You probably heard Kong was coming. Well, Kong is here. After what felt like an eternity of anticipating what the guys behind Chin Chin and Baby would roll out next, this Korean and Japanese inspired barbecue house has arrived permanently in Richmond.
Warning: Like its predecessors, Kong does not take bookings. You might (read: will) have to wait for a seat around peak dinner times. After all, it's food coming from renowned chef Benjamin Cooper. There's no bar for pre-dinner drinks, but leave your name and number and they'll be sure to let you know once something's available.
Consolation: Kong does takeaway. Sure, you'll miss out on the tightly packed communal dining experience at birch veneer tables and walls with funky Asian lettering and totally kuwaii pandas, but if the excitable, fast-paced vibe doesn't move you, take the fodder home.
At first, the menu might seem overwhelming until you realise the breakdown is quite user-friendly and the waitstaff are more than willing to help — a note worth making. The service matches the atmosphere: fun, chatty and as present as possible without verging into overbearing. We almost guarantee you'll go home wondering if you and the waitress could be best friends if you'd met under different circumstances.
There are plenty of small dishes to start with, or enough to make an entire meal. The gua bao style buns ($6) with peanut butter salt and pepper tofu will make you wish supersized variations existed and after tasting the roti-rolls ($12) — which arguably seem Indian-inspired — with pulled pork, slaw and burnt chilli mayo cut into as many pieces as there are people at the table, origins won't matter when the bread strikes that slightly chewy perfection and spicy sauce is dripping down your elbows.
Choosing which meat you'd most like barbecued doesn't have to be an ordeal by opting for the $28 Bossam BBQ tray with a selection of pulled pork, pork belly, beef brisket and chicken, as well as kimchi, pickles, and a delectable walnut sauce with a bit of kick to it. Lettuce cups are also included for making wraps, counteracting the accidental dryness of the brisket. For dessert, the coconut sago with passionfruit and pineapple trifle ($12) is tangy and cleansing on the palate — an ideal choice for those wanting the last course but unable to devour anything heavier, like the walnut and apple tart with miso butterscotch and Japanese whiskey ice cream ($13).
To be honest, we're still waiting for the 'feed me' degustation option a la the rest of the Lucas Group restaurants so we can gorge ourselves on all the best things on offer.
Kong may not yet be king of the jungle, but it is the new king of Church Street.