The hunt for quality Vietnamese landed us on Parkes Street in Jordan, where a half-dozen pho houses await the crowds emerging from the north gates of Kowloon Park. With the restaurant’s exterior sporting an awesome sketch of the owner offering an enthusiastic thumbs-up, Bao King was an easy choice, and the bright, simple interior was inviting enough.
We ordered the shrimp paste on sugar cane to start, and it hit the right balance of infused sweetness with a fluffy texture. It’s typical for the dish to be steamed, then grilled, and served with lettuce for wrapping and dipping in fish sauce, but this incarnation was deep fried. While not as authentic as we’d hoped, it was still pleasing to the palate.
For mains, we shared the chicken curry with bread and the tomato and crab roe soup, the former of which appeared to be a tall order as the frenetic wait staff seemed disinterested in our corner of the room and delivered other random dishes to our table instead. It was worth the wait—mild yet full-flavored with softly melting potatoes soaking up the spice.
Despite the fact that the Vietnamese are much better known for their baguettes than curries, the dish was satisfying and we greedily emptied the bowl. The sweet and sour tomato and crab soup, while not as famous as its distant cousin pho, is a worthy adoption to any diner’s repertoire. Bao King’s version was tasty if not particularly memorable, lacking the broth’s sour notes that tamarind and fresh tomatoes are supposed to provide. The one lonely half-tomato appeared to be an after-thought, but the overall medley of noodles, minced roe and bean sprouts was tasty. For dessert: Saigon Beer!