by Andrew Chalk
Kampong is Malaysian for village. I mention that so that if you ever hear someone say “It takes a Kampong”, or a singing group called “The Kampong People”, or a place called “Greenwich Kampong” you will know what they mean. That is just part of the service that we deliver here at Crave.
The Kampong Asian Fusion in Richardson is a (mainly) Malaysian menu served by Malaysians and owned by Malaysians who are new to town. They found that 10% state and local personal income taxes and a mayor who dictated what size soda you can buy made not even the spectacular natural beauty of Flushing, NY worth sticking around for. They decamped to Texas.
Open just two weeks, Kampong is too early to treat to a full review, so consider this a first look. I was surprised to find that our party of four was half the total number of customers between 8pm and 10pm on Saturday night. I put that down largely to Kampong’s lack of visibility. Their web site top-level domain is .US (instead of .COM), which nobody looks for. If you use an off brand top-level domain you have to have superb SEO and Kampong doesn’t. A google of “kampong richardson” delivers yelp reviews (the Internet equivalent of defecation) before the restaurant’s own domain. Maybe they wanted prospective customers to go to their Facebook page? What Facebook page?
The menu shows a similar charming naiveté. Ignoring the spelling errors, the major dishes get a picture – which can be a truly instructive device when used correctly. But the pictures on Kampong’s menu have a size of, oh, 1×1 pixels. Not big enough.
So we brought our own Malaysian with us to to confirm the authenticity. Check that nearly all the major dishes are Malaysian favorites. We started with two helpings of roti canai ($3.25) for the table. This is a flatbread that should have the appearance of Naan but the fatty moisture to the feel of a French croissant. Kampong’s was a little dry. It is served with a hearty chicken curry which hit the spot perfectly on a night when Dallas temperatures were headed below freezing.
Nasi Lamak ($9.25) is described on the menu as “Coconut rice serve with anchovy hot souce, peanuts and boiled egg”. Enchanting as this combination might be, it omits the crucial component — lamb curry. Here truly is a dish that exceeds its advance billing and my favorite of the night. As well as the earthy lamb flavors there is the crunchy texture variation due to the nuts and the anchovies (which also provide salinity to the mouthfeel).
Hokkien Noodles ($9.25) was made in the Penang variation (with prawns). These are thicker noodles than one finds in other variants. The sauce uses shrimp paste and vinegar. A pleasant dish.
Chow Mee Hoon ($9.25) is perfect for cold weather. It is one of those dishes that stamps every attribute in the flavor spectrum with earthy, fruity, doughy, vegetable and more besides.
Beef Rendang ($9.25) may be an unofficial Malaysian national dish. Kampong’s surprised me with its lack of complex spices, a problem that makes Beef Rendang rather pointless. It was just beef stew without charm.
Service throughout was always willing, but obviously near the “light blue touch paper” end of the experience curve. Hopefully time will solve this. The rest of the menu includes sushi (not tried), some Thai favorites (e.g. Pad Thai), and a few mainline Chinese dishes (e.g. General Tso’s Chicken).
Kampong is BYOB while they wait for their (mixed drink) liquor license.
Kampong should fine tune its execution and it will acquire a solid regular clientele. This neighborhood is packed with tech workers at lunchtime who form long lines at popular joints (check out Twisted Root Burger Company at noon) and Kampong should expect a similar crowd.
Crave paid its own check and dined anonymously.