Scandinavian creativity, Asian purity and some Vikings thrown in for good measure? You’ll struggle to find a more geographically and historically diverse restaurant opening this year.
Söder + Ko opened last week on South Great George’s Street, in a building formerly occupied by the Dragon bar (and the Vikings, apparently, a mere 12 centuries earlier). Billed as a blend of Scandinavian and Asian influences, it’s a cavernous place, with a booths and tables up front, followed by a long bar area and more tables to the back, overlooked by the open kitchen. There’s a very attractive roof garden/ smoking area upstairs.
The Scandinavian influence is not obvious. It’s not in the décor, the music, or the food. There’s a nod to the north in the cocktail menu, and the wines are arranged by Swedish classifications such as Uppfriskande/refreshing. (A shame, though, that the cheapest bottle on the menu is €27 – a steep entry point for a casual bar and restaurant.)
The food at Söder + Ko is entirely Asian, under head chef Kwanghi Chan (formerly of the Cliff House in Ardmore). The menu includes sharing platters that are made for proper group sharing: chicken wings, pork shoulder and crispy duck come in servings for two/three or five/six people. The duck for six is €30 – a good price for a group starter. There’s also a couple of “bowls”: salad, teriyaki and a ramen dish with pork belly (€12).
The rest of the menu is “tapas style” – fast becoming as ubiquitous as pulled pork on the city’s menus. Plates range from €6 to €10 and are split into Raw, Dim sum and Hot. Sides are all €4. The best value is the evening deal of three plates plus a side for €25, or five plates plus a side for €45.
Portions are generous – tuna sashimi comes with half a dozen thick slices of lean tuna with seaweed salad and a light wasabi mayo. Pot sticker dumplings are fried – no option of steamed – with a chicken and scallion stuffing and an umami-rich dipping sauce. A bamboo steamer full of lightly cooked tempura squid comes with another good dipping sauce – this time with lots of lemongrass.
Two plump braised pork cheeks are served with a Vietnamese crab roll, and scattered with little puffs of crackling – which are good to begin but quickly lose their crackle. Better to hoover these up immediately.
Of the hot dishes, the best is a perfectly cooked piece of hake, baked skin on with ginger, ponzu and scallion and served with slippery glass noodles and a creamy miso mayo.
There’s also a selection of Chinese steamed buns (€4-€6), with pan Asian flavours such as Korean kimchi and black bean chicken. A soft, pillowy bun comes skewered shut over Chinese shredded duck and salad with hoi sin sauce (€6). The filling is dense and tasty, but most of the bun is already soggy on arrival.
Credit is due for attempting a new concept in a city awash with gastropubs and burrito bars (even if the Scandinavians and Vikings didn’t get the memo).