As a result of bellaphon's comments that he felt Loong Kee was better than Cafe East, my friend and I made our way to the former just to check it out. My friend is an ardent fan of Cafe East, and was the one who'd introduced it to me, so who better to check this place out with than her? We were joined by P. and A. who was visiting for the week.
Our first impression was perhaps not the most flattering one of the place. After all, who on earth distributes menus when the restaurant name is so obviously incorrect spelt?
That being said, we decided not to judge this particular book by its cover, but rather, by the taste of the food.
There were a lot of items on the menu. In the end, I whipped out my Blackberry, scrolled through a few reviews, and settled on the crispy squid and bahn cuon thit to share.
I quite enjoyed the squid, as it was nicely chewy, while my friend confessed she preferred her squid to be soft and a little mushier, so we had to disagree on this dish.Crispy squid
As for the bahn cuon thit, we felt this was rather disappointing. It tasted nice, sure, but there was very little meat inside. In fact, when we commented on this, one of our other friends who'd just eaten one said, "Oh, there's meat inside? I didn't notice!"
Still, these were just the starters, and we'd been told that what Loong Kee was really good at is its pho. So all four of ordered the pho with raw beef. This is what arrived.
Now, unless the soup was incredibly hot - and I'm not saying it wasn't - I don't think my beef should have cooked that quickly. When my friend ordered the same dish at Cafe East, the pho arrived with the beef nice and rare. Over here, all four dishes came with the beef already cooked, even though we'd all ordered raw beef.
I thought the soup was above average, although I preferred the one at Cafe East as it had more flavour. In fact, I tried to replicate the spiciness of the Cafe East soup by adding chilli sauce to my soup but to no avail.
On the plus side, the serving was of a good size. I couldn't finish the beef or the noodles, and managed to drink about 2/3 of the soup.
The bill for four of us came up to £32.50 excluding service. I ended up tipping a little less than I'd normally tip as I was a little put out by the pho, and, more importantly, by the fact that Loong Kee charged £0.50 for a glass of tap water (free refills, apparently). Yes, it's on the menu, but the waiter never came by even once to fill up my tiny glass of water. It's not a posh restaurant, that I get, but there's still something to be said for a basic level of service.
Would I return? Maybe. It's easier to get to from where I live compared to Cafe East, but with other places like Song Que, Cay Tre and Viet Grill equally nearby, I think this place would be my fourth choice at best. The one instance I might go for Loong Kee would be because this place is BYO, which is always a handy option if you're looking to limit the damage done to your wallet but still have a bit of a boozy night out.
134G Kingsland Road
London E2 8DY
Read bellaphon's review of Loong Kee here.