When well-known area chefs go to a restaurant after hours (or before hours) for a bite to eat, chances are you know it will be a good spot. And such was the case with a now-closed eatery in Boston's Chinatown called King Fung Garden. This tiny, plain-looking place on Kneeland Street was indeed a hangout for some big names in the industry until closing a few years back, and while the owners subsequently opened a King Fung Garden II in Brookline, more than a few in Boston lamented the closing of this landmark restaurant. Fortunately, the owners opened another spot called China King just up the street from the original King Fung Garden, and its menu has some of the dishes that made that place such a favorite among those in the know.
Like many (most?) restaurants along Beach Street in the heart of Chinatown, China King doesn't exactly have the type of atmosphere that would make for a quiet, romantic evening with your loved one, but it is quite a bit nicer than the old King Fung Garden, which felt a bit like a mixture of a trailer and a walk-in closet. The single dining room at China King has several tables--including some by the window which allows for good people watching--and a counter area in the middle for takeout orders. The lighting is not overly harsh like that of some of its neighbors where fluorescent tubes rules the day, and the earthy colors of the walls and floor give the place a warm and inviting feel. A mirror in the back of the restaurant helps make the dining area feel just a bit larger than it actually is.
A cursory glance at China King's menu might not initially impress, looking like that of so many other Chinese restaurants--albeit without some of the more familiar Chinese-American items such as chicken fingers and crab rangoon. But it's the quality of the dishes that impresses here, with such items as the nicely browned Peking ravioli, the silky egg drop soup, the sweet and slightly spicy dan dan noodles (in soup form, by the way), the garlicky beef chow foon, the more flavorful than hot Singapore noodles, the rich and savory beef with scallions, the thick and meaty scallion pancakes, and even the humble pork fried rice all tasting like they were freshly made using high-quality ingredients. One of the highlights at China King is the pork bun appetizer, which comes served in a bamboo steamer and consists of seasoned pork and delicious broth inside of thick wrappers. Another highlight at the restaurant is the Shanghai chow mein, which may sound basic but is a fabulous dish consisting of thick and chewy noodles, shredded pork, veggies, and a flavorful sauce. (Another version with shredded duck is well worth getting, too.) But perhaps the signature dish at China King is the same signature dish from the old King Fung Garden--the Peking duck, which is a three-course dinner that has to be ordered one day in advance and includes duck that you wrap in steamed pancakes, stir-fry duck, and soup that is made from the duck. This meal is around $40, but will easily be enough for a table of four. Among the drinks available at China King is a limited selection of beer and wine.
It is nice to see that China King carries on the tradition of the old King Fung Garden, and it sounds like chefs and others in the restaurant business have indeed discovered the place, knowing that it is basically represents a continuation of King Fung. Others have not yet found out about this dining spot, however, especially with the sheer number of choices in this Boston neighborhood. But this is one that really stands out and should definitely not be missed.
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