Friday, October 1, 2010

Pub Fare at Hibernia.

IRISH CHEESECAKE:  Tastes like Baileys
  • IRISH CHEESECAKE: Tastes like Bailey's
I’ve had a lot of friends tell me I’d just adore Hibernia. And I should — I mean, an Irish style pub close to where I live, somewhere I could enjoy live music with curry chips? Yeah, that should be right up my alley.
But my schedule lately hasn’t allowed me to make it over there. Every time I’ve been in town for a few days my restaurant schedule’s been taken up by breakfasts and by obligations here and there. Which is why Hibernia’s been open nearly two months and until last night I had yet to darken its door. But the hubster and I finally got free for a date might and went to try it.
The menu’s big. There’s a lot on it, and thankfully our waiter fetched us drinks and didn’t pester us too much about making up our minds.
MEATY:  Oscar Wilde Garlic Mushrooms
  • MEATY: Oscar Wilde Garlic Mushrooms
One thing I saw right off the bat that I wanted to try was the Oscar Wilde Garlic Mushrooms ($7.49). I held off on suggesting them because my husband’s just not a big mushroom fan. I suppose the description including the words “Irish cream stout reduction” won him over — he does love a good stout.
Let me tell you what — they were better than even I expected. These ‘shrooms were well soaked in the sauce and flavored with savory spices, and I’m pretty sure there was some deal of Worchestershire sauce there, too. They were rich, meaty things that I coulda eaten by themselves for a meal. The one disappointment to me was that the menu said they’d be served with Irish brown bread — but we received little garlicky toast rounds instead. Maybe they were out. I was too busy sopping up that cream stout sauce to mention it.
FISH & CHIPS:  Hibernia style
  • FISH & CHIPS: Hibernia style
I was going to go for the Fish and Chips ($8.79) but changed my mind when I saw something else on the menu — which was fine, because Paul had come in with the singular thought of eating Fish and Chips. Now, I’ve noticed ramblings about the authenticity of said dish lately, and frankly I couldn’t care less. It’s a classic. Chips at Hibernia are eighth-inch thick rounds of potato fried up with herbs and coarse salt, and they’re yummy. The fish itself (of course I tried them off his plate — what sorta wife would I be if I didn’t?) was a nicely flaky whitefish, a little undersalted but the golden batter made up the difference. He doused his with a good deal of malt vinegar, but I didn’t see the point. The creamy tartar that comes with it works okay for it, but I liked the fish on their own.
CURRY GRAVY:  Chicken & chips
  • CURRY GRAVY: Chicken & chips
I had passed up this repast because I saw curry on the menu. You can get Chicken, Vegetable or Beef Curry served up over rice pilaf or chips for $8.29. Now, a word of warning here. Yes, there are curry spices involved in the preparation of this dish. But Irish curry (any British Isle curry, for that matter) is not Indian curry. It’s more of a gravy than anything else, a thickened roux with curry powder in it. And Hibernia gets it right. It’s tangy and the chicken bits were fall-apart soft. Along with the chips there were long green beans, yellow and orange carrots and red bell pepper in the mix. A very filling pub meal.
BEHOLD THE POWER: Of cheesecake
  • BEHOLD THE POWER: Of cheesecake
Which is why I stopped and boxed up half of it. I had seen something on the menu I just had to try. That was the Irish Cheesecake ($3.89), “Baked with Bailey’s Irish cream, Bailey’s Irish whipped cream and a Banana Brule.” We shared one — I’m guessing the “baked with” meant the whipped cream was in the cheesecake. On first bite I was smacked in the face with all the flavor of a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream without the annoying smack of downing alcohol. It was gorgeously flavored. Paul really liked the Bailey’s soaked graham cracker crust but didn’t care for the bananas; I adored the bananas but could take or leave the crust. The bananas had been topped with sugar and torch for that same sort of crust you get on cream brule, and I was all about that.
We have other things we want to try. I like the idea of the Egg Mayonnaise ($4.19), a pair of eggs dusted with spices and topped with Hibernia house sauce served up with brown bread. There are plenty of sandwiches — including a Reuben — and I do want to give the Cottage Pie a whirl. And, for those who are wondering, yes there’s a cheese dip on the menu, White Queso ($5.89) served up with tortilla chips.
I’m hoping Hibernia can pull it off. It’s a crazy location on the hill above Rodney Parham. But there was a pretty good crowd there while we ate, and the musician who came in to play was very good natured with the kids (okay, I know they’re in their early 20s, but they seemed like kids to me) who were drunkenly joshing him. Gotta go back again, once I get off the road from all this fair stuff.
You’ll find Hibernia at 9700 Rodney Parham Road in Little Rock. (501) 246-4340 or check out the website.

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