There’s been quite a buzz about 777 since it opened on George’s Street and I’d been really looking forward to eating there after reading their menu online. Such is its popularity that even though we booked nearly a month in advance we could still only get a table for 8.30 on a Saturday night; granted the reservation was for eight (it ended up being six on the night) but I was still somewhat surprised.
The venue itself used to be an old TV shop and is quite small: if there are just two of you you’ll very likely be seated at the bar as the tables are kept for larger groups. I found our table to be a little cramped but it wasn’t too bad; the music was also very loud but thankfully it was turned down as the night progressed or maybe our ears just became accustomed to the volume levels!
The great thing about eating with a big group of friends is that you get to try loads of things from the menu: pretty much everyone ordered something different so I got to taste about ten dishes in total. You can either choose to have a standard starter and main course or you can pick a few (the recommended number is three) dishes from the starters list tapas style. The majority of us went for the former option with two opting for the latter.
To start I had the calamari Yucateco which was a salad of squid and pineapple; there was a lovely smoky chilli coating that slightly overshadowed the flavour of the squid but still worked well with the sweetness of the fruit and a tangy lime vinaigrette. Other highlights were a generous plate of crabmeat and mango and a wonderful taquito (small corn shells) with chorizo, cheese and habañero salsa. There was also an excellent avocado tempura, a really clever way of using a vegetable that is very rarely cooked.
For mains, I had the braised beef short rib, sweet potato and mole; I’d been really looking forward to this one as I’ve never seen mole (one of the great sauces of the world) on a menu in Ireland before although I have made it at home. Thankfully I wasn’t disappointed, it was deep and rich with just the right amount of chocolate (but not sweet at all) and packed full of umami; the sweet potato had been spiked with smoked bacon too and it permeated the dish wonderfully. As a side order I got the elote: corn covered in cheese and lime that had been grilled over charcoal till it was almost burnt and it was fabulous. My friend chose the pork ribs which were wonderful, when he lifted one up by the bone the meat just slid off the other end. There was also some tremendous pork belly replete with crackling and a chipotle coleslaw and we’d another taquito this time containing an unctuous filling of slowly simmered pork and tomatillo salsa.
Most of us were too full to order dessert but we did get a pineapple sorbet and some icecream, the sorbet could have been sweeter and icecream was pretty uninspiring. I’d been looking forward to trying the custard flan with apples and walnuts but unfortunately they’d sold out; it wasn’t really a major issue though as we’d all eaten our fill.
For drinks we just stuck to beers, the Brooklyn Brewery Lager being the main choice although there was also Peroni on the menu if for some reason you wanted something bland and characterless. Some of the girls had cocktails, the Salsa Noche with tequila, prosecco and blackberry being particularly good. I also took advantage of the ludicrously extensive tequila menu (there must be close to 100) and ordered the Tapatio Reservas de la Excelencia (€19.00) which was unlike any tequila I’d ever had: as it is aged in oak for several years it had the most intense vanilla aroma and was as smooth as a good whiskey. Although for that price, it would want to be.
Service was friendly and efficient especially given how busy the restaurant was; the food for me was some of the best I have eaten in the past twelve months and it’s great to see Mexican cuisine being showcased without resorting to clichés like burritos and enchiladas. The flavours are bold and inventive whilst still retaining a great balance and that is a testament to the quality of the chefs in kitchen. The bill worked out at around €65 a head and this included a service charge of 10 per cent.