When you’re looking to be fed fast, well and without breaking the bank, you may want to think about heading to that unassuming Asian spot that you often walk by and wonder about. While some may shy away from laminated menus, bright lights and no-frills service, these can be part of some of the best meals around town. Here’s a small taste of the authentic, cheerful eateries in Dublin that should be kept safe in your mind for when funds are low, time is short or you just really need to satisfy your taste buds.
Kimchi Hophouse, 160-161 Parnell St, Rotunda, Dublin 1,
Tucked away in an old school pub on Parnell St, Dublin’s oldest Korean restaurant is a much-loved and not-so-secret dining gem. It more than delivers on great value and really tasty food with a broad Korean-Japanese menu. Try some Korean tapas, a bit of sushi, steamed wontons, sizzling bowls of bibimbap, washed down with some cold beers. The somewhat riotous vibe and unfussy interiors make for a laid-back, delicious lunch or dinner.
Mr. Dinh, 101 - 102 Capel Street, Dublin 1
Mr. Dinh has all the right looks on the outside for me - glistening roast duck hanging in the window and a photographed dim sum menu plastered on the front. A menu offering Japanese, Hong Kong, Malaysian and Thai Cuisine can all be a bit overwhelming but rest assured, everything here is good and made from scratch in-house. Traditional barbecued meats are excellent, as are any of the fried chilli and salted dishes, the broccoli in particular. An enticing dim sum menu features all the classics and favourites but as the master (dim sum master!) only works until 5 pm, be sure to plan an early visit to get stuck into these.
Bao House, 34 Aungier St, Dublin 2
Bao House opened recently to quite a buzz online, with their signature messy, tasty steamed buns filling up Instagram feeds. Bao are soft, steamed, folded bread-like buns; a sort of Taiwanese version of a hamburger. Here, they are stuffed with tender pork belly, crispy duck, grilled chicken or tofu. Super friendly counter service adds to the whole experience, which is more fast food than sit down dining but worth a detour for wonderfully comforting Asian street food. They also cater for vegetarians and vegans. Open daily from 10 am to 9 pm.
Arisu Korean, 120 Capel Street, North City, Dublin
This is a great option for a tasty, casual dinner, serving dishes packed with flavour. Search through the massive menu for the three B’s - bibimbap, bulgogi and barbeque. Dolsot Beef Bibimbap is a wholesome and umami-packed choice. Bulgogi is marinated meat, fast cooked and served with crunchy vegetables. All the BBQ dishes are great fun; the meat arrives raw and is cooked on a grill built into your table, then you build your own bites with crunchy lettuce shells and scoops of kimchi. The steamed dumplings are also worth a side order.
Hailan, 65 Dame Street, Dublin 2
A brilliant option for fast, tasty city centre dining, Hailan serves up everything from Chinese hot pot to Korean barbecue and lots more in between. Browse the extensive laminated menu to find plenty to fix any cravings. Bold, robust bibimbap is always good, as are the dumplings. They do plenty of authentic, traditional hot dishes for the more adventurous diner. Open for lunch and dinner, they do a great bento box at lunchtime and you can find them on a few of the home delivery food services too.
The Ramen Bar, 51 South William Street, Dublin 2
Ramen reigns supreme at this handsome Japanese spot, all dark wood, paper lanterns and bamboo. They make luscious broth bases from scratch and fresh handmade noodles are piled in every bowl. The classic tonkotsu is a firm favourite, stuffed full of warming soup, tender pork chashu, nori and a seasoned egg, as are the aromatic garlic lover's ramen and the virtuous spicy salmon. They are a joy to slurp through and there is plenty of options for customisation on the menu and veggies. Tempting appetisers are worth squeezing in as sides or starters - niku-man burgers (steamed buns with pork and spicy sauce) and the pumpkin korokke and the sharing prawn cracker nachos.
Aobaba, 46A Capel St, North City, Dublin 1
One more for Capel Street; Aobaba. A small, busy, canteen-style Vietnamese spot, this place is generally packed full of people and flavour, serving up Bahn Mi and steaming broth-filled bowls all day. It’s my belief that Bahn Mi might just be the perfect sandwich - a crusty white Saigon baguette loaded with slow braised pork, Vietnamese ham, pickled carrots and chicken liver pate. A must try. Then there’s the extensive soup & noodle menu, full of bright, fresh, deep flavours. The Beef Pho is a delight, as is the Wonton Soup; both need to be slurped to be enjoyed. And I find it hard to resist the char siu steamed buns, pillowy pastry stuffed with sweet barbecued pork. Don’t be put off by a queue - these are bites worth waiting for. Good for lunch, fast supper or takeaway.