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Sister 7

BIGFAN's beer-based collab is another smash hit


16 Apr 2024


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Written by:

Lisa Cope

What do we need to know about Sister 7 @ Fidelity Studio?

Not that long ago, the BIGFAN guys met the Whiplash Beer/Fidelity Bar guys, and bonded over food, beer, and mad flavour science. A trip to the brewery in Cherry Orchard was organised, and they fell in love over mash tuns and steam generators. The beer boys had taken the lease on the site next door to Fidelity and planned to open Fidelity Studio (with the guys behind The Big Romance), a dog-friendly, late night, audiophile bar, with an as yet undetermined food offering. The idea for Sister 7, and BIGFAN's second restaurant was born...

Sister 7 is named after Head chef Chung Lee, who has worked at Big Fan under head chef Alex Zhang since they opened. Her Chinese colleagues call her "sister", and she's the new girl boss character to Alex Zhang's BIGFAN boss man. Unfortunately she's had to temporarily return to China so missed opening week, and other staff members that Alex went to China to interview and hire haven't arrived here either, so at the moment it's a case of stretching who they do have across two sites.

(Sister 7)

They've said the menu will be 70% BIGFAN classics and 30% crossover dishes developed with Whiplash using beer or spent product from their brewery, and we're expecting constant collaboration and dish development.

(Sister 7)

We don't make a habit of doing a Lucinda and showing up on night one (in fact we've never done this), but we ended up looking for somewhere to eat on the day Sister 7 were opening, and knowing the calibre of these two teams we couldn't stop ourselves having an early peek. They'd had a few family and friends nights the weekend before to get to grips with things, and if it was terrible we'd go away and come back in a month.

We booked a table for 4pm, but as we walked up to the door there were unloading our table from a van - this was not looking good. Staff laughed when we said we had a reservation, and that their furniture was delayed in arriving. We questioned why no one had called us to let us know, but we couldn't get an answer. We sat in Fidelity next door and given a complimentary drink while we waited for what we were told would be 10 minutes, then 15, then another 10, and it was close to 5pm before we actually sitting down. Not the best start considering we had to be gone by 6pm. "Please let this be good..." we prayed to the restaurant Gods...

Where should we have a drink beforehand?

If you feel like two venues for the price of one (not literally sadly, you will have to pay for drinks), head to original, brilliant beer bar Fidelity next door.

As a Whiplash-owned bar they feature heavily, but you will find other breweries like Kinnegar, Trouble Brewing and UK-based Northern Monk. The 'Cellar Menu' is where the real geeks should head - the 500ml bottles there sell for as much as €38. Think of them as fine wine, and made for sharing.

We tried the Whiplash x Allta dark sour, a heady, fruity mix with a vinegary whistle at the end, and a N/A version of their mango jalapeño cocktail, the heat from the jalapeño and hot honey deftly disguising the missing Absolute vodka.

Where should we sit?

It's business in the front, party in the back, with a DJ booth that looks like it's going to be busy. For something that feels like it's opened in a hurry, the design does not feel like a rush job. The colour scheme of black, sage green and rust feeling warm and contemporary, with little accents of gold bringing a bit of luxe.

There are curved banquettes in the front room and on one side of the back, and we can confirm they're very comfortable to spend an hour on. There's also a cute counter for two along the divide across the rooms.

Sound systems are not our specialist subject but we hear this one is very impressive, and expensive - if you want the details on subwoofers and coax compression drivers you can get it on their website.

What's on the menu?

Currently it's a lot of the dishes we know and love from BIGFAN, the baos, jiaozi, duck wings and more, but the cleverness and USP for this site is going to be the dishes they incorporate Whiplash beer and brewery by-products into.

Start with the crackers made from spent brewery grain (€5). They sound odd, but taste amazing, some like puffed pork rinds, others with the short, crumbly texture of parmesan crisps. They come with an outrageous beefy chilli oil, complete with chewy, deep-fried beef floss - if there's one thing we've obsessed about daily since leaving here it's this condiment. Go, eat it, and beg them to make it available retail.

Sweet heart eggs are another bar snack, cured with soy and bonito, with garlic and chilli oil (€5, or €13 with oscietra caviar added on). We didn't order caviar but it arrived anyway, and who's going to complain about that. The eggs were perfectly fudgy, but it's the garlic and chilli oil that takes it from "mmmm" to "mmmmaaagawd" so make sure it's spread all over. The caviar is a nice add on if you're in the black that week, and a more wallet-friendly way to try it than some other options around town, but our eggs were too cold, clearly not out of the fridge that long. We should have let them come to room temperature but we were too hungry.

