Monday 28 January 2019

Cracking Asian Bowls and Dumplings in Dublin 1: Bowls

Having lived in Dublin 1 for many years and witnessed its Staburckization, I'm always excited to see a potentially good independent food business opening in this part of the city. I noticed on social media that Kwanghi Chan (formerly the Cliff House Ardmore and Soder and Ko) had just opened an Asian bowl restaurant in Dublin 1, arriving back to an empty fridge after a holiday in France was the perfect excuse to try it out.

Kwanghi Chan, who was born in Hong Kong and raised in Donegal, could not have found a better location than the corner of Marlborough Street and Parnell Street (considered to be Dublin's Chinatown) to inject a little bit of Hong Kong into Dublin's food scene.

Bowls opens from 8am to 8pm (Monday-Friday) and from 10am to 8pm on Saturdays. In the morning (until 11.30am) you can get 3FE coffee, matcha lattes, teas and interesting Asian breakfast options such as chicken and scallion congee (rice porridge) for a fiver and Youtiao (chinese doughnut) for €3.30. For lunch and later during the day, Asian bowls are obviously the star dishes with prices ranging from €11.45 to €13.50; they contain a rice or noodle base along with different proteins and an array of pickles and fermented vegetables. There's also the option to build your own for €8 (small) or €9.45 (large) which actually makes it a very good value lunch. A selection of dumplings, broths and sides are also available from the menu. Homemade sauces and seasonings from Kwanghi's 'Chan Chan' range (available in retail shops) are used in Bowls and placed on the tables. Macau style egg tarts (€2.80) are served all day long.


On my first visit, I had the tofu Szechuan style bowl (€12) which consisted of large cubes of lightly spiced tofu with roasted aubergine, pickled broccoli, pickled Enoki mushrooms, wakame seaweed, smashed cucumber, pomegranate seeds on steamed Jasmine rice and sprinkled with spring onions and coriander. Lots going on in there with great flavours (especially loved the aubergine) and an abundance of crunchy textures.

Mr. FFID went for a noodle base with his 5 spice pulled beef brisket bowl (€12). It came with toppings of kimchi, roasted miso sweet corn and pickled vegetables. The meat was satisfyingly tender and flavoursome, being cooked in a big green egg barbecue that you can spot behind the counter.

We were extremely full at that stage but we somehow managed to share the chicken and scallion potstickers dumplings (€7), having both accumulated years of practice in overeating. They came with their own soy sauce, the dough had the perfect consistency and the dumplings were slightly crispy on the outside from having been fried. I could easily live on a diet of dumplings for the rest of my life...

On a more recent visit, we built our own small bowls to keep room for the same dumplings as well as to share an egg tart for dessert. The tart was good in terms of flavour and the pastry base but the filling had a very runny scrambled egg consistency. Not sure if they were supposed to be like that or if they could have been cooked a little bit longer. I believe the pastéis de nata I tried in Macau many years ago had a firmer filling.

My first meal out of 2019 in Bowls was a winner. It's an excellent addition to the Northside and a great spot if you're looking for a satisfying lunch. I wouldn't be surprised to see Kwanghi opening more Bowls around the city in the future. But for now, head to Dublin 1 to try it yourself!

I leave you with some pictures I took in Hong Kong and Macau in 2007, but I'll spare you the one of a chubby FFID stuffing her face with a custard tart...

56 Marlborough Street
Dublin 1
Bowls' website

Disclaimer: this is an independent review, I paid for my food and drinks.