Bintang in Kentish Town is the little spot with a big voice. Further up from the tourist mecca and party paradise that is Camden, is this star. Yes, in Indonesia Bintang means star, so star by name, star by nature.
What first strikes you is just how down to earth the place is. It is certainly not about being the great pretender here. Out goes the fancy schmancy decor or attempt at too much Asian design authenticity; what remains is real and raw with an emphasis on practicality and comfort. There is even a secret garden at the back if you fancy braving the ever changing UK elements.
The restaurant opens onto Kentish Town Road so your entertainment is a mixture of your dining companions, fellow diners and the colourful characters that sashay past the window. Kentish Town is very residential. This bit specifically, is quite urban, so there is a melting pot of class and culture who live side by side. Bintang appears to follow the same theme with a diverse Asian menu covering places like Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Indonesia. What they have done here is taken the best bits of what is the largest continent and put it in a pretty little package for you to enjoy near the comfort of your own home. No long haul flights for this treat.
There are a couple of things to note about this magical place. You can bring your own wine and pay corkage of £5 a bottle. Conveniently, there is an off licence two doors down. They only accept cash. Again, the off licence ticks that box with its machine which unfortunately charges £1.89. Now the basics are covered (and you have booked a table because it is popular), you can settle down to scan through the menu.
As I said, the menu is like the Eastern portion of the Silk Route (an ancient trade route from China to Europe specialising in Chinese Silk). For my starter I went for chicken and spring onion dumplings (Chinese). Now this gyoza was very interesting, in that it was much slimmer and transparent than ones I have had before. In fact, I really enjoyed it as the filling was as prominent as the sticky case holding it together. Jacki had salt and pepper squid with taramind (Chinese). Delish with lashings of lime squeezed over it.
My original main was supposed to be the baby chicken inasal, which is a pandan marinated dish from the Philippines with notes of lemongrass, ginger and soy. Unfortunately they had already served the last portion, so having pouted a little, I got over it and ordered Pad Thai. Yes, I know that this is the go-to Asian option more most people, so one should be more experimental. Especially when one is writing a review! However, their take on this dish surprised me. Firstly, there was a solid quota of king prawn. Then, for me Pad Thai can normally be too dry but this had a moistness and sauce to it, which made it more interesting. Jacki had the lamb rendang (Malaysian). Now, this piece of meat was slow cooked on the bone, so it literally melted away as she pierced it with her fork. Rendang carries some weight having been voted the no 1 dish on an online poll of 35,000 by CNN back in 2011. Having had a taste of the tender pink lamb meat, I could understand why Jacki was prepared to go back in time to log her vote.
Sides were unnecessary as the portions are huge! Not knowing that, we had some coconut rice and garlic spinach. The great thing about ordering too much, is that you get to take it home. This made for a great lunch at the office the next day thank you very much.
A fantastic food journey across Asia from the comfort of this smart little friendly joint. The menu is halal, vegetarian and vegan friendly, so it pleases just about everyone. The staff are sweet with a very funny Irish waitress who had us in stitches with an anecdote about apple sauce and tomato ketchup. Bravo.
93 Kentish Town Road
T. 020 7267 2197