Walk off of Capel Street and into Super Asia Foods, past the crowded shelves and stocked fridges, up three steps into a small anteroom, and you will find Brothers Dosirak.
On Thursday afternoon it was teeming with customers. A handful of tables and chairs lined the right-hand wall, occupied by those who’d come for dosirak, a traditional Korean packed meal, with its many portions divided into small compartments.
To the left, on one of five chairs lining the kitchen-side section, Caolán O’Reilly takes another piece of pink radish kimchi from a small, plastic cup. “It’s amazing,” says O’Reilly, who’s been coming to this spot for a while now.
Over the counter top, in the kitchen, steam rises from the hob as another fresh fried egg comes off the pan. And even though it’s his day off chef Taehyeon Ham arrives for his lunchtime feed.
Bibimbap and BBQ Beef
Another litre or so of water comes to the boil on a wok ready for noodles. From the ceiling hang three large lampshades, glowing amber.
“It’s very traditional Korean food, with some Japanese influences,” says chef Ham, surveying the small restaurant, as two waiters dash about, dealing with seemingly endless orders.
By day, Ham says, Brothers Dosirak is largely frequented by lunch-hungry Koreans; by night, it’s mostly Europeans. “You can see it’s very small,” he adds. “We can only have one chef [at a time] so we have to make it fast.”
Served in an assortment of glass dishes on a wooden tray, the most popular dosirak option is the BBQ beef with fresh mixed vegetables, four sides, and a dessert – a feast at €7.95.
Chicken, pork, pork rib, and salmon are other options of the main dish. The chicken arrives piping hot with a sweet, sticky sesame dressing on top, the vegetables fresh and crisp.
More customers arrive, squeezing in past the tables, hoping to find one empty. Chef Ham points out a bibimbap as it passes, another popular dish.
It’s a mix of rice and vegetables – and either beef, pork, chicken, or tofu – topped with a fried egg. At Brothers Dosirak, it comes in at between €7.95 and €9.95, depending on what you choose.
Three traditional Korean stews also feature on the menu, one with kimchi and pork, another with soybeans and potatoes, and a third with cabbage and shankbone.
While specials – spicy chicken wings or chopped noodles with mussels – are on offer, most of those in the restaurant today have opted for some style of dosirak. “It’s very popular,” says Ham.
Open between 11am and 9pm seven days a week, the hobs at Brothers Dosirak are seldom off.
Down a Side Street
Owner Sang-Hyung Cho says the “Brothers” in the restaurant’s title denotes close friendship, not blood relations. Dosirak, he says, was to grab people’s attention.
Cho cooked in South Korea for a decade as a commis chef. When he moved to Dublin seven years ago, he cooked Italian and French food at first, before returning to his roots. “It was very confusing,” he says of his multi-cuisine journey.
In the restaurant, a burly grey-suited chap slurps off the last off his stew as another couple arrive for lunch.
“Capel Street is a very international street, but people were surprised that a Korean [restaurant] opened in a Chinese supermarket,” Cho says.
Cho honed his trade in a Korean-Japanese restaurant back home, but it was his mum who taught him dosirak early on. “Every house, kids go to school, Mum made the dosirak,” he says.
By now, lunchtime is in full swing. Chef Ham finally manages to take his seat and enjoy a bibimbap. In the kitchen, steam rises through the metal vents as another egg is cracked onto the pan.
Near the entrance O’Reilly tucks in to his favourite, a seafood bibimbap with king prawns, salmon flakes and sliced calamari. “The food is incredible,” he says. “It’s just so fresh.”
He’ll be back, no doubt. “The thing that struck me when I first walked in here was that I felt like I’d just walked down a little side street in Korea,” says O’Reilly. “It’s a little hidden gem.”