Food: 7 Drink: 7 Atmosphere: 5 Overall: 7
Dangun, a new Asian fusion restaurant on St. Nick’s arrived on the scene with big boots to fill. Not only were they about to inhabit the space the defunct Bagel Boy once operated in, but, they are also the brainchild of the widely admired Tuk Tuck located just around the corner.
Fortunately, they’re bringing something new and exciting to the area. Dangun is riding on the wave of the Korean trend which is sweeping Britain’s food scene, serving modern and innovative pan-Asian fusions. This is best exemplified by their ‘Korean Tacos’ (2 for £7, 3 for £10): soft corn tortillas with either grilled chicken, slow-cooked beef shin, roasted squash or prawns. These little morsels are pretty delicious, but - as is pretty common with tacos…- they’re a bit tricky to get your mouth around. The zingy Asian flavours promised in the squash variety just miss the mark, as does the slightly flat ‘pickled’ red onion. The chipotle mayo, however, is a great choice of dressing which adds a little more vibrancy to the dish. If I was being picky, I’d say a little more crunch and more generous portions would go a long way.
The place feels largely casual; you order at the bar and take drinks from the fridge, similar to the operation at Tuk Tuck. The food is delivered speedily by the chef who offers guidance; it’s a nice touch, and bridges the distance between customer and staff. A real highlight for us was the homemade kimchi (£2), the bedrock of Korean cuisine. Bursting with eye watering punch - it does what kimchi does best (how does fermented cabbage taste so wonderful?!), making another three portions of the stuff seem seriously tempting. Unfortunately by contrast, the Asian coleslaw (£2) from the Banchan section, (Korean small dishes), has very little going for it. Given the enticing promise of “fusion and innovation”, I was expecting a little more ‘pizazz’ (perhaps the danmuji - Korean sweet radish pickle - would have been a better alternative).
The tempura with tonkatsu sauce (£6), (traditionally paired with deep fried pork cutlet), is the newest dish on their sides menu and by far the most pleasing. The deep-flavoured, thick sauce alongside deep fried broccoli and butternut is so incredibly sweet and moreish, I voraciously spared the remains for my main. This mouth-watering sauce can also accompany chicken dumplings, and is a definite shout for the meat-eaters. The bulgogi (£6.50) is another good choice: marinated stir-fried beef with kimchi and sesame seeds. For something with a bit more bulk, the Korean fried chicken with peanuts is cooked according to their ‘secret recipe’ batter and is a tasty dish (save the side of disappointing coleslaw…)
Dangun’s mains welcome more traditional and accessible pan-Asian dishes such as yellow curry noodles (£8) with lime, coriander and chilli, a classic Thai green curry (£8), and a light Asian salad (£8), set with chicken or mushroom/tofu in a sharp, nutty sesame seed dressing. I opted for the vegan rice bowl deopbap (£8), another essential Korean dish, featuring a frankly perfect side of thick, glutinous rice, as well as a generous scattering of fresh carrot, red peppers, red onion, beansprouts, edamame beans and sesame seeds. Bottles of homemade soy and sweet chilli sauce are at your disposal, which for me - all too often - amounts in excessive levels of soy drenching the rice from the bottom up. The Thai green curry ticks all the right boxes, cooked into a creamy coconut milk sauce that is perfect with their rice and sprinkled with carrots, mangetout and coriander. This one was fiery, but we managed - give or take a few momentary respites. We agreed, on reflection, that there isn’t leaps and bounds between Dangun and Tuk Tuck’s coconut-based red curry, which they actually serve for the lesser price of £6.80.
Dangun prides itself on offering a casual dining experience, however their prices suggest otherwise. Far from fine dining prices, the menu is meant for sharing, which is okay if you’re prepared to be set back £15-20 a head. At £2 each, small dishes are a wise choice - if not great value - but on top of £6 sides (which you will inevitably order), and two tacos for £7, the bill soon adds up before you’ve even looked at the mains menu. We finished our food fit to burst – but we liberally ordered six dishes, including two of the larger mains. Dangun clearly has the capacity to leave you well-fed, but be prepared to bulk up on sides and small plates to get the full feasting experience. The wine list is cheap but brief, but both the Japanese and Korean lagers are refreshing and authentic. What can be said for Dangun is that it is innovative, modern age and more authentic than its rival Yakinori on Park Street. It is a restaurant competing to be in the same league as their sister restaurant, but let’s just hope they can keep up the momentum to avoid their predecessors’ fate...