Dublin's Ty Ginger Asian Bistro offers an exciting new dim sum menu and then some.
Entering its fifth year, Dublin’s Ty Ginger Asian Bistro is in the process of remaking itself.
On one hand, Ty Ginger serves Cantonese cuisine and authentic dim sum to a mostly Chinese clientele. It owes this fairly new identity to the recent hiring of Sunny Wong, a revered dim sum chef who hails from Hong Kong. (A new chef de cuisine, Tommy Ly, also joined the team recently.)
On the other hand, Ty Ginger acts as a jumping-off point for new audiences who may be unfamiliar with dim sum but will enjoy the restaurant’s well-executed pan-Asian fare. This is evidenced by an image-heavy menu with buzzwords pervasive on today’s American menus (scratch-made, fresh and local ingredients). In addition, its atmosphere features sleek surfaces, big windows, a flat screen television above the bar (inevitably playing sports) and OSU-emboldened décor. The restaurant feels like an extension of the suburban neighborhoods surrounding it.
Modern convention says Ty Ginger should specialize in one or the other. But this is a place where small plates of beef tendon are as popular as happy hour deals on light beers; where silverware wrapped in cloth napkins gets as much use as throw-away chopsticks. In other words, both are working. Because at the heart of both identities, it’s all about the food.
There’s a liveliness to a dim sum brunch—carts coming and going between tables; necks craning to see if another tantalizing dish is on its way (there’s a real fear of missing out). This tradition is booming at Ty Ginger starting at 10:30 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. By midday, every table and bar seat is filled with folks eager to partake in Chinese small bites ordered tableside from carts traversing the dining room. (Hot tip: You can also order dim sum for carryout during the week.) For those who don’t speak Chinese, there’s some pointing, nodding and trusting. And for all, there’s freedom to order seconds of your favorite dishes.
Ty Ginger’s scratch-made claims are delightfully evident in the flaws of its dumplings, in the unevenness of its shrimp balls, in slightly inconsistent textures and blemishes. These elements are an indication that something special is going on in the kitchen. Shortcuts are not taken, and mass-distributed frozen options are eschewed for time-consuming craft. The result is in the flavor.
Dim sum generally kicks off with loose-leaf tea served by the pot; the pu-erh, an earthy black tea, is a good start for the meal. Next is a series of small plates of mostly steamed, fried and baked meat- and carb-heavy bites. An ongoing paper tally of your order is stamped at the table. At Ty Ginger, service is quick and accommodating, with resourceful servers using Google Translate on their smartphones to answer questions.
The spare ribs ($4.25) on the dim sum menu are excellent. Bite-size rib meat (served on the bone) is steamed with fermented black beans and taro. The result is an umami-rich and juicy pork.
Savory often meets sweet in these dim sum dishes. The char siu so ($4.25) are slightly sweet triangles of dry and flaky pastry that fall apart at the bite; they come filled with a too-small portion of tender, roasted pork marinated in hoisin sauce. The char siu bao or barbecue pork bun ($4.25 for three) has a similar makeup, but with much larger portions of meat stuffed in subtly sweet, steamed dough.
One offering warranted seconds. The pan-fried pork potsticker ($3.95 for three) showcases a thick, handmade dough and a crispy exterior texture. And while the dense pork is rich and plentiful, the dough demonstrates the difference that a made-from-scratch dumpling makes.
The taro gok ($3.95 for three) is visually interesting. The football-shaped pieces of taro enveloping bean paste and ground pork displays a lace-like, deep-fried exterior. Eating these dumplings is messy, but the texture is worth it.
If judged solely by its xiao long bao ($4.25 for four), a litmus test for dim sum, Ty Ginger would fail. The soup dumplings are meant to hold a splash of soup within intricately folded dough, but six of the eight pieces my table tried were dry inside. The two that did have the savory broth were delicious.
The siu mai ($4.75 for four) are also lackluster. The pork and shrimp dumplings offer a meatball-sized filling, but are bland. A tableside portion of jalapeño-spiked soy sauce is a welcome remedy.
Vegetarian offerings are slim in dim sum. Green vegetables can be ordered from the main menu, while a few others make the rounds. The baby bok choy with seared garlic ($6.95) is a must-have. The aroma from the warm, garlicky oil on the perfectly cooked bok choy announces its presence as it nears the table. This is a welcome element among the dim sum menu’s mostly beige offerings.
On Ty Ginger’s dinner menu, a mix of American-Chinese, Cantonese and Thai dishes are served in shareable portions. A chatty server described the menu as simply “Asian,” which conjures a former Columbus when an entire continent of complex cuisines was lumped under the single term.
The best entrée I tried was the Bangkok Fish ($16). The sizeable piece of flaky, battered and fried cod is topped with a colorful slaw of al dente cabbage, bamboo shoots, carrots, onions and bean sprouts. It is served in a sweet and pungent broth with red pepper flakes and notes of fish sauce and ginger.
The red curry with tofu ($12.50) is another win. Large triangles of fried and firm tofu are served in a fragrant and creamy coconut broth with thick slices of green and red bell peppers (a challenge to eat with chopsticks). Aromatics and mushrooms joined the mix in this perfect-for-winter dish that can be served at any spice level.
Ty Ginger has largely overlooked the craft beer craze (though there are a couple available), emphasizing instead the usual domestics (Budweiser, Coors Light) and imports (Singha, Sapporo). From the cocktail menu, I enjoyed the Mai Tai ($8), which is heavy on the rum but complex. The almond flavor comes to the front after the initial kick from the booze. And although the wine list is not very sophisticated, Ty Ginger offers a good special Saturdays and Sundays, when wine bottles are 1/2 off the market price.
The desserts are worth trying. One standout is the coconut pudding ($3.95), which has the texture of a hard-boiled egg, a strong (almost suntan-oil) flavor and a visual texture that emulates rows of corn or soy—fittingly, that’s what once occupied the land where Ty Ginger sits.
Overall, while its dim sum brunch is a runaway hit, this Dublin spot shouldn’t be overlooked for lunch and dinner, as well. Ty Ginger is not just one, but two restaurants that should be added to your dining repertoire.