HaiLan Korean Restaurant
65 Dame Street
Phone: 01 764 5722
Irish Daily Mail
21 March 2015
It may not be immediately obvious, but there are more people writing about food these days than at any other time in the history of our planet. Thanks to the digitally enhanced lives we lead, there is a platform (if not always an audience) for anyone who wants to opine about anything.
But for some reason, food seems to get a remarkable amount of attention in the blogosphere; I suppose it makes sense, as food is central to life and, as someone said to me recently – and it surprised me a little – everyone wants to be a restaurant critic.
There are some excellent food blogs out there and while it might be invidious to highlight a few, finding the good ones doesn’t take long. Because bloggers, by definition, are not under the rule and guidance of an editor, they need great discipline. And a good rule of thumb in doing a quick assessment of a blog’s quality is to check the length of the average entry. Brevity really is the soul of wit and anyone who rabbits on and on almost certainly has nothing of any great substance to say.
Anyway, the blogosphere and Twitter are great resources if you want to see what’s new or interesting in the world of restaurants. They are also far more dependable than the awful Trip Advisor (which was responsible for the last truly awful meal I’ve had; I don’t bother with it now).
It was digital media that led me to HaiLan on Dame Street. It was one of those mornings during which I had slowly developed a yearning for chilli and soya sauce and other lovely South East Asian things.
The blogosphere pointed me towards HaiLan, apparently a Korean establishment that I had failed to notice on one of our main thoroughfares.
I rolled up, on my own, approaching two o’clock as the lunch time crowd receded and the restaurant, a rather dark space, became very quiet.
I had heard good reports of the dumplings. Indeed, such is my devotion to the art of the dumpling that this was my main reason for visiting. And there they were. Scanning the menu and having neglected to have more than a cup of tea for breakfast, I lighted upon rice paper spring rolls which sounded rather like the Vietnamese delight and I thought I’d have a go.
And, for good measure, a combination of pork and squid sounded slightly weird but good. So I ordered all three.
Quickly, my spring rolls appeared. Except they were deep-fried and crisp. And too oily, to be honest. I decided that I had been perhaps a little unclear when I ordered and put it down to experience. The main theme in these rolls was bean sprouts. As main themes go, this needs a support act. It didn’t get one.
The pork and squid affair was huge. And it sizzled. It also rather begged the question as to why you would pair these two forms of protein. The pork and the squid refused to speak to each other, if you follow, and even if they had managed a few whispers it would have been drowned out by a reddish, rather sweet sauce that put me vaguely in mind of satay. I’m grateful that I was so hungry that I managed to eat half of this rather unattractive dish.
My dumplings were taking a long time to appear. Eventually, I inquired after their whereabouts and was told that I had not ordered any. Except I had. I began to feel that communication is, perhaps, not HaiLan’s strong suit.
I was asked what filling I wanted and I decided, on impulse, on pork and celery. In time – quite a long time – the dumplings arrived. Some were greenish, some pinkish, others beige. But they all tasted the same: pleasant if indistinct. I ate them with chilli oil and black rice vinegar and noted that they were like gyoza (or pot stickers) but with less crust and a different, rounder shape. They were, to employ a Dublinism, grand.
At this stage, I felt I should try some tempura. As one does. And yes, I know, we’re heading off to Japan while you thought we were in Korea. Or possibly somewhere between Korea and China. It’s confusing.
I had a few bits tempura vegetables (courgette, peppers, sweet potato) in reasonable batter with a sad little salad on the side for €7.50. Yes, the profit margin on that, as you’ve just guessed, does rather take the breath away.
So, I gave up, concluded that the blogosphere is to be taken with a large pinch of Maldon Sea Salt and paid €38 for the experience, which included two beers.
There’s Tsingtao beer, always a good choice with this kind of food and the usual soft drinks including, inevitably, Lipton’s Lemon Tea. No wine list but there seem to be a few bottles behind the counter.