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Mi Casa, Smithfield: Tapas and a fun vibe in the second-coolest neighbourhood in the world

Reasonably priced small plates in a buzzy room

Mi Casa
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Address: 6 Queen St, Smithfield, Dublin 7, D07 YN15
Telephone: 01 817 4001
Cuisine: Spanish
Cost: €€€

I haven’t had a Bloody Mary in years. Stanley Tucci has us all hypnotised into drinking Negronis, so when I’m confronted with a Carlingford oyster on ice (€3.95) with an Alice in Wonderland-sized jar of Bloody Mary – which is sealed with a cork and just missing the “drink me” label – I’m not sure whether I should pour it over the large plump oyster or knock it right back. In fairness they call it a shot, but I try it both ways.

I’ve had oysters topped with Bloody Mary granita before, which is a clever pairing as there’s something quite wonderful about the briny oyster, the umami notes of the tomato juice and the hit of Tabasco. I am now all in for the shots approach.

Time Out recently declared Smithfield in Dublin as the second-coolest neighbourhood on the planet, which has led to a considerable number of raised Irish eyebrows. But Benburb and Queen Street have certainly been giving it socks in an effort to achieve world domination, with Matsukawa, Fish Shop and Frank Ryan’s pub with the Richie Buckley Quartet on a Thursday night.

Mi Casa, the newly opened tapas restaurant from Karolina Albuzyte-Komaromi and Imre Komaromi, the people behind PHX bistro, is in the compact premises that was once home to the more formal Fish Shop restaurant and, most recently, Vegan Sandwich Co.

Very wisely, they took the soft opening approach, ironing out the wrinkles with family and friends rather than expecting the punter to fund the learning curve. That said, I will always cut a newly opened restaurant a bit of slack if I darken the door soon after the shutters have lifted.

We’ve been told that dishes might arrive together (although good luck with that as there’s limited real estate on the high tables), so we take the strategic approach, ordering three plates at a time from a menu that is divided into nibbles, small plates, sides and sweets. The most expensive items, an 8oz chuck shoulder with chimichurri, and the cheese plate with truffle honey (I suggest ditching the “truffle” honey), clock in at €18.95.

The wine list has 11 options by the glass, and while there are some interesting producers like Éric Texier and Marcel Lapierre, it is in little danger of being classified as a wine bar. More additions to the list are on the way, I am told. Our Bertaine et Fils Pinot Noir (€34) works nicely for the evening.

Pimientos de Herbón (€7.95), those delicious green peppers that pack an intermittent punch of chilli heat, are charred and piping hot. So too are the patatas bravas (€6.95) which are nicely crisp, drizzled with bravas sauce (a little bit more would be good) and a bowl of aioli in the middle. Everything here is cooked to order, not reheated, and the action and smoke from the open kitchen is testimony to it. As is often the case in these small restaurants, an upgrade to the extraction system would be worthwhile.

Arroz (€16.95) with prawns and mussels is not quite what I had expected. Rather than terracotta coloured rice imbued with head juices and bisque, it is closer to a buttery risotto in a herbal green hue. It is tasty, but I would have preferred the headier Spanish approach. Likewise with the confit potato and herb tortilla (€11.95), which is chunks of potato and lots more of the green herbs, with not much eggy-ness. It would not be mistaken for a Spanish omelette in a line-up.

The crispy skin cod (€15.95), sitting on a bed of orzo with chorizo, is substantial and nicely cooked. It would certainly work as a main course if you preferred to take the more conventional three-course route to dining here.

We finish with two desserts, a burnt Basque cheesecake (€8.95) with a quenelle of mascarpone cream in a puddle of caramel sauce, and a creative take on an affogato (€9.95), an espresso Martini with vanilla ice-cream, which is quite delicious.

Nearly all the dishes have Spanish names, but in style, it’s Spanish cooking with an emphasis on the “ish”. The food is tasty, the room is buzzy, the service is charming and it all feels very Stoneybatter/Smithfield in vibe. It’s a fun place to be and will no doubt find itself booked out in the burgeoning tradition of smart restaurants in this cool neighbourhood.

Dinner for two with a bottle of wine was €116.60.

THE VERDICT: Tasty tapas in a buzzy room

Music: Aretha Franklin, Barry White, Paulo Nutini and U2

Food provenance: Wrights of Marino, Market Butchers, Keelings

Vegetarian options: Patatas bravas, vegan croquettes, cheese plate, burrata, tortilla, pan con tomato and olives

Wheelchair access: No accessible room or toilet

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