A Fresh Take on Seafood
From even the most cursory of glances, one can see that Klaw seafood cafe understands the game. The modestly sized nook on Fownes Street, next to the Central Bank, boasts everything even the most relaxed Dublin food enthusiast has come to expect. Comfortable, raised booths line one side of the café complete with Achill Island sea salt and brand-name condiments. The interior design is rich yet muted. The intricate Portuguese tiles encasing the counter are balanced out by the simple deep ocean blue of the walls. An open seafood bar and easy-to-grab kitchen roll round out the laid-back yet undeniably vogue look of the café.
Coming from a typical student diet of burritos and Tesco sandwiches, I was ready to have my taste buds jostled, invigorated and enlightened. What separates Niall Sabongi’s Klaw chain from other seafood bars in Dublin is the Hawaiian staple of poké. Klaw offers many varying combinations of this traditional raw fish salad. The sheltered counters lining the outside of the restaurant are a testament to the relaxed, easy-to-eat nature of the salad bowl. Although hazy summer evenings were a distant yearning on the frigid November afternoon I visited, I could imagine this corner of Temple Bar becoming an Instagram-worthy revelry of seafood exploration when temperatures rise.
Although “Snax” can be bought for €6 on the dinner menu after 4pm, if the €11.50 poké bowl I bought is anything to go by, it won’t satisfy the hunger created by an excruciating five-hour study session in the Ussher. Vegetarian poké bowls dip down to €10 with open sandwiches in the €9 range. However, if you’re looking for a middle-of-the-road meal of your choice like a classic fish and chips, you’d need to be setting a good €15 aside and be certain you’re content with tap water.
I chose tuna on a bed of brown rice accompanied with kimchi, salted pineapple and fried onion topped with gochujang sauce. While I couldn’t easily discern the tuna from the rest due to its blandness, the salted pineapple was a revelation and shows what Klaw does well – making lesser-known flavors accessible and fun. There are not too many other Dublin cafes where I could have chosen a full Korean culinary vibe and while I wish the portion of kimchi had been more generous, I still left with a well-filled stomach. It is noteworthy that poké is cold and the only lukewarm part of the meal was the brown rice.
While Sabongi has not reinvented the game, he has added another small gem to the constantly evolving arena of the Dublin food scene. Although the cafe is not particularly student friendly price wise, it does offer a much-needed break from the soup-and-bread deal in the Buttery, or whichever society you’re currently exploiting for their free meals. With Klaw, even the most reluctant and comfortably narrow-minded of customers can find a seafood classic while still appearing to be together, up-to-date and casually knowledgeable of the most recent food trends – an undoubtedly honourable endeavour.