October 5, 2011

Ukiyo Bar: Allergy Friendly Menu incl. Gluten Free, Dairy Free & Vegan Listings

The time has come to talk about one of my old favourite restaurant venues in Dublin. I love Asian food (mainly Japanese, Thai and Korean) but Korean is on top lately. Since their opening I have frequented Ukiyo Bar on Exchequer Street. The prices have never been too steep and I could always navigate my way around the menu to get something Dairy Free at least, but as all things come and go in my life I hadn’t actually darkened Ukiyo’s doors for quite some time so you can imagine my nostalgic glee when my sister suggested Ukiyo as our lunch venue last Sunday in between two plays from the Ulster Bank Theatre Festival!

I was surprised to find that Ukiyo had updated their menu to include food allergy navigation for vegan, coeliac and some dairy free (hip, hip hooray!!)
- Dairy Free
- Gluten Free / Coeliac
- Egg Free
- Vegetarian
- Vegan

...but I have a few very important warnings to highlight...

1st: The lunch menu on the weekends is heavily Mexican in feel and does not contain the food allergic options of the evening menu, with exception of the Caterpillar Sushi Roll which can be Vegan on request. However, the restaurant was quiet and our server was extremely lovely and managed to get us a meal from the dinner menu (thank you, thank you).

2nd: Although the menu states some dishes to be Vegan and/or Coeliac friendly Ukiyo request you to notify the staff if you are Coeliac so they can substitute any soya sauce with its Gluten Free partner Tamari.

3rd: Even though the menu only asks you to notify re: Coeliac and Gluten Free needs, I think that it is pretty clear that they need notification of Vegan too as some of the items clearly state egg, etc. as ingredients which can easily be left out.

4th, and most important (and heartbreaking): The dessert menu had two loudly labelled ‘Dairy Free’ desserts of Ginger Chocolate Ganache and Orange Chocolate Ganache both from Natasha’s living food range which means that they are also vegan, raw, gluten free and free from refined sugar! (€6.50). My sister and I were oh so excited to be having such a lovely meal and to be presented with the option of Dairy Free desserts that we decided to split a Ginger Chocolate Ganache. This is where our experience dampened... The second server, who was really really nice, and beautiful, was sadly not very fluent in English and although we ordered the ‘Dairy Free Ginger Ganache’ we were presented with the Ganache on a plate adorned with ice cream and syrups. We tried to ask if the side was Dairy Free as well but we were only told that it was a decoration (which we found somewhat funny). We opted to eat what we could and leave and touching parts in case the dessert was not actually fully dairy free as listed.

When our table was cleared both servers commented on our left ice cream so we tried again with the second server who said that, no, it was indeed dairy-FILLED...!

This is one of the most frustrating of allergy free events. Yes, the dish is originally Dairy Free or Allergy Friendly but the staff don’t fully understand why.. or forget.. or can’t answer our questions... anyway.

We made the right decision by surgically removing the contaminated pieces and very thoroughly enjoyed the remainder - seriously! It was truly DELICIOUS! But the moral of the story is yet again, that you can NEVER ask too many questions.. and if in doubt ask to speak to another server, or the owner, or the chef.... but always remember to be polite and friendly because our server did want to understand, she just couldn’t... and food allergies are not the norm, and even though someone seems to be in the know, they frequently aren’t and it is your health and well being so you are in charge of looking after it.

And if you go to Ukiyo, remember to make your dietary needs clear and if you order the ganache, ask for it to arrive without decoration! Because it truly is worth it.

Oh, and although we only indulged in Bi Bim Bap -yum yum yum!- (rice, assorted vegetable, a fried egg, soy sauce and spicy goghu jang chilli sauce designed to be combined at your table)

my sister would like me to recommend her other house favourite of Chap Che (marinated sweet potato noodle pan fried with vegetables and rice) which can also be made Vegan, but not Gluten Free.

In addition to that which is labelled, simple dairy allergies or egg only allergies can be easily avoided with some sensible caution and questioning from remaining items on the menu.

Do Venture, but venture with caution, always!

Ukiyo Bar
Location: 7-9 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2
Tel: (01) 633 4071
Web: www.ukiyobar.ie
Opening Times: mon-thurs, 12:00 - 16:00, evening 17:00 - 24:00; fri-sun 12:00 - 15:30, evening 17:00 - 03:00am

Ukiyo Bar is also featured on www.TravelGlutenFree.co.uk

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