Dublin is an expensive city for eating out, and it’s going to get worse. Rents are higher, produce bills are usually rising every week (alarmingly so , according to one chef friend), and we are probably just going to have to put up with it and refrain from blaming restaurants.
Staffing is still a huge problem plus restaurant chains are now reportedly hanging around restaurants at closing time trying to poach chefs and waiters with a promise of better hours and pay.
A small bit of good news, however , is that one of Dublin’s most expensive suburbs now has one of the cheapest best dining places in the town.
CN Duck is on Ranelagh’s main street just opposite Host — which is the last restaurant I reviewed in this swish suburb back in April 2019. CN Duck specialises (as you might expect) in roast duck, those gleaming crispy-skinned bronze beauties you see hanging in the special bullet ovens in cities like Hong Kong.
Besides beef roasts duck, pork, and chicken, CN’s menu is split into short sections such as Asian bites, sides, and a selection of rice plus noodle options including ramen, rice bowls, and wok-fried dishes to which you can add roast meats or tofu.
First up were shao mai prawn dumplings (more usually spelt “Sui Mai”) which are made in-house and set the tone for the meal. They were quite probably the best I’ve ever tasted. The six large (almost) golfball-sized dumplings proved a challenge for our chopsticks given their size and slippery outer skin, so we resorted to spearing them. For just €8. 50, these were nearly a meal in themselves, packed with soft minced pig and mushrooms and topped with a large juicy prawn, with an umami-rich soy sauce dip on the side.
Generally, sui mai dumplings have the prawn minced in with the pork but this method worked much better with the prawn flavours hitting the palate first and then melding nicely with the pork and mushroom.
Won ton soup had silky smooth dumplings in a light broth and had pleasing subtlety plus complexity. There is something magical about a fine Asian dumpling soup (or ramen for that matter) — to appreciate it properly requires focus and undivided attention so in retrospect we should probably have eaten this dish on its own rather than between bites of crispy duck and pig.
Similarly the particular wok-fried char siu rice (€13. 50) which had a generous quantity of fresh vegetables from bok choi to peas and scallions, and of course numerous slivers associated with crispy beef roasts pork — this as well would have been a joy to eat by itself.
And now to the duck plus pork: Oh my goodness, the crispy deliciousness of it all. Half a roast duck on the bone (€16) made a delicious crackling sound when pierced with a knife and all the fat seemed to possess disappeared into the crunchy skin. Crispy pork belly (€14) was just as described — perfectly rendered skin nestling on top of tender pork belly. Too often I have to remove some of the fat through pork stomach as the grease gets too much, but not here. Cucumber pickles (€3) served as a fine palate cleanser as we switched from sweet to pig to grain to dumplings.
The drinks menu includes Asahi on draught and bottles of Tsing-Tao with a BYOB option for the low price of €6 for wine and €1 for beer.
Redmonds Off-Licence is less that 100m away and has one of the best wines and ale selections in the country where I picked up the bottle of Albert Mann Alsace Riesling for €29 — its fragrant tangy apple and citrus fruits were a perfect match with regard to everything we ordered.
I know that I have made CN Sweet sound almost Michelin standard, so I should point out this is a very casual restaurant that just happens to have very high standards.
Staff were charming and super-efficient and this was a hugely enjoyable meal at a bargain price.
The particular Bill: Dinner for two including several small and large dishes plus two beers cost €80. 30 plus an extra €29 for a BYOB bottle of wine our bill came to 109. 30
CN Duck is charming and fun and probably serving the best roast duck and pork in the united states.