On a health buzz? Or, actually, are you just on a buzz for some fresh, flavoursome and Instagram-worthy grub? Let us introduce you to Pang, Dublin's newest health hot-spot.
Dublin’s first rice paper roll restaurant Pang is now open on Kevin Street Lower, Dublin 2 and is bringing the popular food trend in Sydney and Melbourne to our own fair city. Just like sushi, it’s a chilled product that’s super healthy – this is creative nourishment with Vietnamese inspo at its core.
First off, for somewhere so small I was taken aback when I popped into Pang at just how cleverly designed it is.
Aquamarine glossy tiles run along the counter in the teenchy unit (ideally located right opposite DIT Kevin Street for that all-important student trade) with pops of pink. A row of simple wooden seats face the long window and despite the restaurant consisting pretty much of an order counter and one long window ledge, it feels more sophisticated than it sounds.
Pang is the brainchild of Barry Wallace, who after opening several restaurants in Belgium and London has partnered with chef turned entrepreneur Colm O’Brien to bring his latest concept to his home town.
Pang packs a punch full of Barry's creative and kooky flair – with the added bonus of food as tasty as it looks
Barry is a mix between a mad scientist who is always buzzing with ideas and a complete natural when it comes to dealing with people – basically the ideal combination for a successful restaurateur.
He tells me he's opened several places so far, often joining as a restaurant consultant to get it up and running before handing it over, and loves coming up with new concepts, jotting down all of his ideas for new ventures in a notebook that's filled with an impressive 22 potential openings.
Bia Mara, his hugely successful fish and chips restaurant in Brussels, has seen Barry's creative flair feature on the Food Network USA and the BBC, and now has a second location in Antwerp.
This is his first venture into health food ("I’ve done a bao joint, a Mexican joint, an all-day brunch cafe”) and Pang is his main focus.
Barry met Colm in Brussels and after living away from Dublin for five years, came home at the end of summer '17. “The two of us put our heads together and came up with this.”
Remembering the flavours of the rice paper rolls from travels in Vietnam, Barry noticed that hip cities like Sydney and Melbourne were starting to make the rolls bigger and sell them as the main event.
"Everyone thought we were crazy opening a summer rice roll restaurant in the middle of winter”, he said.
But crazy, Barry knows by now, can work.
There's fresh rice paper rolls, steaming hot Pho and home baked Bánh mì sandwiches
Reinventing the traditional Vietnamese rice paper roll, Pang delivers a menu that is packed with punchy flavours, quirky ingredient combos and sassy sauces.
A fresh, tasty and speedy lunch option (ideal for us increasingly impatient millennials), the six varieties of rice paper rolls (€4) are all made fresh daily with gluten-free vermicelli rice noodles and mixed leaves.
Pang signature rolls include Satay Chicken, Peking Duck, Smoked Salmon, and Prawn & Mango, all served with lip-smackingly good, house made dipping sauces like peanut hoisin and basil lime.
Barry says that they "want Pang lunch boxes to incorporate a diversity of flavours, textures and ingredients so your lunch box has more dimensions to it. Three different rolls is like three salads in one box with three different dips or dressings to go with it."
For veggies there’s Sriracha roasted Sweet Potato, and a Teryaki Tofu roll served with a Nam Jim sauce and Barry is quick to pay attention to customers' needs – halfway during the interview he takes a veggie order and soundly points out to the customer that the hoisin is not, in fact, vegan.
Not sure how many rolls to order? The rule of thumb is: one’s a snack, two is lunch and three is dinner.
You can also opt for the Pang Lunch Box, a combo of two rolls and a side for €10 and as well as their signature rice paper rolls, Pang is putting its own twist on Banh Mi (€6) and Pho (€8).
You can warm up with a steaming pot of their Chicken or Vegan Pho, a Vietnamese noodle broth that "is healthy, all fresh produce and super tasty.”
Choose from Ginger Beef Brisket or Roast Sweet Potato Banh Mi, that are both served in a lighter than light, crispy baguette filled with fresh herbs, house-made pickles and a hoisin mayo. The specially made bread is baked by a local baker (“I can’t tell you where, sorry!”) where Barry went with a picture and a description of the roll for the banh mi – it’s so light, it’s almost croissant like.
Sides (€3) include a choice of Blanched Edamame, Wakame Miso Soup and a zingy ginger and tahini dressed Kale Slaw.
There's big plans for Pang in the near future, including a potential second location at Grand Canal Dock
Hopes for the future of Pang include several nationwide locations and possibly venturing into the evening dining, expanding the menu and brewing their own beer to match the zesty Pho broth.
Sustainability is also a keen passion, and Pang focus on using only the best produce – especially seafood – there is, with even the takeaway sauce containers made from biodegradable materials.
I was curious about where the name 'Pang' came from and discover that it ties in almost too perfectly. Complaining about a "hunger pang" one night while in the kitchen with his girlfriend, Barry though it was a perfect play on the phrase. Looking into the origin of the word, he then found out that 'pang' is an old Scottish adjective for "densely packed."
Quite possibly the most brilliant coincidence of all time for a restaurant selling rice paper rolls.
As for being back in Dublin? Barry is already smitten with Kevin Street.
"I'm surrounded by amazing places like Fat Fox and Network," he tells me. "I can pop into The Green Bench to pick up some bits." In fairness, it is a fantastic location.
“When I went away, Dublin was just bouncing back from the recession and there was really creative things only beginning to happen (Barry mentions Joe Macken's Jo'Burger as kickstarting the casual eating trend), and now it’s more stable and people are spending more on higher end options.”
The only thing Barry hasn’t done since coming home? He’s yet to try one of Dublin’s famous donuts. “Isn’t that gas?”, he laughs, before deciding that today is the day.
Those healthy rice paper rolls will balance it all out tomorrow.
Located on 6-11 Kevin Street Lower, Dublin 2, Pang is open from 12-9pm, Monday to Saturday.