FEAST FOR THE FAMISHED: Cheap and addictive Chinese in Brookline.
The original King Fung Garden, which started with four tables in a converted Chinatown gas station and had no exterior sign — just several transliterations of its name, has long been the object of a cult following. One of the few Mandarin-style restaurants in Chinatown, it specialized in vast heaps of dumplings. Naturally, for people who dreamed of Peking ravioli and nothing but, it was a dream come true. As the restaurant expanded slightly over time, it also developed a reputation for its modestly priced, three-course Peking duck.
So it was with considerable interest that I noticed a new King Fung Garden had opened in Brookline. Even this small storefront is far larger than its Chinatown sibling. The old specialties, including dumplings and Peking duck (which must be ordered one day in advance), are still on the menu. But the new owners of both restaurants, who are from Guangdong, have emphasized Southern Chinese dishes as well. At this point, the Brookline restaurant is still a work in progress, and currently does more takeout orders than table service. However, this may change once the new location establishes a following and builds up its staff. In the meantime, you’re likely to get your dishes in takeout containers, even if you’re sitting at one of the seven tables. King Fung Garden’s devoted fan base was built around a unique combination of quality and price. Thankfully, that hasn’t changed.
To start with the obvious, the boiled dumplings ($5.95/10) are as wonderful as ever — thin-skinned pouches filled with a crunchy combination of pork and cabbage, and enhanced by a very gingery soy-garlic dip. Peking ravioli ($3.95/six; $5.95/10) are the classic-shaped turnovers, with a meatier filling and a thin skin that’s fried on the bottom.
It seems as if a new cult has already sprung up in appreciation of the scallion pancake ($3.25), which is deep-fried and crispier than any other version around. Beef noodle soup ($5.50) features homemade and hand-cut udon-caliber rice noodles, a simple but solid “superior stock” (probably pork and chicken), and chunks of surprisingly tender boiled chuck or brisket. This same beef, only a lot more of it, is featured in beef brisket chow foon ($6.50), with thinner homemade and hand-cut soft noodles, and a lot of bok choy. I’m used to beef chow foon having a thick, gloopy gravy; my only caveat here is that the very best chow foon should have a little char from the wok. Any pasta lover will devour it, though.
I hit up the whole fish with nine flavors ($10.95), which the waiter explained was actually being prepared with whitefish filets. So much the better. These were breaded-and-fried, thin filets, the better to soak up a complex sauce that prominently featured black pepper and ginger, as well as a number of lesser flavors, including one that resembled a subtle, Szechuan, preserved turnip. Fried and salted calamari ($9), a Hong Kong specialty in my book, was here overly breaded, though impeccably crisp and dry-fried, with salt in the batter. If you’re looking for pepper, you could be daring with a slice of green chili, or stay safe with chunks of red and green bell pepper.