Kong BBQ

599 Church St
Richmond, VIC 3121
It was a beautiful day. I had finally finished my pharmacy registration exam, the weather was warm and breezy, and summer was more than just a hint in the clear blue skies. And what’s on the agenda? Food, of course. 
Photo via http://www.broadsheet.com.au/melbourne/food-and-drink/article/kong-restaurant-richmond
I remember back when Chin Chin just opened up; I was still in my early days at uni, and thus at perfect liberty to visit booming new restaurants at odd hours in order to avoid the queues. But when Kong BBQ, another venture of Chris Lucas, opened in Richmond earlier this year, I was in a bit of a pickle. Thankfully I had been allotted a morning exam, and Chris was lucky enough to knock off work early that day, and we were left with enough time to arrive at Kong just 20 minutes before the Friday night rush. 
The restaurant seats 60, but it’s a near thing. Though we rocked up early enough to score our choice of tables, those who arrived a little later had to make do with being squeezed onto a bar barely a hand span wide that lined the entryway, putting up with the jostling of the waiting throng at their backs. Both the size and the interior came as something of a surprise; given the success of Chin Chin, I imagine Chris Lucas could’ve afforded to plate his new restaurant in gold leaf. Instead he continued the warehouse trend, settling on a space that’s airy and minimalistic, with lots of light wood. 
Housemade Passionfruit and Lemon Soda ($6)/Coconut Crush ($9)
It ain’t a celebration without drinks, and although I had originally intended on getting one alcomohol, I found myself tempted instead by the Coconut Crush ($9), a slushee of young coconut juice and the fruits of the day – watermelon, apple, and a sprig of mint. This was just my poison, or rather, just my antidote to the stress of exams, the warm weather, and the rather meat-heavy meal we were about to have.
Housemade Passionfruit and Lemon Soda ($6)/Coconut Crush ($9)
Chris on the other hand had the Housemade Passionfruit & Lemon Soda($6), which was fruity and fresh… and rather alcoholic. Turns out they had inadvertently made this soft drink into a cocktail, so boo to that. 
BBQ Chicken Ssam Roti Roll ($12)
The BBQ Chicken Ssam Roti Roll ($12) came as a big surprise. Held together tenaciously by the crisp roti was a messy mix of smoky chicken from the grill, lashings of kimchi, crunchy slaw, all slathered with spicy, earthy gochujang sauce. 
BBQ Chicken Ssam Roti Roll ($12
I had expected something greasy and over the top indulgent, but the combination of flavours and textures absolutely blew me away with how bright and vivacious they were. I’m salivating just thinking about it.
Wood Roasted Pumpkin ($14)
Pumpkin has been cropping up in unexpected and delicious places for me this year, and Kong’s offering was a solid wedge of Wood Roasted Pumpkin($14), garnished with a tumble of edamame salsa and a gooey ramen egg. The pumpkin was delicious; the skin was burnished to a charred crisp, and the tender sweetness of middle augmented beautifully by the garlic and shallots in the savoury salsa. The ramen egg didn’t really belong anywhere, but the gooey, smoky flavours were so good that they didn’t need to. 
Kong Bossam BBQ Tray ($29)
The Kong Bossam BBQ Tray ($29) is for the people who can’t decide on anything, but want a bit of everything. This platter for two showcases 4 different meats cooked in the wood fire pits, to be mixed and matched to your heart’s content with a selection of pickles and stuffed into a lettuce leaf. Kind of like a gluten-free Korean taco!
Three fat and succulent slabs of pork belly falling apart at the seams, served with an entire tile of crackling on the side.
Saucy pulled chicken coated in an earthy gochujang sauce.
Pulled pork that broke apart as we tried to pick it up with our chopsticks melted in the mouth with a rich meatiness.
And thinly sliced beef brisket, covered in a smoky tomato sauce and tasting strangely Texan.
But this dish is a case where it is more than the sum of its parts. All of the meats were delicious in their own right, but they absolutely sang when paired up with tangy pickles, and wrapped in a vibrantly crunchy lettuce leaf. Add a dollop of the sticky-sweet walnut ssamjung, and you’ve got yourself an opera.
Coconut Sago with Passionfruit and Pineapple Trifle ($12)
And to top our amazing meal off was a dessert of Coconut Sago with Passionfruit and Pineapple Trifle ($12). Even in my full to bursting state, I found room to appreciate the cool layers of cream and summery fruit jelly, and the fluffy bed of sponge hidden at the bottom. I especially loved the contrast between the silken pop of sago and the crunch of passionfruit seeds. 
We enjoyed our meal at a leisurely place, the accommodating staff happy for us to take our time despite the long queues. I left Kong entirely satisfied, but also feeling a little bit bummed; I have hardly ever had such a nice meal, but when on earth am I going to be able to make it back to try the sticky ribs and miso butter corn?
(Note to self: Kong also does take-away.)
Rating: 16/20 – king kong.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit. 

Kong BBQ on Urbanspoon

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