all good accompaniments. My problem wasn’t with them but with the fishcakes themselves. There was far too much smoked haddock in them, so much in fact that it completely overshadowed any other flavours. The only flavour that could match the haddock in the dish was the chilli in the salsa.

Overall, Danté’s has a lot to commend it. The décor is good, with lots of dark wood and big windows letting in lots of light. The staff are attentive (they overheard us complaining about the loud – and I mean LOUD – hip hop music that was blaring when we walked in, completely at odds with the mid-afternoon relaxed vibe, and immediately changed to something more suitable).

You can order wines by the glass. There’s a good range of teas and coffees.
And best of all, Danté’s offers unbeatable people-watching opportunities. We sat in a big window that overlooked one of Tralee’s busiest streets and speculated about everyone who passed by. Did we like her hairdo? Wasn’t that a weird-looking dog? Would you go out of the house looking like that? It was the best people-watching session I’d had in a long time.

Marks out of ten? I’d say six and a half. Not great, admittedly, but I’ll go back again. I have a feeling this place could get better.
By the way, if you can suggest any places I should try in Tralee, please do so.

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