Dundrum Town Centre is almost impossibly busy of a Friday evening, and the restaurants fill up very quickly, particularly the three overlooking the Millpond, of which one is Mao. I’m not sure Dundrum qualifies as a village anymore, unless villages have 28 restaurants and bars and over 100 fashion stores, and a 16 screen Cineplex, and inevitably this brings large amounts of people.
Mao has been here since the Centre opened, and it shows no signs of losing it’s appeal. We recently reviewed the Café Mao in Chatham Street, recently re-opened after a fire. Hard to believe Mao has been around for ten years now. In that time Ireland has changed beyond all recognition, no more so than in Dundrum, but Mao has stayed true to their original idea, good quality oriental food at value for money prices. Paolo reviewed them just after they opened and said at the time,
For years I've been asking 'Why can't there be a reasonably priced restaurant in Dublin?' and Mao is my answer. There can be, and there is. It's a place for a quick meal rather than a long, lingering one and it's not ideal for couples looking for romantic tete-a-tetes. But if you were to find yourself in a large group, you wanted to eat well and be in the range of everyone's pocket, then Mao would be a good choice.
Back to the present and Dundrum. When we arrive at 7.30, there is a queue of people waiting for tables. These are the people who incorrectly assumed it would be easy to get a table without a booking. We have in the past made the same mistake, but no longer. Tables in Dundrum on Friday are as rare as hen’s teeth. On this particular evening we go along as a family - Deirdre, daughter Abigail and myself. We are shown to a table upstairs. This Mao is bigger than the one in town, but the décor is similar, bright and airy with the trademark red and blue tables and wooden floors.
The menu is features plenty of Asian fusion favourites. There are seven or so starters, including scallop and prawn parcels, crispy duck wontons, baby ribs and chilli squid reasonably priced between €6 and €8. Main courses feature favourites such as Chilli chicken ramen, Nasi Goreng, pork belly and a selection of Thai red and green curries, all priced between €14 and €20.
We are under a little pressure time wise, so all decide to just have main courses, Abi choosing the caramelised pork berry, Deirdre picks the hot Chilli Chicken ramen, and I settle on the special which today is a penang red curry with sliced chicken. I was thinking if having the chilli plum duck, so decide to order a starter of the duck wontons, to be brought with the rest of the main courses. Drinks wise the order is sparkling water and Coca Cola.
The food in Mao is nearly always spot on and tonight is no exception, Abi’s pork belly sweet and juicy, the red curry nicely spiced and Deirdre’s Chicken Ramen is spicy with lots of greens and hot broth. The side order of duck wantons end up being shared with everyone having a taste and very nice they were too.
Mao have been doing what they do well for a decade. No surprises, just good food at a reasonable price. The bill came to €68 which we thought was good value.