Kong welcomes you into it’s Korean x Japanese arms with a brightly lit semi-communal dining space set in Richmond (across the road from Top Paddock). The staff are incredible helpful, friendly and keen to recommend their favourite dishes. The chefs cook in front of you at an open bar, and the dishes are smashed out, eager to satisfy your stomach rumblings. It can get quite noisy, much like the more brooding, night-life counterpart Chin-Chin.
If there is anything you MUST order at Kong, it is the Ssam Roti Rolls. Touted as their signature dish (if not, I call it right now.) there are a variety of fillings you can order to personalise these wraps. They may look like catered deli wraps, but trust me, they are served piping hot; a crispy fried roti bread, dripping with sauce and flavour and deliciousness. I love the Teriyaki Grilled Chopped Salmon w/ rocket & spicy tomato salsa ($13.5), the roti is filled with warm, creamy, cooked salmon and spicy, raw rocket leaf. Be aware that if you dislike rocket you may not enjoy this dish as the rocket plays a main role in the flavours, which were full and quite spicy. Excellent.
The Bao bun is all the rage since Momofuku introduced it onto the market. This spicy pork belly Bun w/ pickled cucumber & Kong crazy horse chilli ($7.0) features a succulent pork belly slice (ours was slightly overcooked) with a strong star anise sauce accompanying the meat. The Bao is sweet and soft, and obviously the pork crackling is cooked crunchy, you know it’s so bad for you.
The Soft shell crab Bun w/ salted duck egg relish & coriander ($8.5) has a nice generous half serve of fried soft shell crab in a lightly spiced duck egg sauce which made the Bao flavours a lot heavier, compared to the pork belly. This was a much more ingenious play of flavours, and they reached a perfect balance here.
I was hesitant about ordering the BBQ Baby Back Pork Ribs w/ Kong crazy horse chilli (half $22.0), but to be honest, it was totally worth it. The ribs fell off the bone and were smothered with an incredibly spicy sauce, so watch out. TO me, it seemed like a combination of Malaysian sambal and fermented kimchi spice. A comment was made that the rib itself was quite tasteless without the sauce but I didn’t find that so. Will definitely order again.
The Spicy pork & sesame Ramen w/ Tobanjan ($16.5) was probably the most dissapointing of the lunch. The ramen felt like it was trying to hard to follow its other big brother Ramens into the world, but left the house still in his training nappy. The ramen was served quite firm and it had all the traditional additions like the seasoned egg and seaweed sheet and pork belly, but the soup had a strange peanut oil quality about it. It was quite a thick oily broth but I doubt it was made so by the traditional cartilage, and to be honest, didn’t taste fantastic. When your asian mother proceeds to spoon out the layer of top oil you know it’s a bad sign.
I’m a massive fan of tofu and zucchini, so the no-brainer was the BBQ Zucchini & spice crusted silken tofu w/ soy vinegar dressing ($17.0). I loved that the zucchini was heavily smoked, and combining this with a lightly fried miso crumb silken tofu was clever. Overall however, I wasn’t that impressed with this salad.
Tuna Tartare w/ yuzu koshu, red apple, pork crackle & squid ink ($21.0) is quite a light dish and should be eaten as an entree; I felt it’s flavours were lost in the other heavier dishes you order. The tuna and mayo is cleverly enhanced with spring onion and pork crackle to add texture and flavour. The squid ink ads another level to the flavour but is quite minimal, so doesn’t overpower it with the seafood tastes.
On to the dessert. I was keen on the coconut sago w/ passionfruit & pineapple trifle ($12.0) as I love trifle, so the sago based dessert was a no brainer for me. It consisted of layers of soft sponge cake, passion fruit creme, jelly and coconut sago and combined to create an epic taste explosion in your mouth. That being said, asian parents confirmed that the coconut was rancid, so we sent it back. The kitchen was incredibly gracious and apologetic and the whole issue was handled very professionally, in the end they removed both desserts from our bill.
The apple & walnut tart w/ miso butterscotch & japanese whisky ice cream ($13.0) is something I remember fondly from the two other times I’ve eaten at Kong. It is a really good desert. The pastry was like shortbread and went so well when smothered in the miso butterscotch. The whiskey ice cream wasn’t too overpowering, and the apple wasn’t poached for long, so still had the nice bite with the crunch of the walnuts. With this combination, you can’t go wrong.
TL;DR A very nice twist on Korean x Japanese asian fusion, I’d highly rate the Roti Rolls.