The Chinese Year of the Rat begins on January 25 and the decorations were already up in Ka Shing on Wicklow Street, a little oasis of Chinese bustle just steps away from Brown Thomas.
The Rat is a symbol of wealth and surplus (think how many babies they have), and so it seemed appropriate to honour the coming new year by ordering far too many Dim Sum dishes in what I believe is currently the best Dim Sum restaurant in Dublin.
Dim Sum translates as ‘Close to the Heart’ but can also mean ‘to lightly fill your stomach’, which is after all just under your heart. Originating in Cantonese Cuisine (eg, Hong Kong), dim sum comes from the roadside tea houses in Guangdong Provence.
Note that you have to order tea, it’s not dim sum if there’s no tea, and remember that Dim Sum is a daytime meal — in much the same way that an Italian would think it bizarre to have a cappuccino after midday, you don’t go for dim sum after 6pm.
Dublin has a few options with Good World on Georges Street perhaps the longest established but mention should also be given to the Ming Court in Blanchardstown which has been open since the mid-1990s.
More recent additions include Mr Dinh on Capel Street and of course Lucky Tortoise which expands on the idea to bring in a mix of Asian cuisines but is best described as an Asian influenced small plates restaurant — this is not a criticism, I adore Lucky Tortoise and it is the place to go if you want dim sum style food after 6pm.
Ka Shing on Wicklow Street opened in around 2013 in the space that was for many years occupied by the Imperial.
The Imperial was good for Dim Sum but felt safer with only a few outré dishes — if you wanted swim bladders, intestines or tripe you had to go to the Universal on South King St (now sadly closed).
Over half the tables in Ka Shing were occupied by Chinese families which was reassuring and the atmosphere was lively with a pleasing noisy hubbub about the space.
Service is brisk but friendly — they are always busy so can’t linger around too long so we quickly ordered around seven dishes including steamed, braised, fried, and deep-fried options, all costing between €5 and €6.50 — we ordered a further five as the fancy took us later in the meal.
The menu has pictures which proved rather useful and the 48 menu descriptions were helpfully simplified a little — eg,‘Char Siu Cheung Fun’ is described as ‘BBQ Pork in a Rice Noodle Roll’. These soft succulent rice noodle sheets can also be stuffed with prawns or vegetables but I think char-siu (bbq pork) shows them off best — Ka Shing’s are excellent with rich pork and perfectly slippery noodle paste.
Vietnam spring rolls were roughly textured and supremely crispy while BBQ Pork Buns (a gluten free soft flour bun) had that perfect contrast between pillowy dough and sweet meat.
Crispy won ton were shaped to look like a rose and were the crispiest I think I’ve ever tasted, pork sui-mai (cabbage and pork dumplings) were also outstanding with fruity rich pork flavours, sweet cabbage and a pleasing lightness of touch (bad siu-mai taste pungent and bitter)
Glutinous rice steamed in lotus leaves with ginger and minced chicken and pork added sweet softer textures as did the light fruity Shrimp Dumplings and the Chiu Chow Fan Gor dumplings with a minced meat and shrimp filling in a translucent starchy wrapper.
The Chinese love of unusual textures can be challenging, but you should try sucking on silky fatty chicken feet in black bean at least once.
We also loved the sweet vinegar and ginger pork feet which involved sucking the bones free of their meat with sweet pork fat and soft flesh in a sweet-sour sauce, but I admit this may not be to everyone’s taste. As we were approaching satiety the chef arrived at our table with a new dish that hasn’t made it to the menu yet, a delicious fried dough drizzled with sugar syrup.
Ka-Shing is warmly recommended for the elegance of their cooking and the mix of approachable and challenging traditional dishes packed with flavour, go with a group and order it all.
Dim Sum lunch for three including 12 small dishes plus tea and two beers cost €78.50
Monday - Sunday: 12pm - 10pm
In a sentence
A charming modern Chinese restaurant with probably the best Dim Sum menu in the city.