Scotsman Review
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  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
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September 29, 2017

Dai Pai, restaurant review, Edinburgh

The food at Dai Pai is probably best forgotten, says Gaby Soutar

A Forfar bridie drowning in its own gravy.

As my memory becomes like a dodgy Filofax, with pages stuck together, hieroglyphic handwriting and blotchy ink, I am increasingly reliant on mnemonics to remember restaurant names, especially when there’s nothing that I can visualise in the title.

I’m not the only one.

“Where are we going again?,” said my sister, on the approach to this new restaurant.

I think of the pastry, its lungs slowly filling with liquid. Oh yeah, die pie.

Dai Pai!

We found it no bother, with a modern-looking black and glass fronted exterior, a wooden-clad interior and a location at Newington’s epicentre of studentville – aka the crossroads near Farmfoods.

Maybe undergraduates are expected to be smarter than me, but it doesn’t seem that clear how this chaotically-designed eatery, whose name presumably references dai pai dong (a type of open-air food stall in Hong Kong), works.

We milled about for a bit, looking at the communal tables, the lists of their pan-Asian cuisine on boards at the other end of the space, other stuff in glass cabinets.

Well, what next?

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Eventually we took a seat, then realised we were supposed to order at the counter, where a non-orderly ramshackle queue had formed.

When I thought it was my turn, I desperately waved a finger at one of the only ready-made savoury things left – salmon sushi (£5.50), in a takeaway box.

We took it back to the sticky table, and prized the plastic lid off.

The contents were OK – two salmon nigiri featuring generous square blankets of fish over the rice, like super-king duvets on single beds.

The fat pair of spicy salmon maki were fine too. Once we’d downed this, the hot stuff that we’d ordered at the counter started to quickly arrive, all in a huge amount of wastefully unnecessary packaging, with soon-to-be-binned chopsticks, soy in little plastic boxes and disposable forks.

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Our set of five fleshy and loose vegetable gyoza (£4.10) – non-pan-toasted and presented in a cardboard bowl – were fine.

I couldn’t really identify the contents, but they were fattened up with something that tasted vaguely oniony and protein-replacement-y.

They make a big deal about their sushirrito – “already very popular” it says on their website.

So, from a choice of seven varieties of this Japan-meets-Mexico wrap, we went for the Monk Crunch version (£6.95), with, apparently, grilled tofu, sweet potato, purple cabbage, yellow peppers, cucumber, honey sweet potato crisps and apple mayo.

I’m not sure if any sort of the billed sauce made it into these dry dumpy wraps, served in paper and on a cardboard plate.

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The contents seemed to just be about 97 per cent rice, with a few crudites prised in.

It was a filling distribution that reminded me of those supermarket sandwich tests in consumer magazines, when they open the offending bap up to reveal a tiny blob of egg mayo or whatever right in the centre, and naked bread all around.

The teriyaki pork hirata buns (£5.95 for two) were equally soulless. On yet another paper plate, they consisted of two small buns, as dry as, I’d imagine, Pennywise’s pale and waxen cheek, stuffed with a cloying pork that was so desiccated it was granular.

There was nothing else inside this pair of bao, the Taiwanese street food version of two bangers in a bap on the side of a motorway, served with a “sorry mate, we’re out of ketchup”.

Our other two options were a chickeny rice thing (£5.95), which featured a thick layer of strangely reconstituted-style spongy poultry. This grim layer put me off plumbing the depths of this takeaway box, so who knows exactly what lies beneath.

We abandoned all the remains, wasted boxes, plates and cutlery, and ran across the road  to the new-ish Machina Espresso (80 Nicolson Street).

Some days call for consolation cakes, so we went for a lovely gooey-centred and raspberry-studded chocolate cheesecake brownie (£2.95) and a decent and very tall carrot cake (£2.95).

There-there, everything is better now. Drink your coffee, it was all a bad dream.

Anyway, I have a new mnemonic for Dai Pai. Actually, never mind, some places are best forgotten.

Dai Pai

95-97 Nicolson Street, Edinburgh

(0131-281 4947,



Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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