West LA: Modern Vietnamese and Drinks at Khong Ten
Like many, I was lured over to Khong Ten during its soft open for $1 food and drinks. Khong Ten is located in West LA, in the old Freddy Smalls space.
I made a reservation but didn’t hear back until the day of, about 6 hours before I was to attend. I made a few phone calls and secured a dinner date. We arrived to our reservation on the dot and were immediately seated on the patio. I preferred an actual table to the a hightop table or the bar for dinner.
We started off with some drinks and ordered our food about ten minutes later.
The first few dishes arrived about 40 minutes after we placed our order. I thought this was a little slow but it is a new place so I forgave them.
My friend wasn’t so into the presentation of the chicken wings and I felt they could have been crispier. But at the same time, they odd reminded me of the chicken wings my mom would make. The portion was very generous and it’d be a good appetizer for a group of four. Or perhaps as part of a meal with a bowl of rice.
When we sat down, I noticed a guy sitting by himself. He seemed a bit put off. Eventually someone came around to talk to him and he said he just wanted the check. They brought him a dessert as a conciliatory gesture which he ate a couple of bites of before he took off. I chalked it up as a prickly encounter for the staff.
Later I realized no tables were turning over. After more than an hour of getting our first dish, we finally got our final dish, the beef cheeks. At first, I thought the kitchen had slowed down as all the reservations started coming in. Around 4 p.m. that day, I noticed a call was put out to come check them out, they wanted another 50 people. They wanted to stress the kitchen.
They started having some serious kitchen problems. Their gas lines went down and they were 86ing dishes like crazy. When the table next to ours got the beef cheeks, a dish they ordered after we did, we finally made a complaint. Our server said they were not supposed to course our food but he did that and had not put in our food until “recently.” He had not acknowledged the kitchen problems to us but another server did when we ordered more drinks to pass the time. I hate when people lie to me.
It’s fine if the kitchen was having problems. Let us know so we could decide if we wanted to stay or not. After some chats with other staff including the bartenders, I learned they didn’t just 86d the food because they couldn’t cook it but because they had actually ran out of food. All reservations from 8 p.m. on were canceled. The facebook post asking additional diners to come in did its job– it did indeed stress the kitchen out.
I texted friends who had later reservations not to bother coming.
So how were the beef cheeks? I felt this dish needed some greens to make lettuce wraps. My friend wanted potatoes or rice or some other starch. I was surprised that they were tender considering they were cooking with “residual” heat– yeah, I didn’t know what that meant.
Of course, the beef could have gone with the crab rice I ordered but that came an hour before that dish and was long gone before the protein (finally) hit the table. The rice was a mixture of wild and regular rice. The egg was a little on the colder side and the scallions were not cooked or even softened. The dish was not warm enough. I couldn’t really sense the crab. I am sure it was there but it could have just been a plain side dish.
We also got the hash which featured greens and mushrooms. And like the rice, we ate that well before the beef cheeks. My friend felt the mushrooms had been soaked too long to reconstitute and left the ‘shrooms a bit sour. I just didn’t see this as a hash since I tend to think of “hash browns”– mean shredded potatoes and not cut up cubes of squash and rounds of baby potatoes. I actually liked this dish just fine even if the presentation was very casual.
Overall, I was disappointed but I can see where things went awry. I wish Khong Ten well and hope things will settle in for them. They mentioned they might be buying new kitchen equipment. I hope at least they’ll change out the old Freddy Smalls sign out front.
© 2018 The Minty