The Sultan in Cork serves delicious street food and classic home cooking
It can be difficult to get consumers out of their comfort zone, away from city centers where hospitality establishments traditionally cluster, always seeking to keep the high-heeled toppling from bar stool to dining table to an absolute minimum. dinner passing by the chariot to the house. .
Sultan, the Lebanese-Moroccan restaurant of Tunisian Ali Sultan, breaks with the trend, away from the heart of the city, in a business center unit on a three-lane artery along the quays. With too much traffic and too little passing, especially after dusk, he has to work hard not to be out of sight, out of mind.
Earlier in the day, we visit Sultan’s lockdown branch. The Marina Market was a Leeside’s Covid phenomenon, a giant warehouse in the industrial hub of the docklands, housing a wide range of street food stalls. A hugely popular destination when everything else was closed, it’s been a little quieter since hospitality fully reopened, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens next. Today we’re here for Sultan’s take on French tacos (singular, despite the ‘S’).
A French taco is a mutated hybrid of panini, kebab and burrito, usually including halal meat and apparently originating from North African community fast food establishments in or around Lyon, France at the turn of this century. It is now one of the most popular fast food dishes in all of France, with French taco chains sprouting up across the country. It has also become a cultural center.
For the far-right nativist National Front – which once launched the slogan “ni kebab, ni burger, vive le ham-beurre” (“Neither kebab nor burger, long live the ham-butter sandwich”) – it is a travesty visited French cuisine and, by extension, the French way of life. To its myriad, not-quite-crazy fans, French Tacos is a cheeky newbie, cocking a very snub to the smothering of classic French cuisine. It’s a monstrous beast, though; Prepare yourselves!
The wheat tortilla is coated with harissa (hot pepper paste from North Africa), spicy tomato ketchup, mayonnaise and triangles of melted cream cheese. Next are the cheese slices, blue cheese sauce and caramelized onion. Ali offers three meat options: chicken, spicy merguez or lamb kebab. We mix, chicken and sausage. Then the piece de resistance: freshly fried fries. Two more sauces, taco and garlic, roll them up like a burrito and heat them up in a panini press.
Sin upon dietary sin, my cardiologist would have stroked his wallet, but I brought in my lab rat, 14-year-old son #2, armed with an insatiable, indiscriminate teenage appetite.
He goes into it with boastful assurance. Mouth too full to speak, eyebrows arched in surprised appreciation. I gather courage, take a bite. Its appeal is immediately apparent, a primal response that crushes guilt-ridden hesitation, absolutely nailing the fast food formula of deadly addictive sugar, salt and fat-laden fried foods, the bonanza for drunken, deeply hungover teenagers. and eternally hungry. I can’t resist a second bite before waving the white flag.
On a freezing day, Moroccan Spicy Chicken Soup is the culinary equivalent of a stove. Rustic, textured, it runs the gamut: earthy legumes (lentil and chickpeas) and vermicelli; sweet tomato and onion; the pungent buzz of garlic; and an array of hot spices; the final vinaigrette of fresh parsley, lemon juice and dried mint is a delicious, bubbly coda.
The Sultan mothership begins with a shisha lounge that leads to a long, narrow room, laid out like a cheerful casbah, mundane ceiling tiles cleverly hidden behind billowing veils of shimmeringly colored fabrics.
Starters are nice but I’m really here for the treasure that is classic Maghreb home cooking. Tunisian lamb tagine is a dish for the ages. A sweet, tender and succulent meat that comes off the bone of lamb shank, a brilliant stew of carrots, potatoes and chickpeas, topped with fresh parsley, mixed pickles on the side and mounds of couscous to soak up a healing, spicy broth. It’s BYOB so I pair it with an excellent Bergerac (Tour des Gendres, Cantalouette Rouge, from lecaveau.ie), dark fruits and gripping tannins, a sublime counterpoint and we end with fine sweet baklava pastries. I would highly recommend the guilty pleasure of a French taco, but this chicken soup and tonight’s tagine is the real deal, delicious nutrition for the mind, body and soul, ultimate comfort food on the periphery of the comfort zone.
- Food: 7
- Serving: 7.5
- Value: 8
- Atmosphere: 8
Tab: €125 (excluding tip)