The name Sing Kong is a bid to encompass everything from Singapore to Hong Kong and beyond – in other words, every element of Asian cuisine, with a heavy focus on appetisers.
As far as appearances go, the interior of Sing Kong resembles a the food hall of a typical four star hotel in Mumbai: stark grey and black, peppered with a mystifying grass theme and crowned with the lawn-covered head of a moose. Yes, a moose.
A medium-sized open kitchen, a small, unimpressionable bar and even smaller sushi bar hold fort, the latter showing no evidence that it performs any such kind of function. What the decor lacks in terms of taste, I hope it makes up for in terms of taaaaaste (bad joke, but you know you loved it).
In spite of all this, the abundance of natural light manages to elevate my mood along with the laughter and gossip of merry aunties at lunch and a classy soundtrack of acoustic covers of the latest top 40 chart busters.
I begin with the Galangal (ginger) and Lemongrass Martini. This drink is prepared by soaking ginger and lemongrass in vodka to infuse it with flavour before combining with lemongrass juice.
The sign of a strong, classy drink is the indiscernable taste of alcohol. With tones not unlike traditional Thai tea, this rings true with the galangal and lemongrass martini; the beverage is smooth and rounded with distinct herbal tones.
However I did not feel any effect of inebriation after guzzling down the martini- a sure sign of either my increasing tolerance to the hard stuff, or a drink which is light on alcohol.
I dive in with the assorted dumpling basket. Allow me to preface by saying dumplings do not overly arouse my interest so if one manages to appeal to me, I consider it a miracle.
The fish and sesame dumpling is filled with seasoned basa – suprisingly palatable as the spices used brings out exciting character traits I was unaware the neutral basa could possess. The sesame seeds astride the dim sum give texture; coupled with the “house screaming chilli sauce” the result is a fiery, potent cauldron of flavour. Great start!
The crystal shrimp dumpling holds delicate yet distinct ginger flavours which marry well with the large prawn, however fairly standard as far as dim sum goes.
The flavour of the spiced broccoli leaves a phenomenal impact with absolutely no need of non-vegetarian relief. The softness of the dumpling is juxtaposed by a spicy, crunchy interior.
With a consistency resembling unbuttered, thickly mashed potato and largely neutral flavours to match, I am bored by the wasabi, edamame and water chestnut.
A nauseous hue of green, the spinach and corn is filled with so many vegetables that it eats like a salad, however displays much personality in terms of texture. Coupled with the chilli sauce it can be made interesting.
The aromatic chicken dumping holds an unusual pink exterior, thanks to the presence of beetroot. It features delicately spiced minced chicken infused with flavours of chilli and lemongrass.
The Crispy Philadelphia Onmaki is made of battered rice, avocado, salmon and Philadelphia cream cheese. A unique dish entirely conceptualised by Sing Kong’s head chef, it seems incredible that noone has attempted this combination before in Mumbai.
The familar combination of avocado, salmon and cream cheese resonates well with battered sticky rice and proves to be addictive.
The use of light soya with its reduced salt content does not overpower the sushi with the usual formidable flavours characteristic of ordinary soy sauce.
In contrast, the Temaki (conical) sushi fails to charm, eschewing any hint of taste even though it holds almost identical ingredients of avocado, salmon and cucumber.
The rice lacks the appropriate amount of stickiness and the seaweed is soft and dull; any attempt to assuage this with soy sauce fails.
This is unsettling as mastery of the basics should be observed with something as particular as sushi.
The Roasted Pork Bun comprises a banana leaf encasing a dough bun neatly tucked with meat and cucumber.
Made on premises, the dough is exceedingly, comfortingly soft, while the pork is robust, yet delicately flavoured with honey- the culinary equivalent of a gentle giant.
The accompanying plum sauce only serves to heighten the experience while lemongrass flavours permeate throughout to balance the sweetness. The cucumber acts as a neutraliser for the flavours.
Perhaps if more pieces of pork were added, this dish could reach star status.
The Galangal Soy Marinated Beef Skewers arrive and blow me away with their size and presentation. Hanging on sticks of lemongrass which saturate the huge hunks of meat with flavour, they stomp in, hand-in-hand with wasabi mayonnaise.
I tear into the flesh like a neanderthal and fall into a trance of soy and ginger. The local meat has been lovingly marinated for over 24 hours and hence has a satisfyingly succulent consistency; long used to the pitiful red meat offerings of mostly bone and sinew, I am thrilled by the unadulterated chunkiness of it all.
The wasabi mayonnaise has a distinct kick to it when sampled alone, but largely disappears into the heaviness of the meat when used as a condiment.
Nightmares of Indian-Chinese cuisine from initial naive dining experiences to this day disturb my sleep, hence my ambivalence towards trying the Pan Dan Leaf-Wrapped Cottage Cheese. I decide to give it another shot. If this doesn’t turn out like chilli paneer, I’ll be yodelling Sing Kong’s praises from the rooftops.
Initially, it is the consistency of the accompanying sauce of this dish which first catches my eye – finely chopped coriander, chilli and ginger swimming in soy. My tongue takes a quick dip and emerges sharply refreshed.
Now for the big guy. I wrest the fragile cheese from the protective cocoon of its banana leaf and place it on my tongue, where it virtually melts away to nothing. Oh my god. The cheese is marinated for many hours in soy sauce before it is prepared, giving it an even more dramatically soft consistency than the beef skewers.
It is heartening to see that local meat and cheese can match up to the quality and taste of imported fare, if only it is given an appropriate amount of attention and preparation.
The food at Sing Kong is undoubtedly A class, however the disappointing thing about my experience was that much of what I wanted to order was unavailable: pork ribs, yellowfin tuna, roast duck.
This is due to the overwhelming popularity of the said dishes as well as non-local suppliers which make predicting demand and logistics no mean feat. In another blow, sashimi was not offered on the menu.
The staff are courteous and well-meaning, however could be a little more attentive to needs – three times I requested that each dish come out one at a time and only after I had finished with the dish I was eating. On one occasion, my plate was whisked away from me before I finished lingering over a particularly delicious dish.
No doubt Sing Kong is worthy of its favored rank in Asian dining in Mumbai, with mostly perfectly executed dishes and excellent quality of carefully sourced produce spanning India and overseas.
Prices are reasonable and in line with quality of dish – this is definitely not a restaurant which demands exorbitant prices for an international brand name, rather than the food.
Ambience 7, Food 9.
Sing Kong is located at Pinnacle House, First Floor, 15th Rd above Sancho’s, Khar West.