Restaurant Review: Lucky Tortoise, 8 Aungier Street, Dublin 2

Lucky Tortoise, 8 Aungier Street, Dublin 2

FOR many people Chinese food involves things like curry sauce and deep fried chicken balls but if you are reading this I suspect you know better.

Dim Sum is my favourite way to eat Chinese food and translates as ‘so close to the heart’ in Cantonese — it originally consisted of small dishes served in teahouses for breakfast or lunch (never dinner). These days things are a little more flexible but it is still not uncommon for Dim Sum menus to stop in the afternoon. The Good World Restaurant on Georges Street in Dublin has long been the best spot for this treat with a reasonably large menu that includes traditional dishes such as tripe and chicken feet, tseun fun (delicious stuffed slippery rice flour sheets) and various steamed buns, dumplings, croquettes; and if any of that scares you there are also spring rolls and won ton.

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Always.

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Over the past few years however I have been seeing praise for Lucky Tortoise Dim Sum all over social media as they moved from pop-up to pop-up in search of a home. The good news is that chef Thom Lawson finally gave up his peripatetic existence cooking in places such as the Hill Pub in Ranelagh and Berlin on Dame Street (currently the home of Ruby Tuesday’s rather good Caribbean Food), and opened a permanent spot on Aungier Street.

Lucky Tortoise is just a few hundred metres from the Good World and right beside the excellent Uno Mas. The space is tight with seating for around 20 plus a small counter space seating four. There is considerable charm about the place, helped by excellent efficient staff and a buzzy atmosphere.

The dim sum menu is on a chalkboard and dishes can be ordered separately but it was easiest to order the full selection given that it costs a mere €20 per person. Note that the words ‘dim sum’ are used loosely as the food includes dishes from Korea, China, Japan and South East Asia with the odd Western ingredient thrown in. This did not bother me in the slightest as if Japan can take Portuguese fritters and create Tempura and the Koreans can perfect fried chicken then there is no reason a chef in Dublin can’t take dim sum, run with it a little, and make potstickers with Italian pancetta.

The drinks menu is all on tap with a selection of sodas and wine from Wine Lab (see this week’s wine column). A specially commissioned beer is on the way as is a non-alcoholic soda and Lucky Tortoise has a commitment to zero waste where possible so the on-tap solution makes perfect sense.

My guest is mainly a red drinker so we chose a 500ml carafe at €18 (a glass costs just €6.50). Our waiter’s only flaw was her rather muddled description of the wines, informing us that the red was an Italian Cabernet. Given how fruity bright and fresh it tasted I doubted this and later learned that it was in fact a Beaujolais. The red worked well but I think next time I might opt for the sparkling Lambrusco or the white Gascogne as either of these would likely match the food a little better.

The first dishes to arrive included sticky rice and a bowl of spicy pungent Kimchi along with the Okonomiyaki pancake, my favourite dish of the meal. This layered omelette/pancake had cabbage and egg and a rich savoury flavour given a little kick by a drizzle of Kewpie mayonnaise.

Peanut Chilli Slaw had a distinct Indonesian character and was perhaps my second favourite flavour followed by a crispy layered paratha style spring onion pancake. You can’t have dim sum without some fluffy char siu (roast pork) buns and these were also excellent and given a light hit of heat with a sriracha mayonnaise on top. Siu Mai were a little more pungent than you would expect in a Chinese restaurant and I think I preferred this version.

The Pancetta Potsticker did work although it took my brain a moment to reconcile the east-west amalgam and while they were good I preferred the Chicken Shiitake ‘pillows’ and the five-veg dumplings.

Lucky Tortoise is a joy of a place and is serving ridiculously cheap, hugely enjoyable food. Go soon, go often.

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AUNGIER STREET. 12noon-10pm every day until Christmas.

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the tab

Dinner for two including two filling set menus with a selection of dim-sum plus a 500ml carafe of Beaujolais cost €58

How to: Open daily from 12pm to 10pm

The verdict

  • Food: 8/10
  • Drink: 8/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Ambiance: 8/10
  • Value: 9.5/10

In a sentence: An excellent value Dim-Sum restaurant offering supremely tasty small dishes drawing inspiration from a mix of Asian cuisines.

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