As the review tab of the blog will tell you, I’m working my way through Dublin 1’s Asian eateries. Having spent a considerable amount of time in the north inner city in years gone by, it is thoroughly refreshing to see it with a new lease of life and this is something I never tire of. I had heard good things about Kimchi and having not eaten much Korean food before/the prospect of pickled vegetables featuring heavily- I was eager to try it.
Myself and a friend arrived to a fairly busy restaurant for midweek and took our seats. It is an interesting set up. There are Korean bits of artwork on the wall and a few of these proved to be somewhat unsettling to my dining companion. We started with four chicken dumplings which were very tasty. Crisp and with a delicate interior, they were heavily flavoured and we were just sorry there weren’t a few more on the plate.
Chicken with some lurking pickles…
I opted for Dakgalbi. Pan fried chicken, in a chilli sauce. It was served with three ‘side dishes’ and some cabbage kimchi as well as some steamed rice. The side dishes consisted of some fried tofu, pickled bean sprouts and pickled cucumber. The cucumber was by far the best, providing a sharp bite of contrast to the chicken. The sprouts didn’t benefit from whatever treatment they had received and myself and tofu had a falling out some years ago, and any hope of a rekindling of that relationship is unfortunately misplaced. I enjoyed the dish, but it was a little one-dimensional after a while.
The other main at the table was Bulgogi, which thanks to a helpful asterisk on the menu informed us it was a signature dish. It was a dish of thinly sliced beef, and had a nice flavour (soy sauce and Korean seasoning.) My partner in dining felt it lacked any wow factor, and wasn’t sure the side dishes were in any way connected to it.
With 2 beers and some basic service the bill came to €42 ish. Kimchi is not bad, but nothing special.
People often ask me what my favourite restaurant is. If I had to choose, it’s a place I ate in on my J1 in New York. Nha Trang is a Vietnamese restaurant on Baxter Street, just off Canal Street. I talk about it in my New York food guide. It’s a NY institution at this stage. Dublin had been lacking places to get my Vietnamese fix, as the commute to Nha Trang is slightly prohibitive. Fear no more, as Pho Viet has opened on Dublin’s Parnell Street.
Prawns in a see-through number….
I ate with one of my regular partners in dining, the confirmed foodie. I must state at this point that the staff were very good. While I was waiting for the confirmed foodie to arrive, I chatted with them and they were very willing to explain what to order from the menu and how best to enjoy/eat certain dishes. The menu is compact- something I like to see.
I opted for Goi Cuon, fresh Vietnamese spring rolls. Prawns, mint and veg wrapped in a soft rice roll. This was a fresh and zingy start to the meal. Sarah had the Banh Xeo. A crispy rice pancake with pork, prawns and vegetables inside. This was served with some lettuce and mint along with a dipping sauce. It was very delicious.
For my main course I opted for Bun Bo Hue. A spicy noodle soup, with sliced beef and pork. It was a miserable enough evening in Dublin and this soup was the perfect antidote. It had heat, a variety of cuts of meat and was a very generous portion. Sarah had Pho Ga, a chicken noodle soup. Again she chose very wisely. Her dish was another warming soup. Richly spiced with delicate slivers of chicken, noodles and assorted greens. Our mains were served with a plate of bean sprouts, chilli slices and herbs if you wanted to modify your dish in any way.
Throughout the meal the staff flitted around and were very keen to make sure we were enjoying our meal. I had seen that they did Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk. I wanted to try it. After some teething problems (read: spilling the coffee) as I figured out how the filter worked- this capped off a great meal.
Pho Viet is another gem on Parnell Street and is fantastic value. The total for 2 courses each, a coke and a coffee was €33. My advice, go there soon. Before Dublin finds out.
After my first foray into the Chinese restaurants on Parnell Street- I was eager to sample another. A great blog for all things food-related in Dublin is Stitch and Bear. I have dined out on foot of a few recommendations from Joanne’s site and the Mandarin House became my next target.
I ventured in with Shane- my partner in crime from my London and Brussels posts. He was back in Dublin for a brief stint and is always willing to try something different.
After being seated we examined the menus- and similarly to my recent experience in The Sichaun House we found a much more adventurous menu than you would associate with ‘Chinese food’ in Ireland. Shane having eaten already ordered two starters, spring rolls and some meat dumplings.
More roll than spring.
The spring rolls came out piping hot and on a bed of shredded lettuce. They were served with a chilli dipping sauce, thankfully a more refined version of the sticky gloop found everywhere. They were tasty, but unremarkable. A spring roll is a spring roll.
I had ordered a chicken dish for mains. After some goading by earlymodernjohn in the comments section of the China Sichuan post- I wanted to try something with some oomph. So I went for a dish that had ‘spicy’, ‘chicken’ and ‘heaven’ in the title. I cannot remember exactly in what order these words came.
Chicken that is both spicy and heavenly…
Out came a big bowl of chicken pieces in a murky brown broth. This was an ugly duckling dish. What it lacked in initial beauty it made up for in taste. There was great punch to the dish. It was hot, but had a great depth of flavour. There were dried chillis, peppercorns and what seemed to be clove powder throughout the dish. It was a triumph. There was a wonderful assortment of bean-sprouts and noodles of various sorts lurking underneath. The staff were very friendly and answered my queries about what lurked beneath with interest and a smile.
Shane’s dumplings then arrived. They were tasty, and again the meat inside was spiced very nicely. Neither of us were mad about the texture of the filling- a little over processed perhaps- but they were all eaten all the same!
With a beer and a coke the bill finished up just over €25. While the Mandarin House is not the cheapest place on Parnell Street- the value is there. Firstly the portions are generous- my main could have filled two people easily. Secondly the quality of the food on offer here is very strong. It takes some good cooking to have dishes with such depth of flavour. Certainly a restaurant to try.
Parnell street has transformed itself from what most Dubliners knew it as. When I first frequented it on a regular basis back in the early noughties, it was a bleak, desolate place. It now bustles as Dublin’s unofficial Chinatown. The vast majority of Chinese food dished up in this country is bland and non-descript. It is largely the same no matter where you go. Not so on Parnell Street I was told. Here you see the Asian community eating authentic Asian food. So recently I dragged a friend along to try The Sichuan House Chinese Restaurant (to give it its full title) a try.
I was comforted on entering to see not one single waving feline, nor was there fake bamboo or a fish tank to be seen. Equally we were certainly in the minority as Irish- a good sign. The surrounding s are basic. But I like that. We perused the menu and skipped over some of the intestinal and more unusual parts of beast on offer. We both went for the chicken satay to start. I spent two years of my life in Indonesia when I was younger- and they know how to do satay- Thankfully they did here also. The sauce was nutty, sweet and just a little spicy. Everything it should be. It was served on a bed of crispy shredded lettuce.
For mains I opted for fried shredded pork in a hot and spicy sauce. It was huge. It could have fed us both. It was a tasty dish. The pork was cut a little fine for my liking making for a slightly strange texture, but the sauce was vibrant and there was plenty of veg to liven the dish up. Mark’s Kung Pao Chicken lacked a little punch but was happily eaten all the same. The rice served with both was perfect and could easily be eaten with chopsticks.
The bill came out at just over €40. Which included a beer (€3 ish) and a few Cokes (€1.50). Overall it was nice. It was a hell of a lot better than most ‘Chinese food’ we know of. However it lacked the wow factor. There were dishes paraded by throughout the evening that definitely were not on the menu we were given and they looked delicious- so it could be a place to point and order.