Cannon's Blackthorn is Axell's castle.
It could be year-round St. Patrick's Day at Cannon's Blackthorn, a warm and friendly place, full of dark wood, exposed brick and the occasional song.
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Families, groups and regulars abound. The live music and lyrics run to "The Black Velvet Band" and "Back Home in Derry." A sign immortalizes the Ship Seafood Restaurant, "the original three course dinner, only one shilling"; a poster, Irish writers; the taps, Guinness and Harp.
Enter Axell Urrutia, bearing corned beef-and-cabbage egg rolls, lobster shepherd's pie and berries-and-banana quesadillas. The result: frequently creative, always a good time.
Urrutia was chef at Miami Grand and Copenhagen, departed Rockville Centre restaurants. He oversees a new kitchen with imagination and wit, tweaking traditional pub dishes, keeping others, mostly succeeding.
A few steps up from the centerpiece bar is a dining room painted deep red, with white accents. It can be curtained off from the bar scene, but shouldn't be. Some tables have a grand view of the festivities.
Your own celebrating could begin with shrimp poached in Irish ale, for a generous cocktail; or a trio of husky mini-burgers with Cheddar cheese, which you can intensify with a thick slices of Irish bacon.
Urrutia also cooks juicy "Hong Kong B.B.Q." lamb chops with charred corn sauce; plump, beer-battered shrimp "lollipops" ready for a dip in wasabi-laced tartar sauce; and savory Cheddar-potato croquettes with applewood-smoked bacon cream.
But those promising corned beef-and-cabbage egg rolls are on the dry side, despite spicy carrot sauce and mustard aioli. And the "creamy Gaelic risotto" with a "whiskey splash" and a crown of enoki mushrooms makes you think the distance from Dublin to Milan is more than 878.25 miles. Skip the fried mozzarella and provolone, too.
Things improve mightily with the double-cut roasted pork chop paired with scallion mashed potatoes and blue cheese-sparked applesauce; and the roasted chicken with truffle-mashed potatoes.
The chef fashions first-class fish and chips, made with cod; and exceptional shepherd's pie, starring lobster. The more familiar rendition, with ground lamb and sirloin under the potato crust, and the stout-braised lamb shank deserve your attention. Seared Irish salmon with "wild mushroom Marsala" and "bangers and mash," bland sausages with mashed spuds, don't.
For a clever dessert, enjoy the lush berries-and-banana quesadilla rather than the overorchestrated carrot cake; the spirited bananas Foster instead of the half-baked Alaska; chocolate cake as opposed to eggnog gelato. The fortifying Irish coffee contains Jameson whiskey. The cappuccino is respectable. And there may be a fusion fantasy in the works somewhere.
Cannon's Blackthorn is located at 49 N. Village Ave., Rockville Centre, 516-594-1222, cannonsblackthornrvc.com