Scan­di­na­vian Asian

Newly opened Dublin restau­rant Söder + Ko

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - SEVEN DAYS | EATING OUT - Rachel Collins

SÖDER + KO 64 South Great Ge­orge’s Street, Dublin 2, 01-478 1590, ¤¤

Scan­di­na­vian cre­ativ­ity, Asian pu­rity and some Vik­ings thrown in for good mea­sure? You’ll strug­gle to find a more ge­o­graph­i­cally and his­tor­i­cally di­verse restau­rant open­ing this year.

Söder + Ko opened last week on South Great Ge­orge’s Street, in a build­ing for­merly oc­cu­pied by the Dragon bar (and the Vik­ings, ap­par­ently, a mere 12 cen­turies ear­lier). Billed as a blend of Scan­di­na­vian and Asian in­flu­ences, it’s a cav­ernous place, with a booths and ta­bles up front, fol­lowed by a long bar area and more ta­bles to the back, over­looked by the open kitchen. There’s a very at­trac­tive roof gar­den/ smok­ing area up­stairs.

The Scan­di­na­vian in­flu­ence is not ob­vi­ous. It’s not in the dé­cor, the mu­sic, or the food. There’s a nod to the north in the cock­tail menu, and the wines are ar­ranged by Swedish clas­si­fi­ca­tions such as Uppfriskande/ re­fresh­ing. (A shame, though, that the cheap­est bot­tle on the menu is ¤27 – a steep en­try point for a ca­sual bar and restau­rant.)

The food at Söder + Ko is en­tirely Asian, un­der head chef Kwanghi Chan (for­merly of the Cliff House in Ard­more). The menu in­cludes shar­ing plat­ters that are made for proper group shar­ing: chicken wings, pork shoul­der and crispy duck come in serv­ings for two/three or five/six peo­ple. The duck for six is ¤30 – a good price for a group starter. There’s also a cou­ple of “bowls”: salad, teriyaki and a ra­men dish with pork belly (¤12).

The rest of the menu is “tapas style” – fast be­com­ing as ubiq­ui­tous as pulled pork on the city’s menus. Plates range from ¤6 to ¤10 and are split into Raw, Dim sum and Hot. Sides are all ¤4. The best value is the evening deal of three plates plus a side for ¤25, or five plates plus a side for ¤45.

Por­tions are gen­er­ous – tuna sashimi comes with half a dozen thick slices of lean tuna with seaweed salad and a light wasabi mayo. Pot sticker dumplings are fried – no op­tion of steamed – with a chicken and scal­lion stuffing and an umami-rich dip­ping sauce. A bamboo steamer full of lightly cooked tem­pura squid comes with an­other good dip­ping sauce – this time with lots of lemon­grass.

Two plump braised pork cheeks are served with a Viet­namese crab roll, and scat­tered with lit­tle puffs of crack­ling – which are good to begin but quickly lose their crackle. Bet­ter to hoover th­ese up im­me­di­ately.

Of the hot dishes, the best is a per­fectly cooked piece of hake, baked skin on with gin­ger, ponzu and scal­lion and served with slip­pery glass noodles and a creamy miso mayo.

There’s also a se­lec­tion of Chi­nese steamed buns (¤4-¤6), with pan Asian flavours such as Korean kim­chi and black bean chicken. A soft, pil­lowy bun comes skew­ered shut over Chi­nese shred­ded duck and salad with hoi sin sauce (¤6). The fill­ing is dense and tasty, but most of the bun is al­ready soggy on ar­rival.

Credit is due for at­tempt­ing a new con­cept in a city awash with gas­trop­ubs and bur­rito bars (even if the Scan­di­na­vians and Vik­ings didn’t get the memo).

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