As we’ve said before, everyone has a bit of history with Bintang, the pan-Asian slung right down there on the lower Kentish Town Road. And as we also remarked a year back, the initial refurb and food offering didn’t seem that impressive. We liked the way it had always been, what with the tiki hut and zero pretensions.
A casual visit last Thursday has changed all that. Whatever doubts once nurtured have vanished: the stylish interior is now more lived in and, well, just hangs together better: neon signs, coffee grinders, bare wood, breeze blocks, intriguing art. Suitably flickery candle-light for these cold nights too.
But what really stood out this time was the food. It’s on another level, the menu sprinkled with on-trend items like salmon sashimi and crab croquettes.
So let’s get the dud out the way first: salt and pepper squid was too heavy on the batter, not tender enough, but with an OK tamarind sauce (the right balance of sweet and sour). We sighed, remembering why we don’t come here as often as we might.
But the other four plates were excellent: spicily dressed edamame beans (jokingly rechristened “eddie mummy” beans); velvety chicken dumplings with fragrant notes of coriander; deeply savoury chicken liver “popcorn”, served with nonya, the spicy, tangy Chinese dip; and – the masterpiece – a delicious plate of wasabi prawn tempura, piled with cod roe and hitting every note of umami-ness you could wish for.
We drank a Fleurie with it, a tenner from the nearby offie. The bill? A pleasing £23. Find Bintang at 93 Kentish Town Road
Where’s your favourite bring yer own?