Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chuan Restaurant, Capel St, Dublin 1

In 2009 I visited the then incarnation of Chuan restaurant on Capel Street. It was a disappointing meal, representing all that is bad about European versions of Chinese food. Sometime though, Chuan changed and is now serving real Chinese food. I've eaten there a few times recently and can genuinely say that I've enjoyed each and every dish. Therefore it's only fair to tell you why you should ignore my old review.

The first thing you notice when you walk up to Chuan are the colour pictures of Chinese dishes that fill the window. The window is blanketed with them, each accompanied by Chinese script. This type of advertising fills me with hope (and trust me, I will walk across hot coals for good Sichuan or Hunan food). If a restaurant is proud to advertise traditional Chinese food as boldly as this, then surely it can walk the walk, as well as talk the talk.

Inside, Chuan is plain, perhaps even bleak and cold. When we took our seats, the waitress hauled an electric heater into place behind us and plugged it in. An effective solution. We dove straight into the Chinese menu, but there is also a set menu of standard Chinese dishes for people who might prefer to stick with what they know.

Beef with broccoli and green veg

Slow cooked beef belly stew
The pair of us are greedy gluttons when it comes to Chinese food, so we ordered three dishes. Our goal was to end up with a range of spiciness and wetness. As we waited, we could hear the chef cooking in the kitchen and soon the smells started to reach us. After some clashing wok sounds, the dishes started to emerge.

First to come out was the stir-fried beef with broccoli and green vegetables, followed by slow cooked beef belly pieces. The former was a mildly pepper-flavored stir-fry with tender, soft beef and bucket loads loads of crunchy green veg. The slow cooked beef was a fine example of a Sichuan stew. The meat had been cooked until very tender, and gently spiced. We even got a plate decoration in the form of a chinese pancake, which had been cut into wedges and arranged in a star shape.  

Spicy fish
Our waitress had made impressed sounds when we ordered the beef belly and these increased when himself ordered the spicy fish. Fair play to the woman, she understood that we were familiar with Sichuan food, and she replaced the cutlery with chopsticks without asking. The spicy fish was the last dish out from the kitchen. The broth was a rich, deep red, containing large chunks of white fish (even the head was floating in the bowl). It had the look of a mind-blowing Sichuan dish, which even I would approach with trepidation. Thankfully, it wasn't ridiculously spicy, but rather it set a decent level of heat that didn't get any worse as you ate.

All dishes were priced in or around €10-12, but are very generously portioned. My only complaint about Chuan is the lack of garlic in the cooking, but on the plus side, it doesn't induce head-melting with excessive heat levels. The restaurant has often been empty or quiet when we've visited, which is a pity, as this is proper Chinese food. It's not fancy (and sometimes you might even want to leave your coat on), but it's tasty and wallet-friendly with good service. Chuan is in my top 3 Dublin Chinese restaurants (FYI the others are the Hilan on Capel St and Mandarin House on Parnell St).

Chuan, 123 Capel St, Dublin 1
Tel: +353 (0)1 874 7632


Aoife Mc said...

Sounds great! I'll definitely have to check this place out. So hard to find Chinese food here that isn't an MSG overdose :(

Anonymous said...

I have avoided all Chinese restaurants since we left London apart from the Ambassador in Cork which is OK. That has now changed and I will be coming back to the Chuan again. Finally a Chinese restaurant with things like "dry fried intestines" on the menu to show they have not compromised. I had the salt and chilli squid, cumin lamb, steamed rice and green tea for €20 and there was enough for two. Everything was excellent. The decour was basic but clean and the waitress was very attentive.

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