Song Que – 134 Kingsland Road E2 8DY

When I was little I used to love going to Chinese restaurants and ordering food for everyone at the table. I have no idea if it was cute or annoying for my parents and everyone else involved. Most likely annoying, as they probably had their own ideas about what they wanted to eat and were the ones picking up the bill. Certainly it must have been really confusing for the waiters; a podgy and extremely ginger 7-year-old confidently ordering Peking Duck and crispy chilli beef for a table of ten.
Fast forward 20 years and it seems vaguely appropriate that I am ordering food again for the whole table at the first restaurant in our challenge. This time it’s in Song Que; which I already know is a really, really good place to eat. I suppose the whole point of this project is to try new places, but fuck it, we’re starting off somewhere I know I’m going to get a good meal and by god I am going to make sure we do by ordering the things I always get here.
I start us off with some classics – in fact the same three starters I’ve had every time  I’ve ever been here – the crispy pancake with prawn and chicken, spicy squid and the beef in betal leaves. All are fantastic, especially the pancake and the beef, which both manage to combine everything that’s good about Vietnamese food on a plate; they’re both spicy, crispy and fresh all at the same time.  What more could you want? The squid is also good; basically a perfect version of the one they serve in Wagamamas. Which sounds like damning with faint praise, but isn’t meant to be. Especially as the squid at Wagamamas is the only thing really worth eating there.

Next up, I decide that the table should try some things that they’ve not had before (by which I really mean thing’s I’ve not had before) and so I pick the chicken in tamarind sauce and then whole crispy sea bass in fish sauce with mango. The first I picked because I always like the idea of tamarind but have never managed to a dish taste of it when I use it at home. To be honest, I ordered the fish by mistake; I had meant to get the steamed bass with fish sauce and mango (which I’ve had before and know to be amazing) but in a moment of over exuberance that would have made by 7-year-old-self weep with embarrassment, ordered the wrong number off the menu. A school boy mistake, but one I didn’t share with the rest of the table for fear they’d lose all respect for me.

Luckily the chicken was lovely; a grown-up version of the generic sweet and sour chicken everyone has had a million times before. The side dish of Stir-fried choy sam with oyster sauce was also great. In fact each time I have it I always decide that maybe the vegetarian dishes here are the best things and that I should order more next time I come. I know I won’t, but it’s a nice thought to have, especially about something as potentially dull as a dish of greens with a slick of impossibly black oyster sauce.
And the fish? Well it was ok. And everyone else liked it, so I could hide my ordering faux pas from them in the confidence that they were still getting a good view of what’s so wonderful about Vietmanese food. But in my heart of hearts I knew that it wasn’t as good as the steamed version. The crispiness somehow took something away from dish. The sauce and mango didn’t flavour the flesh quiet as delicately as they did when it was steamed. The dish seemed drier. Not as lively. Dull even.
It was all my fault. I’d made all the decisions. There was no-one else to blame. If I’d know the pressure when I was seven I doubt I would have chirped up and so boldly demanded that the Chinatown waiter brought the whole table extra sesame toasts and none of the steamed dumplings because they were so “icky and slimy”.
(Jane & Tom our date for the evening)

One thought on “Song Que – 134 Kingsland Road E2 8DY

  1. Pingback: Viet Hoa Café – 70-72 Kingsland Road & Anh Dao – 168 Kingsland Road | E-8te

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