16 October, 2014by TOM MOGGACH
IT’S been an epic journey – from Hong Kong to Kentish Town Road, via a bustling street stall in Berwick Street Market.
On Monday, at long last, the Wong family will open Pit Stop, their small but funky first restaurant offering an eclectic array of pan-Asian food.
Roast meats – crispy pork, tender duck – are a speciality. Strips of fried sea bass nestle on a pillow of sushi rice, in a bold twist on traditional raw sushi.
Braised pork belly is simmered with the tangy dried fruit of the Asam Geluger tree – a wonderful and unusual dish that now haunts my hungry dreams.
The family story starts in the late 1960s, when chef Sing Wong’s father arrived in this country and became famous for his legendary roast soya chicken.
“A freak who is antisocial and boring,” is how his wife described him, appalled at his refusal to share his secret recipe with his son.
Undeterred, in 2008 Sing Wong started a successful food stall in Berwick Street Market in Soho with his wife Carol, who brings her Malaysian Chinese heritage to their fusion food.
These days, lunchtime queues are lengthy; some regulars turn up three times a week.
“It’s total madness,” says Carol. “Sometimes I have six takeaway boxes in front of me on the counter and three woks running at once.”
On the back of this success, and an award for Market Trader of the Year, the Wong family has now added a restaurant to their business.
The décor reflects their idiosyncratic approach: it’s a funky small space, bright with wood and orchids and a far cry from an identikit Chinese restaurant.
On one wall, a friend has drawn a bright mural; the ceiling and bar is artfully sculpted from what looks like rough-cut strips of mdf.
The food promises to be excellent.
Tender roast duck is served on the bone for extra flavour.
Gyoza dumplings are stuffed with plump prawns and fragrant herbs.
Their homemade chilli sauce and carefully fried shallots show a loving attention to detail. Most Chinese restaurants would buy them in, ready-made.
Pit Stop promises to be a fresh and exciting addition to NW5, offering a menu full of surprises. The meat is halal, and a short wine list is put together well.
They open on Monday. As I write, they are putting the finishing touches to their prices – but it will definitely be more budget than fancy.
When I dropped in, one local banged on the window to ask when they could sample the food.
“There’s a lack of duck in the area,” she said. “Kentish Town is the only part of London where you can’t have sushi delivered.”
Complaints aside, she was a big fan of the area: “It hasn’t been ruined or destroyed. It’s untouched and I hope it will stay that way for a while.”
By the way, Sing’s father did eventually divulge the spices in his recipe for roast chicken: Sichuan pepper, star anise, dried tangerine peel, black cardamom, salt, soy sauce and a touch of pepper.