Chef Kang’s (Singapore)

Chef Kang’s at Mackenzie Road

If the newly opened Chef Kang’s does not ring a bell, try dipping into you foodie  memory bank for Cantonese chef, Ang Song Kang, who once held the reins at Lei Garden. Still nothing? What about Canton Wok or Canton Recipes House, both defunct establishments where Kang once helmed?
If all these draw a blank, fret not. If not for anything, it’s because Kang’s eateries were lurking in the forgotten corners of Havelock Road, Serangoon North, Joo Chiat or Albert Street.
But city dwellers can now rejoice.
Since May, Kang has quietly opened a 50-seat space occupying 3 units of shop house space at MacKenzie Road (opposite Rex Theatre). It’s just 5 minutes by car from Newton Circus and a stone’s throw from Little India.
Interior of Chef Kang’s
Unlike its flashier, colour-coordinated Chinese brethren at nearby Orchard Road, Chef Kang’s sports none of the glitzy interior that will turn heads.  On the contrary, it’s a tight 3-room configuration with garish purple table linens and luridly bright lights.
Not that it matters. Kang’s long-time customers are already flocking in droves to his new venue.
For a minimum of S$80 (minimum 5 pax), the chef will plan a handsome 5 to 6 course communal-style dinner based on the freshest ingredients he has acquired from his personal, thrice-weekly trips to the market. Of course one can order from a la carte too but the menu appears to be less useful than a chat with the chef, whose repertoire of dishes seems to be more extensive than what one gets from the menu.

 

Marbled goby fish soup

 

During our visit on a crowded Tuesday night, Kang swept us off our feet with an opening dish of marbled goby fish soup (S$80). The whole fish was first deep-fried and then simmered until it turned milky. Served with sautéed garlic, olive seeds, white cabbage and tomato, the broth was endearingly sweet and mellow, if a little deliciously perky.
Braised homemade toufu
The braised homemade toufu (S$18) was pure pleasure. Made fresh by Kang daily, the toufu was all silky and aromatic on its own but when paired with Kang’s special sauce – a delicious blend of chicken stock, dried leather jacket fish and dried scallops – it was elevated to yet another gustatory realm. While toufu dishes are a dime and a dozen in Singapore, this umami sauce by Kang is almost without equal.
Shrimp paste claypot kai lan
The same emphasis on sauce was evident in the vegetable dish. Leafy sprigs of Hong Kong kai lan (S$18) arrived in a clay pot shoulder to shoulder with fried garlic cloves and crispy pork lard. The pot also teeming with a shrimp paste-spiked sauce so piquant and tasty that we licked the plate clean.
Dual flavoured pork ribs

 

The rhythm of perfection was broken by the appearance of the dual flavoured pork ribs (S$24). Thumb-sized pork ribs, half of which were glazed with an overly sweet coffee paste and another half coated in an underwhelming mustard flavour, were deep-fried and served studded in sesame seeds. It was delightful to look at but less so to eat.
The desserts department was another weak link, not that we got to taste anything because only one item was available on the night of our visit.
But we are not complaining.
Kang’s cantonese style cooking is honest, homey and, for the most part, accomplished. Not only did Kang manage “wok hei” with aplomb, he was particularly meticulous with sauces, often going the extra mile to enrobe simple dishes – like toufu and vegetables – in spurts of umami.

It may be premature for us to judge a dinner basing on only four dishes. But Kang’s packed rooms do not lie and neither do his hordes of wine and whiskey-toting fans.

Expect to spend a minimum of S$50 a head.

25 Mackenzie Road, Singapore 228 681 | +65-6238 6263.
© Evelyn Chen 2013
Please note that the reviews published on this blog are sometimes hosted. I am under no obligation to review every restaurant I’ve visited. If I do, the reviews are 100% my own.

 

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