Words: Shamim de Brún
Images: George Voronov
One of Everything is a new series by Char where we go to the latest spots and try one of everything on the menu. On this week’s One of Everything: Big Fan
Ireland loves Chinese food but it’s only recently that we have come to give it the flare and reverence it deserves. Big Fan has done just that.
This unassuming little spot on Angier Street makes waves like high tide at the forty foot. The owners have a background in burger restaurants and art galleries. However, their head chef Tom is from Hong Kong and has been cooking Chinese food for over thirty years. Their Small plates take their influences from China and Taiwan; and feature dumplings, bao buns, Xiao Chi – and some tasty veggie options.
Everyone should go to Big Fan. It’s an experience worth having. This is especially true for dumpling fans. If you aren’t yet part of the ‘Dim Sum Is Life’ sycophants, this will turn you into an evangelical. It is, frankly, a miracle that there isn’t a Dublin Dumpling Society yet because Dubs are into dumplings in the way that culshies are into GAA. We have our favourite players (xiao long bao, wonton, siu mai), our best championship moments, and a beloved chant. Or at least we would if we got together at Big Fan.
Like all freelancers should know how to claim margaritas as a business expense, all Dubliners should understand that Big Fan is a spot to party in. This is a celebration location. So if you have a birthday, engagement, promotion, divorce, good grades, bad results, or Friday night to celebrate in style, you should do it in Big Fan. The cocktails are inovative and full of ritual and performance. Some are even made with Vietnamese coffee filters as a form of aeration.
The space is an intentional fusion of dated but modern. As if the 90s and the 70s fused like Power Ranger Zords into the Megazord. The columns of neon light and a Moulin Rouge red ceiling with two black fans combine to make the space a glorious aesthetic for your festivities. These swoon-worthy fit-outs are the calling card of an excellent place to commemorate all kinds of occasions.
The menu is creatively stimulating and designed to excite the senses. It is, however, the Pork Bao that comes out on top. This Bao has surpassed many dishes to become the top dog. These steamed buns have the bite-satisfaction of a burger, with the filling variation of sandwiches and a fluff factor to rival that of even the fluffiest dog. So day or night, winter or summer, this bao is something that’ll hit a homer every single time. It is a delicious, warm, melt in your mouth treat wrapped up in sweet, white dough. There is a lot of poor pork belly parading about Dublin, but this tastes like the pork belly of your fantasies. So take a bow, lads.
They’re also not the only reason to make a trip to Big Fan. The boiling hot tub of their buzzing chilli oil on the side is also essential. Their menu also features beautiful grenade-sized fried soup dumplings are filled with pork and molten broth that explodes with flavour. The food itself has Irish provenance from Andarl Farm, John Stone beef, Glenmar seafood, Silverhill duck, free-range Irish chickens, and Toonsbridge cheese.
Candidly, you’re going to want to order it all. The fear of missing out is understandable for a menu like this. There genuinely was nothing that came out that I wouldn’t stick my neck out for.
The upper end of reasonable teetering on splurge levels but still a while away from expensive. If you wanted to go on a student-level budget, you would find it difficult. You could rip through the menu and run up a phone number style bill. Your wallet might hate that but you’d have an experience you definitely wouldn’t. However, if you can comfortably spend thirty-five quid on food, you’re sailing through here. Especially if you go for the smaller plates.
At first glance, the space is this kind-of cool, kind-of casual restaurant. It’s hard to know if it’s Chinese cuisine taking on Irish notions or Irish food hitting with Chinese flavours, but it packs a punch. There is an organic fusion of time, place and food here, with a sense of story evident from its inception to delivery.
Everything fits together like a Cinderella and her glass slipper; one of a kind and indisputably gorgeous. Eating here makes you feel like you’ve just nailed this mornings wordle in one go.
It is a restaurant that blends ritual, performance, and duration in a location that inspires with tunes that make you want to groove.
The mushrooms, I could not get enough of. Called the Enoki Fan it seems like a simple plate of mushrooms but that’s just what it wants you to think. What actually makes up the plate is a textual flavour phenomenon. The sauce does a lot of work with these beautiful mushrooms highlighting their fruity taste with a contrasting spicy and salty jus. They scoop perfectly onto crackers and are fully vegan too.
As a recovered vegan, I always find myself judging a place by its vegan options. Here I would say that they looked at vegan dishes as equal to or even more critical to the menu than their meatier counterparts. Aside from the mushrooms, I couldn’t shut up about their snowflake dumplings. A shout out to the greens, corn ribs and spice rich tofu. Each is worth texting your mate about.
Elsewhere on Char: One of Everything: Table Wine