Dinner for three including a dozen or more dishes, three cocktails, beers and wines at 167 €
So the holidays are over and Dublin is filling up again: traffic jams are back, there is a never-ending line of 18-19 year olds outside the new Wetherspoons on Camden St. and getting a restaurant reservation is more difficult than ever. Midweek dinner is your best option, but I guess we were still lucky to have three of us in Big Fan on Aungier Street on a Tuesday.
Big Fan opened in 2020 and arrived prepared by removing the entire front of the restaurant to open it up to the air with a sturdy canopy protecting it from the elements. The interior is modern and sleek with distinctive Asian neo-noir accents that manage to evoke modern Hong Kong and. The menu covers Chinese take-out food from Sichuan, Cantonese, Taiwan, Korean and Dublin, and attracts a crowd of hipsters, I suspect myself and the engineer were the oldest there.
The long menu offers a selection of jiaozi (dumplings), bao rolls, Xiao-Chi (street food), small and larger plates as well as sides and sauces. Ordering is intimidating as you think you might be missing out on something, but our server, Tom, was very helpful in explaining the pace of the menu and offered some great suggestions.
I was delighted to see crowd pleasures mixed with exoticism such as “Chicken Balls & Rice” alongside “Couples Beef”. It’s a little more appealing name for the delicious Sichuan classic “Lung Slices for Husband and Wife” – an offal dish served cold with lots of Szechuan pepper. Unfortunately, I was prohibited from ordering it!
The first dish to arrive was ‘Scamorza Wonton’ (€ 6.50), four golden packets filled with Toonsbridge Scamorza with a nice contrast between the supremely crispy exterior and the center of melted smoked cheese. Then came perhaps my favorite dish of the evening: “Legend of the Ox” – a perfect Asian riff on Beef Wellington. A tender, juicy tibia ball in a finely spun Kataifi paste, nestled on a soy sauce and mushrooms rich in umami. It turned out to be a rather glorious combination of flavors and textures.
Wagyu Cheeseburger Jiaozi’s dumplings were as good as they look, cheesy, meaty and succulent in a crispy shell – a nice side dish for the Hang Dai Cheeseburger Spring Rolls a few hundred yards on. the road. The fried duck wings were plump and slightly spicy while “She’s Spicy” was spicy Taiwanese chicken with chili sauce – tender, sticky and tingling to the lips, but also balanced and finely crafted.
Our Bao came last and we were almost too full so next time I’ll ask for them earlier in the meal. The ‘Big Fan Bao’ worked well with sweet pork from Andarl farm, peanut crumble, mustard greens and cilantro; but my favorite was the Shan Ji crunchy chicken thighs with kimchi and hot Sichuan mayonnaise which had a fine balance of flavors – crispy peeled chicken, tangy kimchi, and chewy Bao.
For dessert, the vegan crème brûlée was grand but didn’t match the cream-based one (how could it be), but the coconut parfait (€ 6) was excellent – nutty, textured and complex and a very good cleanser for the palate.
So as you can see I loved my meal at Big Fan and will be back soon to try some of the dishes we couldn’t fit in such as the couple beef and the ‘black dragon’ – a bao a l squid ink with lobster tail and Wagyu beef.
Another praise goes to the drinks menu which has been well thought out although perhaps a bit short. The cocktails have an Asian touch: my Big Fan Old Fashioned smoked good had pandan leaf instead of a touch of orange, and the hit of our three cocktails was “Ahh for Sake’s Sake” (12 €) with Yuzu Sake, Vodka, Gunpowder Tea, Cardamom and Honey – fragrant, complex and delicious.
Big Fan deserves praise for focusing on craft producers and that extends to beers. If a brand new restaurant can ignore the multinational London / Amsterdam macro-breweries and thrive, why the hell can’t more established restaurants do the same? A final shout out to my White Hag Helles which matched the food perfectly – I’ll go one step further, this is possibly the best lager brewed on this island.
Big Fan offers creative, brilliantly thought-out dishes and above all a great deal of fun to visit: go fast.