What should we know about Astopia?
In February of this year Bao House became one of the many Dublin restaurants to fall prey to rising costs. In its place now is Astopia, and between the garish glows of neon lighting and a website that promises a cyberpunk Asian fusion mocktail bar, we had to take a look.
What should we have?
We skipped over the standard-issue appetisers and got stuck straight into the Asian tapas options with some 'golden gyoza'.
The pumpkin pastry of these potstickers brings a nice orange hue, with a well-crisped bottom offering a delicate crackle as you tear into the filling of tofu, glass noodles and veg. It’s a solid starter plate and perfect for sharing.
Three types of bao are here for the choosing, but we had eyes only for the Beijing roast duck, with crispy-skinned slices in a savoury homemade sauce scattered with iceberg lettuce and scallions. This is a bao that can hold its own with the Aungier Street competition, although the perfectly shaped buns are obviously not homemade.
“Soul of Seoul” came next - an array of rice cakes and sausages in a sticky sauce that's Astopia’s take on the Korean street food tteokbokki. While it’s a relatively rare sight around Dublin, it happens to be one Space Jaru does to perfection, and anyone who’s indulged will find this squidgy feast a pale comparison.
If standing out from the crowd is the idea, Astopia’s pitch is “Pandora’s box” - a teetering tower of hollowed sliced pan packed with the makings of a breaded mushroom spice bag. It’s an … ummm … unique plate. The assorted innards were life and limpless, while the bread had barely been browned. Side wasabi and beetroot dips tasted only of mayo, while the “magic powder” (a salted popping candy) was just plain wrong. This is a dud.
Happier turf was found with the hot pots, served in an impressively ornate golden bowl. We went for the bomb, a super spicy Sichuan beef base, and its intense kick proved too much for one, while another lapped it up. The plate of ingredients to drop in at your leisure isn’t of the utmost quality, but it’s easy to imagine the price spiralling well beyond the reasonable €22 if provenance was a priority.
What is there to drink?
Astopia have drawn up an impressive mocktail menu with smart twists on classics along with inventive originals. We tried two, both finished at table with a spray of edible (drinkable?) gold - the Vampire, a blood-red and lightly-spiced red wine (N/A) martini dotted with popping bubbles; and the Blooming Moment, a smoky-sweet passion fruit and tea tipple with flowers preserved in its ice. The mixes are creative and the prices of around €8 are fair. This is one area that gives Astopia an edge.
What’s the verdict?
Evenly pitched between a genuine niche and a bit of a gimmick, Astopia feels like a very 2023 opening that might go either way. There’s plenty of potential - given the right focus to iron out the kinks we can imagine this becoming a decent late-night snack spot, especially for the non-drinking crowd. Get a round of mocktails, the better sharing plates and a hot pot to catch up over. Just don’t open Pandora’s box whatever you do.
34 Aungier Street, Dublin 2