Restaurant review: Brothers Dosirak - Volume & value
27 Capel St, Dublin 1 (087) 7714278, facebook.com/dosirakbrothers
Tucked away at the back of the Super Asia Foods mini-market on Capel Street is the Brothers Dosirak, a funny little canteen that I've been meaning to go back and investigate ever since I happened upon it one day when on the hunt for some elusive ingredient.
I'm no expert in Korean food and I didn't know what a dosirak was until the other day, but in essence it's the Korean equivalent of the Japanese bento box - a traditional packed lunch comprising several distinct elements.
At Brothers Dosirak, you can either sit up at the counter and watch the kitchen action, or at one of the simple tables along the right-hand side; everyone orders up at the cash register.
Being novices in matters of Korean food, we ask the nice young man in charge what we should have.
He is most enthusiastic about the pork and beef dosiraks, but one of us (not me) is an almost-vegetarian and those suggestions are not going to fly, so we end up with the vegetable dosirak and the bibimbap 'original', his other recommendation.
The portions are trencherman-enormous.
The vegetable dosirak comes as two dishes, one with sautéed vegetables - carrots, courgettes, cabbage, scallions - and four square slices of tofu in a bland sauce, with good white rice, accompanied by side salads of cold potatoes, crunchy kimchi that could be fierier and a few leaves that come to the table undressed, only for one of the kitchen team to arrive at the table with a squeezy bottle of soy dressing to be squirted on.
There's a half slice of something pink and mysterious buried under the kimchi. It looks as if it might be bacon, but one bite confirms that it's something far, far worse.
It's been many years, but I experienced the delights of luncheon meat (the best known brand being Spam) often enough at school dinners in my childhood to recognise its unmistakeably rank and lingering flavour. A bizarre inclusion in one of the only two vegetarian options on the menu.
The bibimbap is better, the pleasant-though-bland thinly-sliced beef accompanied by mixed vegetables - onions, celery and cabbage, ribbons of carrot and cucumber pickles, rocket and shredded iceberg lettuce, and rice, all topped with a fried egg scattered with toasted sesame seeds.
The highlight is the home-made Korean chilli sauce that's subtle and many-layered in terms of flavour complexity, rather than simply hit-you-over-the-head hot.
Dessert - included in the €7.95 price of the dosirak - is a tiny cube of rather dry brownie.
Lunch for two with water, free egg soup - a watery broth with threads of egg suspended in it, to which one helps oneself, and a Diet Coke comes to €18.10.
There's no provenance information at all - hardly surprising at these prices - but I know that I'm not alone in being less than thrilled at the prospect that I may unknowingly be eating battery eggs, industrially-reared pork and intensively-farmed chicken.
In an ideal world, I'd have visited a second time to try one of the meat-based dosiraks that we saw at other tables.
The Korean BBQ beef (bulgogi dosirak), spicy pork (jeyuk dosirak) and braised rib of pork (galbi dosirak) all looked better than what we ate, and there's no denying the genuine pleasure on the faces of the strapping young men tucking in happily at tables all around us, many of whom looked to be regulars.
During the afternoon, my friend texted with her verdict.
"I thought the vibe was groovy! Cian [her 22-year-old son] would love it - volume and value!"
So there you have it: lovely staff, funky ambience, enormous portions and low, low prices, just not great for vegetarians, or for anyone with pesky hang-ups about provenance.
ON A BUDGET
Chicken wings with one of a selection of sauces made by the Brothers - special spicy sauce, Texas BBQ, teriyaki or dakgangjeong (Korean sweet chilli sauce) - are €6.
ON A BLOW OUT
A blow out is impossible.
THE HIGH POINT
THE LOW POINT
The mystery meat in the vegetable dosirak. Was it Spam? Whatever it was, it shouldn't have been there and tasted horrid.