The strip of Bensonhurst beneath the elevated tracks along 86th Street is known for being packed with southern Brooklyn shoppers and eaters, enjoying the chain retail spots and abundance of Chinese restaurants. Between the neon and the Cantonese, the low-lying area feels like something of a parallel Times Square, but round these parts everyone is local.
Kings Kitchen is recognizable among the other Asian eateries in the area for its glass vestibule and adjacent sweets shop, which shares its name: Kings Bakery. The restaurant strikes an in-between of the more formal, upscale area restaurants and the fast food spots with a friendly, well-lit atmosphere and plenty of chatter.
When we got there at 8 p.m. on a weeknight, we were seated immediately, but the place was busy. Locals say Kings is always bustling, opening to closing. The service was prompt to the point of overbearing, though, so a wait time is likely never much of a hindrance here.
The menu was in accurate English, but very little of the items were familiar. This isn’t Americanized Chinese food, this is authentic.
We were immediately served tea, and then ordered the shredded duck rice noodle rolls ($3.95) as an appetizer, the beef with bitter melon chow fun and gravy ($10.95) as a main course, and the Taiwan braised pork on rice/noodle — we went with noodle — for $6.50. We almost got the Thai style jelly fish, but decided we weren’t up for it.
The shredded duck rice noodle rolls came first. They consisted of shredded duck meat and thinly sliced vegetable — probably lettuce — in sauce, wrapped in a transparent rice casing. The best method for picking them up proved, after many attempts, to be by gripping them with your chopsticks from the center of the patty.
They were savory, delicious, and very heavy, leaving us barely prepared for our main course.
To worsen the matter, the main course portions were enormous.
The bitter melon proved the most memorable dish of the evening. The beef was tasty and the tender, but the melon was bizarre — not necessarily bad, but a very foreign taste to an American palette. It lived up to tis name with a bitter, dry, and spicy flavor.
The Taiwan braised pork was excellent. There were fried bread chunks, rich and tasty, presented in a brothy meat topped with a fried beef dumpling.
We ended up performing poorly and taking almost half of our food to go. The only thing that was finished were the shredded duck rolls.
For dessert, we headed next door to Kings Bakery, which was comparatively empty but for two employees.
Everything was affordable, but we went with a mango pudding ($2.50) and a classic taro bubble tea. Maybe we ordered wrong, but our bubble tea did not have bubbles. It was, however, refreshing and delicious.
Where: 2051 86th Street
Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sundays
Phone: (718) 373-1188
Kid friendly: Yes
Where: 2053 86th Street
Phone: (718) 975-3388
Kid friendly? Yes