Any foodie who has been to Hong Kong would surely have heard of ─ even if they haven’t had the opportunity to try ─ Yung Kee. In its heyday, it was arguably THE institution for roast goose, with queue times that stretch between 30-45min, just to get a table.
Alas, family feuds that arose after founder Kam Shui Fai’s death eventually resulted in a court order to liquidate the Yung Kee business. While Yung Kee is still in operation, it’s just a matter of time before the doors shut for good.
The good news is that Hardy Kam, the grandson of Yung Kee’s founder, had struck out on his own and gone back to the basics just like his grandpa did ─ with a small eatery that specialises only in roast meats.
It’s not just any roast meat eatery, mind you. Kam’s Roast Goose has netted a Michelin star every year since it first started, and maintained its star rating even in the recent 2017 edition of the Michelin Guide Hong Kong & Macau.
And now they’re finally on our shores, with their first overseas outlet opening at Pacific Plaza this Saturday, 19 November at 1pm.
First things first, there’s no goose on the menu. Which is also why they’ve gone with the name “Kam’s Roast” for the Singapore outpost.
It all stems from AVA’s (Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore) strict restrictions on imports.
Owner Hardy Kam was not comfortable with the quality of the supply available in Singapore either. So rather than compromise on standards, he and head chef Wong Kwan Sang decided to focus on finding the best duck available and perfect their recipe such that their roast duck will taste almost as good as their roast goose. They conducted over 30 blind tests over the past year ─ with tastes from Hong Kongers, Singaporeans and Malaysian ─ to zero in on the right supplier and nail the recipe.
But how well does the food cater to our local tastebuds? Here’s the verdict.
BBQ Pork Char Siu (left), “Toro” Char Siu (right)
We started off with a char siu platter, comprising the “Toro” Char Siu ($22.80) and BBQ Pork Char Siu ($14.80). Both are caramelised with a secret marinade.
The Toro is a pork belly cut, and makes no apologies for its incredibly high fat percentage ─ it’s truly only for the brave. But from the slightly leaner bits we scavenged, the Toro was really quite something. The fats melted away readily to build up voluptuous flavour, and the smoky char was evident too. But perhaps one portion is more than sufficient for four to six, as the richness will get cloying quickly.
We weren’t as fond of the leaner BBQ Pork Char Siu as we’d wanted to. While it did have a more balanced fat-to-meat ratio, the meat was unexpectedly chewy, so that marred the experience a little.
Another quizzical thing about the char siu platter was that the marinade bordered on saccharine, and was also incredibly sticky. The latter particularly took away from the intended crackle of the brittle, candied exterior. The staff suggested that might be the case because we took a while with photos, and that the char siu is best consumed immediately after it arrives at the table. Perhaps eating it warm might have done more justice to the candied crust, but the issue with the sweetness would likely still remain.
Crispy Roast Pork
There’s also Crispy Roast Pork ($14.80) and Roast Suckling Pig (from $38.80 for one portion) on the menu. The crackling for both was textbook perfect, and the amount of meat and fat was evenly balanced, so we preferred these to the two types of char siu. Even on its own, the Crispy Roast Pork was sublime, and didn’t really need the accompanying mustard sauce. However, the Roast Suckling Pig can be a little gamey, and is actually better with the mustard sauce, than the sweet sauce that the restaurant pairs with.
Soya Chicken (left) and Roast Duck (right)
The Soya Chicken ($14.80) was another of our favourites, succulent with a pleasant saltiness. The ginger-and-spring onion condiment was right on cue, imparting acidity to brighten up the dish. (For the record, a colleague who’s been to a media preview of the upcoming Hawker Chan, the quick-service restaurant offshoot of Singapore’s very own Michelin-starred Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, declared Kam’s to be slightly superior in flavour, but also felt that Hawker Chan’s soya chicken had a smoother texture.)
The much-anticipated Roast Duck (from $16.80 for a 1/4 portion) garnered mixed feedback at our table. While we loved the thin sliver of fat beneath the skin, the robust flavours and meaty chunks, we felt that it could be a tad more tender. We’ve already heard that Kam’s prioritises flavour and moisture in the meat over crispy skin, so we were mentally prepared on that front. But it was a disappointment that in spite of “sacrificing” the skin, the meat was not as supple as Kam’s fame suggested.
We gotta admit, we’re also nitpicking because of the immense hype from Kam’s 3-year Michelin star status. It was still a mighty fine Roast Duck, and the flavour was superb.
The Braised Noodle with Ginger Scallion ($6.80) is exclusive to Singapore ─ it’s not even sold at the Hong Kong shop ─ and the noodles are especially sourced and air-flown from Hong Kong to Singapore daily. The noodles were springy, al dente as is Hong Kong’s style, and simply dressed with ginger, scallions, and braising sauce. Alternatively, go for the Wanton Noodles (from $8.80) made with a pork-and-prawn filling, which we were told was a popular dish back at Yung Kee.
Marinated Cucumber with Vinegar & Garlic
Ordinarily, we’re not big on cucumber cold dishes, but the Marinated Cucumber with Vinegar & Garlic ($6.80) deserves special mention. Those chunky strips of cucumber were simply refreshing with a great snap ─ it’s the ideal palate cleanser to ease the richness of the roast meats. Plus, the sauce of vinegar, garlic and sesame was aromatic without overpowering the juicy sweetness of the cucumbers.
Make space too for the Red Bean Soup with Aged Orange Peel ($5.80), which pays homage to Hardy Kam’s father who loved to add a little orange peel to his foods. The combination is quite unusual, but the orange peel lent a lovely citrus aroma and perked up the heavy dessert very well.
While it wasn’t mindblowingly great, our session at Kam’s Roast was more hits than misses, and we’d gladly go back for a second visit ─ and lug home additional takeaway packets for the next day too. We’re just gonna draw the line at queuing for more than 30 minutes.
*Each portion of meat is generally good for two hungry diners, or three small eaters.
Kam’s Roast, #01-04 Pacific Plaza, 9 Scotts Road, tel: 6836-7788. Open Mon-Fri, 11am-10pm; Sat & sun, 10am-10pm. Kam’s Roast is open to the public from Saturday, November 19, 1pm.