Daytime-only dim sum on Capel Street
What’s the story?
Mr Dinh sits at the far end of Capel Street, close to Parnell Street, in a site that formerly housed Vietnamese restaurant Hanoi Hanoi. We've been unable to find out whether the owner and manager of Mr Dinh are the same as Hanoi Hanoi, but they're both from Vietnam. This is not a restaurant we would have made a beeline for, due to their 'Asian fusion' menu featuring Japanese, Hong Kong, Malayasian and Thai cuisine - in our experience muddled menus usually don't make for spell-binding eating experiences - but then the Dublin restaurant whisper network started talking about Mr Dinh's daytime-only dim sum.
If you speak to anyone from Hong Kong (or anyone who's versed in their food) about where to get good dim sum in Dublin you're likely to hear three names - Good World, Ka Shing and Mr Dinh. We hear that the pendulum swings between all three of them as the favourite depending on the week, but that amongst a certain group of Asian ladies who dim sum, Mr Dinh was currently in the lead. Dim sum is a day time food in Hong Kong, with small plates of everything from dumplings to turnip cake often accompanied by Chinese tea, and Mr Dinh only serves dim sum until 5pm, so it's lunch or a very early dinner if you want to get in on the dim sum action here.
Where is there to go for a drink around here?
If you're planning on having one of those long, drawn out lunches which turns into a boozy afternoon - great plan. We'd head around the corner to Bonobo in Smithfield, particularly if the sun's out and you can wile away a few hours in their beer garden. Otherwise McNeill's on Capel Street is great for Guinness and trad music, or if you're having a dry day but still want to stay out, head for The Virgin Mary for non-alcoholic cocktails.
Where should we sit?
There's plenty of space over two rooms so you should have your pick. If you're in a group the round tables complete with lazy Susans are great for avoiding awkward arm-stretching, but if you're looking for privacy you can easily slink into one of the corners on either side.
What's good to eat?
There are 32 types of dim sum on the menu, featuring everything from prawn dumplings to chicken feet (not recommended, even for lols). Of everything we tried our favourites were the pan-fried pork dumplings (deeply-flavoured with a perfect chewy, meaty texture), pan-fried vegetable and meat buns (light, slightly blistered dough filled with more flavoursome pork and green vegetables), and baked BBQ pork puffs - although the latter were barely warm and very sweet - proceed with caution.
Prawn dumplings Chaozhou style were better than prawn and Chinese chive dumplings, whose thin, slippery wrappers had gotten completely stuck on the steamer, causing them to fall apart, and soup dumplings disappointed due to a lack of soup.
Steamed turnip cake with a type of Chinese sausage split the table - you definitely have to be on board with the gelatinous texture and slightly too oily exterior, but we were, and sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf was very sticky, with a layer of something like a thick gravy with pork pieces and sweetcorn between two slabs of rice. Enjoyable at the time but not particularly memorable.
Steamed BBQ pork buns were decent, but we've had better in the city (looking at you Lucky Tortoise), and again that overly sweet BBQ filling could have done with easing off on the sugar, and BBQ pork cheung fun (rice rolls) had the sweet/savoury balance much more on point, although they could have done with a bit more filling. Pork siu mai were slightly bland and a bit too pink for our liking, and they weren't finished.
What about the drinks?
We've yet to encounter an Asian restaurant in the Capel Street/Parnell Street area with anything of interest to drink, and unfortunately Mr Dinh lives up to the stereotype. Wines come under the heading "avoid", and beers are basic. Under some grilling they said they would allow BYO at around €10 per bottle of wine, but wouldn't commit to a corkage charge. Definitely worth considering if you want something stronger than Chinese tea with your dim sum.
And the service?
Friendly but pretty perfunctory. The manager was very happy to answer a myriad of questions, and tell us about the exciting new Malaysian, Japanese and Thai menu changes to come on the main menu in a couple of weeks, but sometimes the staff bringing the food just dropped them on the table without telling us what they were. They always came back with a smile though when we called them to ask what type of dumplings we were about to eat.
Mr Dinh is dishing up decent dim sum and while it's unlikely to change your life it's very cheap, very filling and parts of it are very tasty. For €25 a head we had more food than we could eat - you could easily leave well fed for €15 - and if you're someone who likes small portions of multiple dishes and sharing food for the purposes of getting to try more, you'll have fun working your way through the menu here. Even if you get the odd dud you're unlikely to feel hard done by at prices like these. For us the dim sum debates rages on. We've already given Ka Shing the once over, so Good World's next on the list to complete the holy trilogy. Look out for that one some time in Autumn.
101 - 102 Capel Street, Dublin 1 mrdinh.ie