Restaurant review: Visit Big Fan and you'll definitely be a devotee

The menu covers Sichuan, Cantonese, Taiwanese, Korean and Dublin Chinese Takeaway cuisine, and attracts a young hip crowd
Restaurant review: Visit Big Fan and you'll definitely be a devotee

Big Fan Bao: serving creative, brilliantly thought-out dishes

  • Big Fan Bao, 16 Aungier St, Dublin, D02 X044
  • Tel: 01-5388886
  • Instagram: @bigfanbao
  • Mon-Wed: 4-11.30pm; Thur-Sun: 2-11.30pm

Dinner for three including a dozen or more dishes, three cocktails, beers and wine cost €167

So the holidays are over and Dublin is filling up again: car jams are back, there is an endless queue of 18-19-year-olds outside the new Wetherspoons on Camden St. and getting a restaurant booking is tougher than ever. Midweek dining is your best option but I suspect we were still rather lucky to get three of us into Big Fan on Aungier Street on a Tuesday.

Big Fan opened in 2020 and arrived prepared by removing the entire front of the restaurant to open it to the air with a sturdy canopy protecting it from the elements. The interior is modern and stylish with distinctive Asian Neo-Noir accents that manage to evoke modern Hong Kong and Blade Runner. The menu covers Sichuan, Cantonese, Taiwanese, Korean and Dublin Chinese Takeaway cuisine, and attracts a young hip crowd, I suspect that myself and the Engineer were the oldest there.

She's Spicy and Shan Ji
She's Spicy and Shan Ji

The long menu has a selection of jiaozi (dumplings), bao buns, Xiao-Chi (street food), small plates and larger plates plus side dishes and sauces. Ordering is daunting as you feel you might miss something, but our waiter, Tom, proved very helpful in explaining the rhythm of the menu and offered good suggestions.

I was pleased to see crowd pleasers mixed with the exotic such as 'Chicken Balls & Rice' beside 'Couples Beef'. That's a rather more appealing name for the delicious Sichuan classic 'Husband and Wife Lung Slices' — a mixed offal dish served cold with lots of Sichuan pepper. Sadly I was forbidden to order it!

The first dish to arrive was ‘Scamorza Wonton’ (€6.50), four golden parcels filled with Toonsbridge Scamorza with a lovely contrast between the supremely crispy exterior and the molten smoky cheesy centre. Next came perhaps my favourite dish of the evening: 'Legend of the Ox' — a pitch-perfect Asian riff on Beef Wellington. A tender ball of juicy shin beef in finely spun Kataifi Pastry nestled on an umami rich soy and mushroom sauce. It proved to be a rather glorious combination of flavours and textures.

Wagyu Cheeseburger Jiaozi dumplings were as good as they sound, cheesy, meaty and succulent in a crisped shell — a fine companion dish to Hang Dai’s Cheeseburger Spring Rolls a few hundred metres up the road. Deep-fried duck wings were meaty and lightly spicy while 'She’s Spicy' was properly spicy Taiwanese Chicken in Chilli sauce — tender, sticky and lip-tingling but also balanced and finely crafted.

Our Bao came last and we were almost too full so next time I’ll be asking for them earlier in the meal. The 'Big Fan Bao' worked well with sweet Andarl Farm pork, peanut crumble, mustard greens and coriander; but my favourite was the Shan Ji crunchy chicken thighs with kimchi and hot Sichuan mayo which had a refined balance of flavours — crisp shelled chicken, pungent kimchi and pillowy Bao.

Coconut mango parfait
Coconut mango parfait

For dessert, the Vegan Crème Brulee was grand but no match for one made with cream (how could it be), but the Coconut Parfait (€6) was excellent — nutty, textured and complex and a very fine palate-cleanser.

So as you can see I adored my meal in Big Fan and I will be back soon to try some of dishes we couldn’t fit in such as Couples Beef, and ‘Black Dragon’ — a Squid Ink Bao with Lobster Tail and Wagyu Beef.

One more bit of praise goes to the drinks menu which was well thought out if perhaps a little short. The cocktails have an Asian twist: my fine smoky Big Fan Old Fashioned had Pandan Leaf instead of an orange twist, and the hit of our three cocktails was ‘Ahh for Sake’s Sake’ (€12) with Yuzu Sake, Vodka, Gunpowder Tea, Cardamom and Honey — fragrant, complex and delicious.

Big Fan deserves praise for focusing on craft producers and this extends to the beers. If a brand new restaurant can ignore the multinational London/Amsterdam macro brewers and thrive, why on earth don’t more established restaurants do the same? Final shout out to my White Hag Helles which was a perfect match for the food — I’ll go further, it might actually be the best lager brewed on this island.

Big Fan is serving creative, brilliantly thought out dishes and most of all a huge amount of fun to visit: get there soon.

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