Bar snack number three, and it's a hat-trick with the Iberico char siu puffs - two for €7. The homemade pastry on this would make you weep - layer upon layer of crispy, flaky magic, not a soggy corner in sight, and the sweet, smoky, juicy filling will give Dublin pork puffs the best possible name,

Most of Dublin have had Big Fan's wagyu cheeseburger's jiaozi at this stage, and the new 'Chun Li' ones here, with chicken, celeriac and water chestnuts, are rolled in the same long style. They come with pickled mushrooms and a Whiplash dark sour vinegar (mimicking the traditional Chinkiang/black rice vinegar), and it's all very clever, and very delicious - despite the filling continuously falling out of the open-ended dumplings.

We can nary pass up a soup dumpling, so the xiao long bao (€12) also went on our order sheet. They're filled with minced Andarl Farm pork and pork stock, with a ginger and black vinegar dip on the side. In case you don't know how you're supposed to eat soup dumplings, you pierce a hole in them over a spoon, squeeze out the fragrant soup inside, then dip the remaining dumpling in the dipping sauce. If you're a xiao long bao first timer, this is a great place to pop your dumpling.

When it comes to the baos, the classic BIGFAN and Shan Ji appear here, but it's the Sister 7 one you want, with Whiplash Slow Life braised beef short rib, barley crumb, pickled ginger, ume and rhubarb fermented chilli, and cos lettuce. This is the type of bonkers combination that shows what a mad genius BIGFAN's owner and chef Alex Zhang is. Rhubarb with beef? Why is this combination one of the best things we've tasted in months!? You may place a repeat order - we would have if we'd had time.

Another beer-based take on a BIGFAN classic is the Fidelity fried chicken with a Blue Ghost and brewery grain batter, and a side of honey mustard yoghurt. These guys know how to brine and deep-fry to get the juiciest meat, but we waited a long time for this and when it finally did arrive it hadn't been drained properly - we can only put it down to a rush to get it out. The yoghurt was too heavy on the mustard, and we found ourselves coughing as it went up our noses. A couple of tweaks and all will be good.

We ended with another new one - Lipsticks. Fermented rice is mixed with finely chopped vegetables including celeriac, shiitake, yam and cabbage, wrapped in tofu skin and served with a maple and miso mayo. BIGFAN have never snoozed on vegetarian options, and this is another good one to get your five a day, but we found the rich lipsticks and the sweet sauce in need of a jolt of acidity somewhere. The easiest fix would be to vinegar up that mayo.

What's the story with drinks?

Like the mothership next door, beer is the star attraction here. Whiplash beers come on tap, with a board for specials, which included the "Even sharks need water" IPA, and a "Pisco Sour" sour beer. Expect these to change regularly. There's also a standard selection of wines on tap, and some nice looking cocktails, including Basil Margaritas and Negroni Blancos.

How was the service?

While the food is BIGFAN, the servers are Fidelity, and despite our rubbish start, once we got in and seated they were all very pleasant and helpful. There was obvious beer knowledge so recommendations and tastes of things on tap won't be an issue, and we know BIGFAN will make sure everyone's up to speed on the food. Some dishes were slow in coming out, but it was night one proper so that didn't set off any alarm bells.

And the damage?

After the inauspicious start, they tried to not charge us for the meal, but as (we hope) you know, we don't write about food we haven't paid for, so we eventually accepted an opening night discount of 10% which they said everyone was getting that night. Prices here have a slight increase on what's on Big Fan's online menu, with some dishes up by 30c, others by 50c, but by and large they're very similar.

This amount of food should have been €75 before drinks, and generously fed two. €50 a head is reasonable with a couple of drinks per person, but obviously the sky's the limit if you dig into the drinks list. Either way we thought it felt like brilliant value for money on the barometer of city prices right now.

What's the verdict on Sister 7?

It's not even open a week and it's clear that BIGFAN have another smash hit on their hands, the collaboration with Fidelity a thoughtful move for both. This kind of instant buzz is what restaurant and bar owners dream of, showing the strength of the fan-base both already had, and how it's multiplied by coming together. The real draw here is the collaboration between brewery and kitchen, the sustainable aspect of using brewery leftovers to make edible dishes, and the obvious passion both brands have for doing things right, giving diners something innovative and exciting to spend their earnings on. It's bar food, but so much better.

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