Anyone who is a fan of Chinese food in Ireland will know that there has been an explosion of authentic Chinese and Asian restaurants in the capital. Located mainly on the northside of the city, Parnell Street and Capel Street are the main homes to this new wave of Asian restaurants.
Initially, a lot of these restaurants offered truly authentic food, but many have now altered their menus to offer more "traditional" Chinese fare to Irish punters. It's a pity, as it was a chance for the many Irish who are accustomed to Swwet and Sour or perhaps the more adventurous Szechuan to try something new. Ultimately I presume the restaurants are catering to demand, and you cannot blame them for that.
The Hilan is a Chinese and Korean restaurant that has remained closer to its roots than other restaurants and is all the better for it. It is a long narrow room whose tables feature traditional Korean grills. We arrived one cold winter night, and although the restaurant was heaving, the genial manager quickly found us a table. It's clear that the restaurant is hugely popular among the local asian population and we found that us Irish were definitely in the minority.
We were given an English language menu, although I did notice that a Chinese menu was in circulation as well. It made me wonder if there was a different (or better) range of food on offer for Chinese. The menu is mainly Chinese with several Korean plates on offer as well. However, the hightlight of the menu is the range of Korean hotpots and BBQs on offer. Having previously eaten BBQ at this restaurant, I can honestly say that they are good.
This time though, both of us ordered from the Korean section. I chose pork and squid bolgogi (E12.90), while he went for beef bibmbab (E10.90). My bolgogi was delicious, although not as spicy as the waitress had warned me. I think that they just warn every Irish customer as a precaution. Tender pieces of squid and pork served in a red bean paste sauce. The bibmbab was a pot of rice, beef pieces, vegetables, fried egg and spicy sauce. According to the waiter, you're supposed to mix the lot together and dig in. Like the bulgogi, it was delicious and the spicy sauce added a nice bit of flavour to the dish.
This was excellent food, served in generous portions, in a popular restaurant. I quite like Korean food and it is a pity that is not more readily available. Irish punters need to be pushed out of their comfort zone more. Total damage for the above as well as two bottles of beer and one glass of house white came to approximately E37.
The Hilan is also offering a fantastic lunch menu with a starter, main course and soft drink for E9.88. I don't know where the weird figure of 9.88 came from, but it's great vaue for money.
Hilan Chinese and Korean Restaurant, 45 Capel Street, Dublin 1
Tel: + 353 (0)1 874 8677