Sunday, May 13, 2007

Billy Kwong

I walked by the restaurant twice before I found it. It's pretty unassuming. Dark interior, modern backless stools and the barest of candlelight illuminating the food. I arrived at 5:30 PM fully aware that with 35 seats I'd have to fight for my meal. When the restaurant opened at 6 PM there were at least 45 people in line. Happily, I got a cozy corner table that was seated next to Kylie's party. I don't think I've ever seen a chef dine at her own restaurant, but it being Mother's Day here, it appeared to be a gathering of family and friends.

A proponent of organic, sustainable foods, Kylie's ingredients starred in the meal. I don't think I've had such nice bak choy before. Simply steamed, it just tasted fresh and good. Scallop wontons were lovely in a chili oil vinaigrette that burned the lips but when well with the filling. And then the crispy duck with orange sauce - less a sauce than a simple syrup infused with orange essence and anise. The dish arrived with cinnamon sticks boldly crisscrossing the tender pieces of duck. I made the mistake of ordering steamed rice with the mess. My meal definitely would have benefited from the addition of a few more people to maximize the tastings.

So, the question is, with all they hype, is Billy Kwong worth a visit? I'd read about the restaurant in the New York Times, The Washington Post and Bon Appetit. It's pricey, but the portions are reasonable. It's also Cantonese-style cooking, but definitely not traditional. Though glad I paid a visit, I'd probably try something new on my next trip to town.


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