You could easily walk past Hang Dai, mistaking the large, brightly lit interior, high counter and jade green walls for a traditional Chinese take away. But step into the reception and peer behind the plastic strip curtain and you'll find a long narrow room that’s fizzing with energy and atmosphere.
Looking as if it's dropped out of a sci-fi movie the space is part-metro carriage, with booth seating (complete with Chinese display ads) and part-cocktail bar, with an open kitchen where mahogany ducks hang from hooks, a DJ box and a checkerboard lit ceiling that's more nightclub than restaurant.
The tunes are loud, the seating comfortable, the food modern Chinese and the staff overwhelmingly friendly and welcoming. Couples are seated at the bar, which has been designed to ensure maximum comfort, while 3 or more diners will be seated in the roomy leather booths.
Set up by school friends Will Dempsey and Karl Whelan (executive head chef at Luna, a position he still holds), serial restaurateur John Farrell (of Luna and 777) came on board as design consultant and advisor and his contribution is evident in the slick, well thought-out space.
Bar manager Gill Boyle serves a mean cocktail and the banter is good at the counter. The menu is concise and simple, with snacks and sharing plates arriving tapas-style, as they’re ready in the kitchen. From succulent dumplings to prawn toast with yuzu mayonnaise and soft shell crab to lotus crisp roots, there’s much to tempt.
A wok and steamed section of the menu offers delicacies like Szechuan Kung Po chicken and squid ink noodles, although the real draw here is the Skeaghanore duck, from West Cork, a house speciality, that needs to be ordered 24-hours in advance (an option that is offered at the time of booking.)
Cooked in the applewood-fired oven the ducks are served three ways, costing €40 for half, or €80 for a full duck, which will serve four. First up is a salty broth served with Chinese pickles, followed by leg roasted on the bone with crisp, dark skin and ‘drenched in Cantonese style soy sauce and duck juice’. The final course comprises Beijing-style thinly sliced breast with crisp skin, served with thin pancakes, cucumber, spring onions and cherry hoi sin dipping sauce.
A short and adequate wine list is upstaged by the original and excellent cocktail offerings. Sparkling and still water are complimentary all evening, as is the green tea. Hang Dai doesn’t offer dessert, but you’re unlikely to feel that you’re missing out.
Every dish may not be perfect, but the food is good and there’s plenty to ensure an interesting meal of complimentary dishes – and the great flavours, good value, fun setting and outstanding staff mean a night at Hang Dai will be an enjoyable one.
Come for dinner or drop in for cocktails and bar snacks, but be prepared for a late night