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Hang Dai Chinese

Great value group dining with no decisions needed


21 Feb 2023


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Written by:

Lisa Cope

What's the story with Hang Dai?

We probably don't need to tell you much about Hang Dai Chinese. Open since 2016, it's been one of the city's most popular restaurants ever since, famous for their apple woodfired Skeaghanore duck (which hang in glass cases downstairs), their subway carriage seating, and their late night DJs bringing the party atmosphere.

Originally opened by Will Dempsey and chef Karl Whelan, the latter has now moved on (he ran Saltwater before it closed and is the Executive head chef of Hyde), but the food here has never seemed to falter, and it's still somewhere you need to book well in advance. While looking at restaurant menus recently we noticed they're doing a €40 and €60 group dining menu, which in the current climate of rising prices felt like really good value, so we thought it was worth checking out,

Where should we sit?

You've probably seen the subway carriage seating on the ground floor, which makes for a very cool dining experience for groups of up to four. There's also bar seating and more table seating on the other side of the restaurant, which can be put together to cater for groups. It can get loud and party-like down here as the night goes on and the DJs take their spot - don't come here for an intimdate date or with someone who doesn't like noise and low lighting.

For a more chill experience, book yourself into the gold bar upstairs, either on high seating in the bar, or out on the covered, heated terrace. It's quite cosy out there, but it's nice to be in natural light with views down onto Camden Street.

(Hang Dai)

Tell us about the tasting menus?

You know when you're out with a group and everyone's happy to share but no one wants to take charge - you could spend 30 minutes going back and forth making sure no one feels hard done by. That's where menus like this make life very easy. There's a €40 and a €60 version, the main differences being the latter includes additional snacks and the Apple Woodfired Skeaghanore Duck that they're famous for. We stuck to the €40 thinking it could be an excellent value pick for dinner in the city right now.

There is a menu online but it does change every day (this could be made clearer), so you won't necessarily get all of what's on there, but you'll definitely get some. All in all you'll get four starters, five mains and rice to share, and everything here was between three people.

Anyone who tried the cheeseburger spring rolls with Sichuan ketchup at Hawker mid-lockdown will be hopping with happiness to see them on the menu here. Yes they're still that good. Yes they still taste like a McDonalds cheeseburger.

Crispy, tender squid came with a burnt chilli & lime dressing and was just too easy to keep popping into our mouths, while their famous pork dumplings with sweet soy and chilli were as tasty as ever, but were lukewarm by the time they reached us.

The prawn toast with yuzu mayo hit its mark too with chunky pieces of prawn and a brightly acidic mayo to cut through the fatty crispy bread. It's a good way to start and to definitively ease any panic hunger that might have set in on ordering.

Starters out of the way, we waited to see what we were getting for mains (if you don't like surprise just ask them), and we lucked out with Irish wagyu steak and a ponzu cured egg yolk. Take your chopsticks and mix the egg yolk into the sauce, then pick up a piece of that savoury, salty, flame-grilled, perfectly pink steak, and dip to your heart's content. The portion felt more than generous too.

We'd been hearing good things recently about Hang Dai's Sichuan Kung Po chicken with chilli, peanuts and crispy chicken skin, and now we get it. It was a definitely a highlight and one of the first plates to be scraped clean. Tread easy on the chillies, they are hot, but it has a sticky sweetness that balances it all out in the most "why can't I stop eating this" way.

We were less feeling the Ma Po tofu which came with a full block of silken tofu rather than being cut into cubes (which it was on a previous visit). The flavour was rich and it had good spice, but it just wasn't as accomplished as last time, and was missing the wow factor.

We thought similar about the market fish which was sea bass, with garlic, oyster sauce and greens. It was perfectly nice, but again not wow, and something we felt we could have easily knocked up at home.

A side of dry-fried green beans with minced pork, chilli and salted radish were good, but not the best in town (M&L and Nan Chinese are killing it with this dish right now). Regardless we ate them happily, alongside with a portion of plain white rice.

We think a big mistep here is a lack of dessert. Some kind of Asian inspired ice-cream or similar would round the meal off nicely, but while that's not available you could head a couple of doors down to Frank's for some cheese or a sweet small plate.

What about drinks?

The cocktail menu has always been above average in here, and we liked the 'Easy Rider' with Blanco Tequila, orange, mango, vanilla, and anise and cardamom syrup (although it's got a kick, prepare to be woken up). On our server's reccomendation we also tried the 'Lipstick and Dynamite' with strawberry infused Stillgarden Gin, fig liquer, Chinese black vinegar and lime, which was lighter and fruitier, a good aperitif.

The wine list has markedly improved since the last time we visited a few years ago, and while compact, there's plenty of good stuff to drink on there. We went for Birgit Eichinger's Austrian Grüner Veltliner which worked nicely with the variety of food, but we think the brut Cava from Pago de Tharsys would be good too if you feel like bubbles.

How was the service?

Warm, smiling and laid back while being on the ball for whatever we needed. Dishes came out at a good pace, and despite being somewhat marooned on the terrace out of waving reach of staff, it was never an issue as they popped their heads in frequently.

And the damage?

Around €75 a head in the end with a cocktail each, a good bottle of wine between three and tip.

What's the verdict?

For group dining on a middle of the road budget, this is a great option in the city right now. We added up the cost of the dishes separately and you're getting really good value for money, and the chance to try more dishes than if you went à la carte. We didn't love every single dish, but there were no fails, and this is an offering that will appeal to anyone who likes Asian food. And cocktails. And terraces. And not spending €150 on dinner every week.

Hang Dai Chinese

20 Camden Street Lower, Dublin 2

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