Monday, 5 February 2018

Where To Get Korean Food In Ireland (And Not Just in Dublin)

In honour of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, my upcoming first trip to Seoul (for Fashion Week in March) and my passion for Korean cuisine, I thought it was about time to share my recommendations for places to get excellent Korean food in Ireland.

I think, at this stage, I've been to every Korean restaurant in the country (please, do let me know if I'm wrong on this!), though I know of some market stalls that happen in certain places and on certain days, which I haven't been able to get to yet. However, when it comes to permanent restaurants and cafes, I've tracked 'em down and hit 'em up. One after another. Almost all of them are based in Dublin but there are two that I've managed to track down on this island, outside the capital of the Republic. So, if you're interested in trying something new or you're already a fan of Korean food and looking for some new places to check out, here are some of the best Korean restaurants in Ireland (in no particular order).

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Kimbap at Brothers Dosirak


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Brothers Dosirak

1. Brothers Dosirak (Korean word for "lunch box"), 27 Capel Street North, Dublin 1, €

I've been a regular at this cheap and cheerful little gem, tucked into Super Asia Foods supermarket on Capel Street, since it opened over a year ago. There isn't a lot of seating - just four or five tables and bar-style seating looking into the kitchen - but I've only had to leave and eat elsewhere once. Peak lunchtime hours during the week might require a wait but, normally, it'll have room for a few more while lively enough. If I'm with a friend, I sit at a table, but when I go there alone, I sit at the counter and chat to the chefs who are happy to tell the weird Irish girl the name of the Korean song from the eighties that she recognises (it was in a television show I watched). Jovial kitchen staff aside, the food is great. There is a selection of some typical dishes from bibimbap to bulgogi and kimchi jjigae to kimbap, served with some banchan (side-dishes) and a free soup of the day, which you can serve yourself from a vat by the cash register. Value for money is great and you'll likely get out the door full and happy for under ten quid. I suggest finishing the whole meal off with a cup of honey lemon tea, which is clearly a gift from the gods. For unpretentious food, lovely plating, friendly (if humble) surrounds and a bargain besides, it is a great option.

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Han Sung

2. Han Sung Asian Market, 22 Great Strand St, North City, Dublin 1, €

Another restaurant hidden within a supermarket, this is a less trendy and more traditional-style Korean cafeteria restaurant with quite a range of dishes to choose from and equally great price-points (if slightly less friendly staff, though they're somewhat endearingly uninterested and grumpy). Located at the very back of the store, there is a cluster of ten to fifteen tables and a counter from which you order and collect your meals. You'll eat well for under a tenner and the food is damn good, too. Writing this, I'm given pause to wonder why I don't visit more often, considering how much I like the food. The only reasons I can think of are that I work off Capel Street and I'm lazy enough to favour the locations closer to me and that Han Sung is often busy with big groups, making it a somewhat less comfortable environment in which to dine solo. I must visit again soon, now that I'm reminded!

3. Hailan, several locations (Capel Street, Dame Street, Dundrum), €€

I used to be a bit of a regular in the Capel Street location however, I have come to realise that the branches are quite different from each other. The Capel Street location usually seems to have Chinese staff and customers and, as a result, is less stellar for Korean food. The Dame Street location, meanwhile, has a bigger Korean menu and Korean staff, which makes it preferable if you're there for Korean food (as you'd imagine). I actually order food to be delivered from Dame Street quite a bit and really rate their spicy fried chicken (dakgangjeong), in particular. In fact, it's become my go-to feeling-sorry-for-myself, tired, sick or hungover food. To me, it's a serious treat. Their kimchi jjigae is also pretty damn good and, as a key dish in the cuisine, is always a good bar by which to rate a restaurant. Prices here, meanwhile, are pretty standard Dublin mid-range restaurant prices and not the serious bargains of the first two entries on this list. However, they're still pretty competitive.

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Kimbap at Arisu


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Kimchi Jjigae at Arisu

4. Arisu, 120 Capel Street, North City, Dublin 1, €€

Arisu is a funny one. There's something a little intimidating about the Capel Street location. I'm not quite sure what it is. The food is great (the banchan are especially good), don't get me wrong, and, when it comes to decor, it's one of the prettiest Korean restaurants in the country. But there's some air to the place that always makes me feel funny and self-conscious when I walk through the door.

When they opened a Rathmines location, it became almost a second home to me, however. I strolled in on a regular basis, knew the staff, got extras of the side-dishes for free sometimes. The whole nine. Sadly, this location seems to be closed now. However, the taste of that one seaweed side-dish and the meat perfectly cooked over the barbecue at each table by the expert staff (if you're having barbecue) will make me brave the weird vibes of Capel Street once more, I think. Of course, said vibes could be more me being weird than the place but I really will mourn being a regular at the Dublin 6 spot and being able to wander in on my way home.

