I was rather sad when Burger Theory ended their residency at Kongs and doubly sad when they failed to find appropriate premises to operate on a standalone basis in Cardiff (resulting in them retreating back over the Bridge).
At the same time the people at Keralan Karavan were looking for new digs and I did wonder if Kongs would not be a good fit for both.
It seems the culinary Gods were listening to my prays as my hopes have come to fruition, with Keralan Karavan teaming up with the Monday Club (a Cardiff pop up) to bring a pan Asian offering to the centre of Cardiff in the form of Nomad Kitchen at Kongs.
I am generally wary of places that offer pan Asian (actually pan anywhere) food, as the food from that region is quite diverse. Think of the difference between the cuisines of Vietnam, Thailand and Indian and those of China, Japan and Korea. Even those in close proximity, geographically, historically and culturally, have taken differing culinary paths.
Rice may be a continuity theme in these cuisines, but what comes with it can be very diverse (in South Korea you can get fried chicken, BBQ meats, stone pots and bibimbap, whereas in North Korea you can get bugger all!).
A place that covers such diverse cuisines usually sets alarm bells off in my head, with the ghastly all you can eat buffet joints the first thing that comes to mind.
Keralan Karavan are, however, a class act and the same seems to be true of their kitchen collaboratee here, the Monday Club. As such Nomad Kitchen’s pan Asian offering comes with some pedigree (in the right way).
A positive review from Gourmet Gorro (always a good weather vane food wise I find) fixed my mind to visit on the only lunchtime (Friday) they open during the working week.
Kongs’ (and with it Nomad Kitchen’s) entrance is currently surrounded by scaffolding and tarps. so its already somewhat unobtrusive entrance is even more obscured.
They are trying hard to highlight the fact that it is open, but I do worry that these on going works will be effecting trade
Inside it is much the same, with what is a huge space
Very nice to see it is still very dog friendly, with even a house dog in residence. Friendly little chap he is too.
The menu offers an interesting blend of styles and cuisines, with fusion food also in the form of the Eastern flavoured burger offering.
Whilst sorely tempted by the Korean Fried Chicken (“KFC”) burger (a noble replacement, so I have heard, for Burger Theory’s Prairie Girl), I was in the mood for a rice dish and so opted for the Korean classic bibimbap.
Bibimbap is a dish I have not had in Cardiff before (Kimchi does do it) and it piqued my curiosity. It means rice (bap) with assorted ingredients (the bibim) which, in the case of my order, included a fried egg, goghujang beef, kimchi and raw and pickled veg (£12, with the beef or Korean fried chicken and £11 with tofu).
A big portion and a veritable cornucopia of flavours in the mix, all of which melded together rather harmoniously.
The goghijang added sweet chilli heat to the tender beef, whereas the pickled veg and kimchi brought a nice sourness (and in the case of the kimchi more chilli heat) to the proceedings.
Textural contrasts came from the nicely runny fried egg and crunchy broccoli. Below all of this was a load of fluffy rice laced with fried garlic.
If you are a chilli fiend (I tend to shy away from incendiary heat) you can add a potent chilli seed paste to the mix. Despite its heat and my somewhat wimpish approach to chillies, this was very morish stuff and I applied liberal quantities of it to the rice.
I really enjoyed my bibimbap and pretty much cleaned out the bowl
No mean feat for someone as cackhanded as me when only using chopsticks (they will provide a fork or a spoon if you ask)!
My dining companion decided on what he thought was a more restrained approach and ordered two dishes from the Nomadic dumplings part of the menu.
First up Japan made an appearance, with some deep fried gyozas (£5).
Nice crisp coating and a real depth of flavour to the veggie filling. The spicing here really lifted the veggies so as to make the lack of meat not an issue at all. It also came with a top notch, ginger heavy, soy dipping sauce which added another flavour layer.
Moving on to China, next up were some chicken potstickers (£5).
Nice contrasting crisp bottoms and soft tops, these were deemed very pleasant by my friend but didn’t quite pack the flavour punch of the gyozas.
Just goes to show that you don’t need meat if the flavour profile with veggies is right. Both were deemed nice, but the gyozas were his clear favorite of the two.
They are also doing today a rather interesting Sunday lunch offering.
Liking the sound of the reworked prawn cocktail and the somewhat off piste roast dinner offerings. Gunpowder cauli, Bombay aloo roasties and whatever Yorkshire via Kerala pudding is all sound and look rather splendid!
Certainly one to add to the Sunday lunch list – will be trying it later today and will update with pics.
The Sunday lunch is (as expected), very good.
It keeps the “beloved of us Brits” traditional bits (lovely beef, roasties and yorkie) and adds some really nice spicing touches (carrot puree, gunpowder spiced cauliflower and a cabbage and green bean thoran all worked a treat).
I am not a massive hop head, but those that are have indicated that the place has really upped its game in the beer stakes recently (see the post from Gourmet Gorro – who has probably forgotten more about proper beer than I will ever know- on this place).
The selection looks pretty wide, going from the main stream to the weird (and hopefully) wonderful.
Nice to see a good spread of ABVs from a relatively gentle 3.8° to a headbanging 8.6°
I went relatively safe, with a cheeky half of Beavertown Neck oil.
Very easy drinking stuff – crisp, fruity and very refreshing – I enjoyed it with my bibimbap.
A Moors Beer Espana Hop went well with my beef dinner.
I suspect a combination of restrictive opening hours (only open on one week day lunch) and the scaffolding may mean some people think it isn’t open/walk on by it.
Would be a shame if people do that as they will be missing some really rather good food.
Would I go back? Yes, already have and very much enjoyed the burger offering. The Bolly Sholly burger
and the Korean Fried kitchen burger (both £12 with fries)
were very good and pleasingly different (lovely spicing in my Bolly Sholly).
The Indian trio (£5) was pretty good too (love those rainbow poppadums).
Next on the hit list is their Sunday roast dinner. Update: Sunday lunch tried and is very good – well worth a look
I think Nomad Kitchens’s offering is a real boon to the City centre now that Sticky Fingers has moved to the burbs. Just wish it was open more lunch times in the week.
Address: Kongs, Hodge House, 114 – 116 St. Mary Street, CF10 1DY
Tel: 02920 64 41 14
Email: Cardiff @kongsbar.com
Opening hours :