Restaurant review by Sophie Fuggle
Kung Fu Kitchen, New Cross Road, SE13
In the first of a series of features on the many culinary wonders of New Cross, NXRB samples the wares of the latest addition to the gastronomic centre of South East London. With its name taking full advantage of both alliteration and affectionate cultural stereotype, Kung Fu Kitchen, suggests a veritable assault on the tastebuds. It should also be noted that by name alone, the establishment sets itself apart from the less imaginatively named establishments adorning Lewisham Way which range from the feebly metonymic Noodle and Rice to the ironically grandiose The Thailand.
Emerging from the ruins of a former pie shop, known only (at least to this reviewer) for its distinct lack of pies, Kung Fu Kitchen appears to offer all the staples of the average high street Chinese takeaway. While the only real benchmark of both taste and quality can be discerned by way of their Singapore noodles and accompanying chilli oil, on this occasion, the reviewer opted for the hot and sour soup, the salt and pepper chicken wings with a side of prawn crackers.
After Singapore noodles, hot and sour soup tends to offer the most insight into the inner workings of a Chinese takeaway. The ability to create a soup which is both hot and sour in equal measure is no mean feat. It is also important that individual ingredients do not overwhelm the dish. A common error is to bombard the soup with either carrot or tofu. This is where otherwise perfectly respectable establishments lose all credibility along with the patronage of this reviewer. In the case of Kung Fu Kitchen, the hot and sour soup had an unorthodox prawn focus. While this did not result in any imbalance to the overall flavour of the dish, it was clearly intended to compensate for an aporia of pork and the limited and lacklustre presence of some weary chicken. However, at around 50p cheaper than Go-Sing and other local competitors, these minor shortcomings shouldn’t obscure the good work Kung Fu Kitchen are doing in bringing a passable hot and sour soup to the masses during a recession.
The salt and pepper chicken embodied a similar paradox. The outer coating was a joy to behold and eat – perfectly combining crispy, greasy and spicy in accordance with this reviewer’s personal predilection. The meat itself, however, was an unwholesome shade of pink. Although it may be safely assumed that the quality and cookedness of the chicken itself is not at stake here, for reasons of objectivity, it seems important to make note of this.
Where the prawn crackers did not cause any particular offence, being neither overcooked, too thick or too thin, they were also not a major source of inspiration. More importantly, perhaps, was the dearth of appropriate reading material available for patrons awaiting their orders. Besides a Cantonese version of LOOT, there was nothing in the way of the two week old Tv Choices that adorn the tables of Go-Sing. Given the Baltic winds blowing in through the open door, this made waiting even 5 minutes something of an ordeal.
Thus, while this review must remain inconclusive given the lack of data on the Singapore noodles, the quest for the ultimate hot and sour soup continues…