Once again, the prices jump up a little more at this entry but are still not unreasonable and you do get banchan, which is always nice and makes for a more authentic Korean dining experience.

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Drunken Fish

5. Drunken Fish, The Excise Building, I.F.S.C., Mayor Street Lower, International Financial Services Centre, Dublin 1, €€

Drunken Fish is a cafe and takeaway lunch box spot, a restaurant, a pub, a karaoke bar and an event space all in one. Straight off the bat, I will say (and warn) that service can be slow. However, in saying this, I also still can't help but like the place. The staff are always lovely, there are banchan (the way to my heart), Korean beers and liquor (though they can be out of stock) and it's nice that you can also enjoy the bar or karaoke in the one venue. It's also one of the places that my Korean friends all like and recommend and it's where my Korean teacher organises our Christmas parties; so it's got the approval of people who know what they're talking about. Being down in the IFSC makes it a not-so-regular spot for me but if you work or live nearby or are looking for a different spot for a night out, it is a must! I only wish I worked closer to indulge in their lunch boxes.

6. Kimchi Hop House, 160-161 Parnell St, Rotunda, Dublin 1, €€

Kimchi is also a restaurant and bar and is, in fact, the oldest and most lauded Korean restaurant in Dublin. It is pretty well-established and popular and for good reason. A buzzing, lively spot, it is the perfect place for group gatherings and I've even had a very successful party dinner there before. Staffed by Korean waiters and chefs, providing banchan and with Korean liquor on the menu, it's another place where you can get the full (or as close to it as possible) Korean dining experience in Dublin. The food is great and presented beautifully and the whole place is a well-oiled machine.

....and, now, to venture beyond Dublin. Because, believe it or not, there are two (as far as I know) more Korean restaurants in Ireland; one in Sligo and one in Belfast.

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Miso, Sligo

7. Miso, Calry Court, Stephen St, Abbeyquarter North, Sligo, €€

The bestie (or one of them, I should say!) and I went to Sligo for a weekend during the summer and after a long day of cycling and exploring, we decided to check out the award-winning Korean restaurant that I was surprised and delighted to find out is located in the town. They serve both Korean and Japanese food but the restaurant is actually owned by the sweetest Korean gentleman, Nae Young Jung, who works as the Head Chef and came out and did the rounds to chat to local regulars and us blow-ins alike. While he is a particular gent, everyone who worked in the place was lovely and incredibly accommodating to my friend, who has several food intolerances. The atmosphere of the restaurant is utterly jovial and friendly and I really can't recommend it enough.

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Cafe Arirang

8. Cafe Arirang, 32 Botanic Ave, Belfast BT7 1JQ, UK, ££

This wee cafe was another lovely surprise that I stumbled upon while travelling and visiting my baby brother in Belfast. A small, family-run business, it isn't super stylish but there are some tasty treats that you don't see on many menus in Ireland.

I was quite surprised to see the very divided debate online about the place. Some were saying it was expensive but, to me, it seemed very reasonably priced. The food itself garnered a lot of mixed reviews but I would say that, while it certainly isn't fine dining (more like street food and some of it is very much foods that are considered unhealthy treats in Korea), it was really tasty, though clearly adapted somewhat for local tastes. Don't let the online debate put you off, this sweet little family-run establishment is great. Order a few things and share them and you'll have a real treat. My brother and I got the bulgogi kimbap, tteokbokki, spicy noodles and fried dumplings between us and it was quite the feast.

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BONUS: Love Is Art Atelier, 3 Strand Street Great, North City, Dublin 1, €€

This cute cafe, also near my office, is owned by a Korean couple and, while they don't serve Korean food, it is a very Korean-style cafe from the interior to the way things are served. Adorable and very Instagram-friendly, I'm only sad that work prevents me from just hanging out here all day.

So, there you have it, a rather decisive list of where to get yo' hands on Korean food in Ireland and my thoughts on each! 잘 먹겠습니다!


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2 comments:

  1. Aoife OSullivan is a food photographer and food stylist based in Dublin Ireland. Also shoots product photography and offers marketing and digital visual merchandising.
    Food Styling services in Dublin Ireland

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  2. Aoife OSullivan is a food photographer and food stylist based in Dublin Ireland. Also shoots product photography and offers marketing and digital visual merchandising. Photography and Styling for restaurants cafes bars
    Food Photographer Dublin Ireland

    ReplyDelete