It’s not unusual to find a restaurant adjoining a pub, but in the case of Dublin’s Hop House Kimchi, a traditional-style Irish pub is twinned with an Asian eatery. Billed as Korean and Japanese cuisine, we opted for a mix of both, and in an entirely different way: it was a meal experience of two halves.
A friendly welcome and very efficient ordering process unfortunately tapered off once main courses were produced. We found ourselves paying the bill amid the debris of our uncleared mains and empty beer bottles. It was a weekend night, and the restaurant got markedly busier as the night progressed. The arrival of a large private party consumed many of the wait staff’s attention but this doesn’t excuse our messy finish.
We opted for starters and a mix of sushi so we could sample both Korean and Japanese fare. My vegetarian kandu (€4.50) – steamed wontons filled with a mix of finely diced vegetables, was served in a delicately flavoured broth. A scattering of neatly chopped spring onions added a touch of colour. Overall, this dish showed great precision and balance. My companion’s tempura of prawn with enigmatically named ‘tempura sauce’ (€6.90) was equally as elegant, with meaty prawns complete with tails wrapped snuggly in a light batter. Courgette and carrot tempura was also served alongside, which was a bonus. The mysterious sauce was soy-based with ginger, garlic and thinly diced spring onions. A refreshing change from the sometimes-cloying sweet chilli dips often served with tempura.
Still in the throes of Hop House hope, we dived into our daintily laid-out sashimi and sushi. Four pieces of buttery soft salmon sashimi (€5) came with piquant wasabi and pickled ginger and were succulently good. Likewise, our two pieces of prawn sushi (€4) were oh-so-promising of what was to come. Alas, it was not to be. The arrival of our mains marked a massive quality change. It was as if we had been transported to another place entirely. The two main meals were characterised by a mound of meat – the beef was slightly greyish and the chicken was tightly curled, not the visuals that would draw your fork in. My Korean stew, Bulgogi (€12.90) had heat but I got no real flavour from it. And the sight of unblended spice paste on the chicken was really off-putting. My companion’s dish, Dakgalbi (€14.50), wasn’t much better: a thin trickle of sauce amid the meat strips.
The three accompanying dishes consisted of sautéed cold potatoes, some unadorned bean sprouts and three fat discs of cooked courgette. Again, I felt there was a lack of seasoning or discernable flavour. The accompanying kimchi, the restaurant’s signature condiment, was delicious and it was with regret that this wasn’t lovingly heaped onto tasty meat courses.
Over the years the Hop House Kimchi has garnered a reputation for good value, authentic Korean and Japanese dishes and, in our experience, it excels in the latter. However, we left feeling that some refinement is required to elevate the signature Korean mains to match the excellence of starters and sushi.
We loved The delicate salmon sashimi and meaty prawns
We spent €70 for two starters, sushi and sashimi, two mains, four beers and a tip
Hop House Kimchi
160-161 Parnell Street,
Tel: +353 (0) 1 872 8318 / 872 8536;