Please don't go to a cafe named after a mass murderer.
Why are you naming a cafe after a murderous monster for God's sake? Would you name a restaurant Cromwell Cafe??
The food was acceptable, but for a more authentic Mao experience they should slaughter tens of millions of Chinese people during the meal.Also, in keeping with Mao's beliefs about capitalism, tipping should result in being sent to a "re-education camp" where patrons will survive for weeks on a single handful of rice.
The food was terrible. It was greasy, yet tasteless as if they were trying to appeal to Americans. Did I mention that the restaurant honors, with its name, a horrific, mass murdering dictator? As if the food wasn't reason enough not to go here, they make it easy by naming the establishment for a brutal communist. I do have a positive comment, however. It's better to be at this restaurant than in one of Mao's prison camps.
I been here a few times (more accurately dragged by a friend who appreciates the large smoking section). The food is adequate but no more than that and tends to be rather oily. Fishcakes are fried spongey balls of homogenised material (unidentifiable). The staff are of the aspiring actor variety but are unfortunately not able to act the part of waiters very convincingly. The floor manager I have encountered is an officious busybody who I saw sending a waiter upstairs after somebody she thought might be going to the bathroom - " he didn't eat here! Stop him!". She will make you wait 15 minutes for a table on principle because,you know, Mao is a happening place and you can't expect to just swan in and sit down at once. Why give them the money when the cafe a few doors down has lovely food and genuinely charming staff? Another thing: who chose the name? Was it a toss-up between that and Pol Pot?
Cafe Mao's eclectic mix of Thai, Indonesian and other oriental cuisines is exciting and considering Asian is the cuisine du jour - surprisingly affordable. It is possible for two people to have a three-course meal in the evening with a bottle of wine (or a couple of oriental beers) and still have change from £50. For those of us without expense accounts or limitless disposable incomes this is the restaurant to go to. Judging by the queues on weekend nights (Mao does not accept reservations), many people know this already. The decor is trendily minimalist and the staff are efficient and friendly. I would recommend the Chilli Squid (£5.75) as a starter. The squid was pleasantly chewy in a light, non-greasy batter accompanied by a chilli oil dip. My favourite main course at Cafe Mao is Nasi Goreng (£7.95) - an Indonesian fried rice dish with chicken satay, shrimps, fried egg and cabbage. You might expect this dish to be bland but the chilli paste (which is conveniently left on the side so you can make the dish as hot as you dare) add zest. All dishes have a chilli guide so you can only blame yourself if whatever you ordered is too spicy for your taste. The Thai Chicken Curry (£8.95) is a subtly flavoured dish, ideal for awkward partners with unadventurous taste buds. This will cause even the most stubborn steak-and-chips man to revise his opinion of 'foreign grub'. With our meal we had a few Kirin beers, which really complemented the food. Strangely enough, considering his obstinate resistance to any food he did not like as a child, Ronan never objects to sampling foreign beers! After the palate-warming starter and entree Mao's selection of ice cream (£3.25) as he succinctly observed, 'really hit the spot'. Dublin needs more restaurants like Cafe Mao - reasonably priced with a lively ambience and unpretentious food.
~ ~ The Café Mao is situated on Chatham Street, just of the top of Grafton Street, the main shopping area in Dublin City. The basic concept of Café Mao is very simple. It takes the best from all the different types of Asian and Far Eastern food, and combines them all in its own unique way. So here you can eat Thai food for your starter, Chinese food for your main course, and end up with a Japanese speciality or a tasty European dish for your dessert. ~ ~ Don’t expect any fancy décor if you visit this eatery. At best, the furnishings could be described as minimalist, with huge canvas reproductions of Andy Warhol’s famous image of Chairman Mao decorating the walls, and an open-plan kitchen dominating on the ground floor. I actually like this, as you can see that their hygiene is good, and that nothing untoward is going on in the food preparation. There is also a very large upstairs room, again furnished very sparsely, but without the cosy feeling that the open kitchen gives the downstairs room. At lunchtimes, when it tends not to be so busy, most people try to avoid the upstairs like the plague, as it feels for all the world like you are sitting in an empty airport hangar. It’s not so bad in the evening though, when some subtle lighting, and a surfeit of people, serve to make it more hospitable. ~ ~ The main reason people flock to this restaurant is not for the décor however, but for the delicious and nutritious food that is all freshly prepared on the premises, and cooked strictly to order. Fish is a bit of a house speciality, and the chilli squid (octopus) fried in batter, and then served with a chilli and garlic dip, is one of my own particular favourites. If you want a soup, then the black bean soup with chilli is very tasty, and will leave you plenty of room for your main course. A lot of the dishes do seem to come with a flavouring of chilli, but don’t let this put you off, as it
isn’t too hot, and actually quite subtle in taste in most of the dishes. ~ ~ Other favourites of mine are the Thai crab cakes with a chilli sauce dip, and served with a red onion and cucumber salad. If you prefer something more meaty, then you can have a simple chicken char sui with rice, or some of their delicious roast duck with ramen noodles and bak choi. The Thai Green Vegetable Curry, a spicy creamy dish with a hint of coconut and served with jasmine rice, is very good for those of you with a taste for something a bit hot and spicier. ~ ~ The wine list is fairly small, but not being a drinker myself this doesn’t worry me too much, although I’m told that their house wine at £10.95 a bottle is very palatable, and good value for money. With the food being of the spicy variety, a lot of customers prefer to drink a chilled beer, and Mao stock some of Asia's finest, such as Sapporo, Tsing Tao and Kingfisher. ~ ~ The service is quick and sharp, but without being too much in-your-face, and the background music is pleasant and not over loud, which allows you to have a pleasant conversation without having to shout to be heard as in some restaurants. ~ ~ The Café Mao have only recently opened a second restaurant out in Dun Loghaire, in the Dublin suburbs, which is where the boat from Holyhead in Wales docks. So business looks as though its on the up and up. ~ ~ This place wont break the bank either, and the average price of a meal (excluding wine) is in the £15 to £20 bracket. (Irish Punts. Minus approx 20% for Sterling) Why not visit the "Chairman" next time you find yourself in the "Fair City".