104 HV Dela Costa corner Leviste Street, Makati City
Open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Sunday
(SPOT.ph) “Eating your feelings” would seem to be the collective instinct for many of us coming out of post-election fever. And as Filipinos, nothing spells out comfort-food therapy for the soul quite like a heaping plate of your favorite Asian noodle dish.
Inside an unassuming nook along HV Dela Costa, right beside Crosta Pizzeria, lies the answer to all our noodle dreams and wishes. Slide open the glass door and step into the casual and very friendly atmosphere of Kong.
This not-so-traditional modern Asian restaurant proves food doesn’t have to be authentic to be superb in flavor:
For the design of the space, the aesthetic was inspired by the old stainless-steel-filled noodle stalls of Hong Kong but with a modern touch. The open kitchen was initially designed just for takeaway and delivery but since dine-in is now possible, you’re more than welcome to let your inner Marites out and spy all you want over the counter at how all the fresh food is lovingly prepared by the Kong crew. More importantly, check out the fresh noodle-making process that is painstakingly hand-pulled, flattened, and rolled in-house daily for your noodle-crazy pleasure. Egg noodles, wheat noodles, rice noodles, you got it.
The very friendly face that greets you with a welcoming smile upon entering Kong is the man behind it all, Chef Gerard D’Ombrille. Gezza, as he is more fondly called, is Australian by birth but with a strong Asian palate as he lived in Indonesia for four years (with two of them spent as the Executive Chef of Aman Resort in Bali) and in Singapore for four years.
“In Australia, there’s a very strong Asian influence because of the diversity of cultures and there’s a special love for Southeast Asian cuisine,” D’Ombrille shares. “I like making Southeast Asian food for Kong the way we do it back home, with lots of fresh herbs, lots of fresh vegetables, very vibrant colors, and full flavors.”
Once you open the glass sliding door and enter Kong’ premises, be prepared to leave your preconceived notions of what your favorite noodle dish “should” taste like. Though small, their menu boldly declares that the food is a "rebellious collusion" of Southeast Asian cuisine, done in a manner they dub “UN-authentic”—and Gezza shares that Kong never planned to go the traditional route. So there’s a bit of Thai-style food, some Vietnamese, some Chinese, and some Indonesian food as well, all beautifully rounded up together in a harmonious marriage of flavors. The focus is really on elevating the freshness of each dish, with noodles made in-house to seal the deal.
For the first dish, the #1 Deep-Fried Sake Soy Marinated Chicken Wings with Citrus (P250), Chef Gezza confesses that the recipe was from his wife who was inspired by the chicken wings recipe from Midnight Diner on Netflix. The chicken wings are cooked sous vide to ensure that they come out tender, juicy, and oh-so-tasty. And with a quick deep-fry after, the chicken turns out perfectly crispy and flavorful as you dip to your heart’s content into the provided citrus dipping sauce. It’s the perfect starter to whet your appetite for the carb fest that you have ahead.
For a rich-meets-vibrant bite, go for the #4 Green Papaya Salad with Nahm Jim (P250, plus P100 for additional Caramel Roast Pork). This refreshing salad with a subtly sweet citrus dressing and bites of fresh pomelo sets your palate up nicely for the crispy caramelized roast pork that you can have on the side. Don’t let the caramelized pork belly worry you that it may be too sweet; heck, think of it as a crunchy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside meaty treat that’s a tad reminiscent of our very own Pinoy adobo, albeit on the sweet side. All in all, you get a beautiful balance of sweet and salty that’ll perk you up for the heavier dishes ahead.
The #5 Stir-Fried Rolled Rice Noodles, Sweet Soy Base and Kaffir Lime is Kong's take on Thai pad see ew. The stir-fried noodle dish is a top favorite at Kong, what with its irresistible slightly charred taste from pan-frying the noodles with the fresh greens and fresh kaffir lime leaves. You can choose your protein for this one, but you can’t go wrong with the option of Shredded Beef (P450) for which Kong uses veal osso buco from New Zealand for the most tender bites. The rolled rice noodles make this dish one-of-a-kind as they are painstakingly rolled tight and made in-house for a dense and chewy character. The umami of the dish also comes from the kecap manis or the famous sweet soy sauce from Indonesia which gives the sauce a distinctly Asian, palm-sugar sweetness.
Next up is the #6 Stir-Fried Fresh Egg Noodles, Soy Sauce, Egg and Dragon Oil, which is served in an unassuming takeaway box—and it’s true that one should never judge a dish by how humbly it’s presented. You can again choose your protein for the dish, among the options being Prawns (P500); you get a generous heaping of plump prawns served over (to borrow from the Italians) perfectly al dente fresh egg noodles and greens, revved up with a punch of savory dragon oil for a stir-fried taste bomb in every bite.
How’s about a taste of Malaysia? The #10 Malaysian-style Rich and Spicy Coconut Broth with Prawn, Tofu, and Wheat Noodles (P500) has got your back. Upon taking the first bite and you taste the rich and spicy coconut prawn broth, the familiar flavor notes comes around. This is Kong’s take on laksa, which comes filled to the brim with prawns, tofu, eggs, fresh wheat noodles, and herbs. Every bite is rich but perfectly balanced, and it sure doesn’t hurt that the generous serving is perfect for sharing.
If there’s an ode to how delectable a dish is, ask the chef what they like. Chef Gezza’s personal fave? The #13 Javanese-Style Lamb Coconut Curry over Jasmine Rice (P600, plus P50 for additional prata)—a dish inspired by the Indonesian classic called gulai jawa or Javanese curry. The lamb is perfectly tender and so richly seasoned with the curry; you might even want to order extra jasmine rice or prata to sop up all that precious curry sauce off your plate.
After your hearty Asian meal, you might be craving a sweet bite to cleanse your palate—and you’ll be happy to know that Kong makes one of the best chocolate mousses in town, dubbed the #18 Chocolate Mousse with Mandarin Coulis (P300). Using only the best Belgian chocolate, this rich and creamy dessert with mandarin coulis has a touch of cinnamon in it for added punch. Add the topping of crumbled chocolate brownies (from Crosta Pizzeria next door!) to the equation, and you’ve got a real dream of a dessert. Chocoholics, rejoice.
Chef Gezza aims to have everyone who tries his food come back out feeling that they tried something a bit different from what they were expecting. Cutting through the rigors of fine dining, Kong affords us a distinctive taste of Asia from his perspective. It’s inauthentic (er, UN-authentic), it’s unpretentious—and if you ask us, it’s unbelievably delicious.
Gezza says it best: “We’d rather that the food looks humble to keep people’s expectations low and then proceed to blow people away.” Be sure to make Kong your next stop when the urge to eat your feelings comes your way.
Photos by Majoy Siason
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