Söder + Ko
64 South Great Georges Street
Phone: 01 478 1590
Irish Daily Mail
9 May 2015
Some of our restaurant critics are off like greyhounds out of the traps when a new place opens. I hear one of my counterparts ended up with some paint on a garment after descending on Söder + Ko just minutes after it opened its doors for the first time.
This is not my way. I tend to let things settle down, which I think is only fair. And so I was one of the last of the critirazzi, to coin a phrase, to visit this much talked-about new venture. And then I left it another couple of weeks and went again, something I rarely do when in reviewing mode.
I mean, life is just too short. If a restaurant doesn’t have an adequate opportunity to demonstrate its schtick on a single visit, I don’t know what’s wrong.
As it happens, I don’t know what’s wrong with Söder + Ko either. But first, let’s talk about the name and the “concept”. It’s presented to us as a “Scandinasian” restaurant which suggests to me that you get fried lichen with pickled ginger and maybe a live prawn that you dip in soya and miso broth before biting its head off.
This might be a bit silly, Noma meets Momofuku, but at least it would be… er… Scandinasian. What Söder + Ko give us is an Asian menu with a few Scandinasian nods in the forms of words like “uppfriskande” which apparently refers to the light and refreshing nature of some of the wines. In terms of Nordic influences, that’s about it.
Not so Scandi, then, more Nasian. And the name is so makey-up that I keep thinking of it as Köder + So.
The chef here is Kwanghi Chan who used to be second in command at The Cliff House in Ardmore under the brilliantly inventive and madly meticulous Martijn Kajuiter. He comes with pedigree and promise. And the other ingredients, Ray Byrne (of The Wineport fame) and Ray Hingston are seasoned restaurant veterans, so they come with promise too.
The trouble is, it’s not fulfilled. On my first visit there was a sameness, a kind of dull umami monotony without any outbursts of exciting, vibrant, contrasting flavours.
Service was pleasant, presentation was fine, but the food was dull. Even little pieces of fillet set on sticky rice balls with a quail’s egg yolk on top was as one dimensional as it was pretty to look at. Tuna sashimi was, well tuna sashimi as served in a whole lot of places. King prawn steamed dumplings were fine, but no finer than at The Good World down the street.
Roasted aubergine was drowned in teriyaki sauce, salty, collapsed and oily. Lazy, in fact. The deal on this combination of dishes is €25.
And when I returned a few weeks later, I decided to try a different part of the menu, the sharing platter of, and I quote, hot ‘n sour chicken wings (€9) and another of crispy duck (€15).
I worship the crisp chicken wing and the many things in which it can be happily dipped. The sauce here was, indeed, hot and sour but the wings, encased in some sort of coating, were greasy, dull, heading rapidly towards unpleasantness. There are better wings in twenty other places in the city. The sort that they seem to be aiming at here are done perfectly in Pho Viet on Parnell Street.
The crispy duck came with, as one would hope, pancakes, sliced scallions and batons of cucumber. And hoisin sauce which, in this instance, was in a homeopathic dosage, which left a smear on a pancake in much the same way as we leave our DNA when we handle things. A proper portion was produced on request.
But the duck, oh the duck. It came in a covered dish, dry and yet utterly lacking in crispness (or skin, come to think of it). It could have been minced for all the sense of “crispy duck” it delivered.
Honestly, there are better versions of this old Cantonese chestnutin most Chinese restaurants in most of our provincial towns.
So, there you are. I wait for a new restaurant to settle down and I’m disappointed. I go back for a second bite (because the team behind this place is such a serious one) and it’s even worse.
Of course, I’ve had an opportunity now to see what other restaurant critics think and there seems to be consensus that Söder + Ko is good to okay.
I wanted to like Söder + Ko and I’ve tried. But I just don’t