When the Irish economic crisis hit, even a Michelin star and a celebrated reputation couldn’t save the chef Dylan McGrath’s fine-dining restaurant, Mint, which closed in spring 2009. Making a comeback with a more casual approach, he opened Rustic Stone in August 2010, emphasizing (gasp) healthy cuisine, free of the fatty crutches of butter and cream — and in a location bordering the pub-filled Temple Bar district, where indulgence is king.
The clinical message of the menu, though, is quickly dispelled by the food itself, which champions epicurean standards in flavor and presentation, featuring robust ingredients meticulously composed, like skinless baby sweet peppers stuffed with avocado and tuna tartare, and beet-root broth with orange sections.
The “stone” in Rustic Stone refers to large basalt slabs that are heated to around 600 degrees, on which diners can sear steak or fish as they like, a system the chef says provides flavor without his having to resort to rich sauces; instead, entrees are accented by low-calorie relishes or chutneys.
The crowd tends toward bohemian couples and female twosomes, which comes as no surprise to Mr. McGrath (below). “I wanted to design a restaurant aimed at women,” he said. “Women pick restaurants and us guys do as we’re told.”
Whichever your gender, the décor is designed for comfort: wood-tiled walls, exposed wood tables and, in the downstairs dining room, a mural of trees on the ceiling all generate an earthy aura.
But the primary appeal of the restaurant rests on the plates; Mr. McGrath’s menu manages to serve calorie ascetics, the gluten-allergic and the indulgent (there’s a burger as well as a warm chocolate cake).
“Rustic Stone is about choice,” said Mr. McGrath, who currently stars as a judge in the first season of “MasterChef Ireland.” “Who wants to eat everything healthy?”
Rustic Stone, 17 South Great George’s Street; (353-1) 707-9596; rusticstone.ie. Average cost for two people, without drinks or tip, is about 90 euros, or $117 at $1.31 to the euro.ELAINE GLUSAC
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