The thing about Hop-House is that you keep looking over your shoulder whenever you come here.
Somewhere in here, you say to yourself, maybe from behind the bar, maybe from behind the dessert counter, you just know that Harrison Ford is waiting to burst out and finish that missing scene from Bladerunner. And that girl over there, why she looks a bit like Daryl Hannah...
That's the thing about Hop-House. Imagine a future where the Irish pub is gridded with a Korean eating house, and it will be this madcap, unique place.
The pub is a Parnell Street pub. The restaurant is a little eating house from a side street in Seoul. Owner Kyoung Hee Lee hasn't tried in any way to meld the two: she just lets them sit, cheek-by-jowl, brother-by-sister, weirdness and incongruity, in stereo. The effect is mesmerising: it's the Bladerunner future, and it's here in Dublin, and has been for the last 9 years, quietly feeding people good Korean-Japanese cooking.
What should you go for? The traditional Korean dishes, and the selection of stews on the fire, seem best to us, ordered as a selection to be shared at the table, as you select pieces from the dishes with your stainless steel chopsticks. The Korean breakout dish, Bibimbap, is here in three varieties – with tofu, with beef or with salmon – and there are three stews, brought to the table with a small Korean burner underneath. We had the kimchi jeongol, with tofu and vegetables, and it was a delight, as was the tofu bimimbap, a dish that proves that you are never to old to enjoy the thrill of stirring a raw egg yolk into a dish of rice and vegetables.
Another signature dish, beef bulgogi, comes with 3 small side dishes, along with kimchi and rice, whilst dakgangjeong reveals a kitchen that knows its way with crispy chicken and sweet chilli sauce – you could feed this to the kids all day long.
Eating and sharing this refreshing food, brought alive by the hot thrill of kimchi and the bittersweet charm of Galway Hooker ale, is the most terrific fun, and Kyoung Hee Lee's ability to maintain standards on the strip of Parnell Street, where ethnic restaurants come and go with bewildering speed, is testament to how singular this food is. Next time we will probably order from the selection of Japanese dishes, for it was a Japanese friend in Dublin who told us that when Japanese folk go out to eat, then they eat at Korean restaurants in the city.
Harrison Ford never did show, by the way. But, next time, next time.
Hop-House, 160-161 Parnell Street, Dublin 1 www.hophouse.ie Tel: 01 872 8318
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