Kinh Do Restaurant & Lounge - Proverbial
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
I've often wondered about this tiny restaurant located on the ground floor of the newly-refurbished Corn Building in Anigua, across Marine Drive from China Arts and Opus One (IAM's) Pet Store. I don't know why I never stopped - maybe because the neighborhood seemed a bit sordid before, with the denizens of massage parlors and bars mulling around, especially at night (they're open really LATE - 11:00 am to 5:00 am Monday through Saturday, and 5:00 pm - 4:00 am Sunday. Though I'm known to be adventurous, it was more my curiosity and lunchtime availability which created the perfect opportunity to give Kinh Do a shot. After parking and walking up to the red canopy hanging over Kinh Do's front, I saw the American flag proudly displayed in the window - and it struck me then that it took the September 11 terrorist attack to give America a patriotic boost, when all this time the people who opened this restaurant proudly made America their home. The "A" rating and the American flag were sufficient endorsements.
Most Vietnamese restaurant menus can almost be photocopied, since every entree seems to be standard fare universally, with few exceptions and maybe some slight variance in price. I'd asked a companion who'd had prior Kinh Do experience to join me for lunch, and asked that she select some of the items for us to share. We decided on a half order of Fried Lumpia (3 pcs for $5.00/ full order is 5 pcs for $7.00); Won Ton Soup ($6.00); Beef Salad ($10.00), and the Fried Pork Chop Plate ($7.00). I didn't realize until later that this would prove far too much food for two eaters to handle, but I certainly got my taste!
The Won Ton Soup was superior, and came in a bowl filled with green onions, freshly fried garlic chips, lettuce, shreds of chicken breast and won tons. Their won tons are made with minced shrimp and pork, mixed with vegetables. The flavorful broth is irresistible, and though I'm not licensed to hand out prescriptions, I'm willing to bet this delicious soup would be a great cure for many ailments! Won Ton Soup For the Soul!! They do good work at Kinh Do!
The Beef Salad made an exciting entrance to the table...sizeable beef chunks were piled atop a bed of crisp lettuce and bright red tomato slices. The beef was coated with pepper and had been stir-fried in onions and garlic, and a light sauce had been poured over the pile, settling underneath. This sauce had a slightly sweet flavor, and had been made with rice vinegar and sugar, and had been combined with the drippings from the meat...this was tasty! The beef was quite tender, and it was cooked just to the right degree of doneness keeping the juices intact. This entree is served with steamed rice and is more than enough to feed two people.
Fried lumpia are one of the traditional foods that everyone out here eats regularly - its almost a commodity. I'm often reminded of how strange eating lumpia is when dining with those having it for the first time. After all, it's not mainstream food in Wichita, Kansas! The familiar ritual of placing some rice noodles in the romaine leaf and adding the fried lumpia, then covering it with bean sprouts, rolling it all together, and finally dipping it into a small bowl of fragrant fish sauce is something we do with our eyes closed. Kinh Do's lumpia wrappers are remarkably crunchy...I don't know if they achieve that by frying them twice, but they definitely are crunchier than most I've had. They are made with pork and onion inside, along with vermicelli. They taste pretty good. Unfortunately, for vegetarians, they don't have meatless lumpia. In fact, this restaurant is primarily for meat eaters, with fish and shrimp dishes being some of the least meat intensive entrees.
The Pork Chop entree was one of my choosing (it was either that or the Shrimp Kelaguen, which my companion had suggested). Why Pork Chops? Well, it's a long-standing tradition and challenge...to find the perfect pork chops. The Vietnamese way for cooking these is frying them after marinating. This tenderizes and flavors them quite nicely. Locals really go crazy for good fried pork chops, and the table behind us had 3 out of four people eating Kinh Do's pork chops. They had a nice golden brown appearance, and sliced very easily. They were juicy, tasty, and had just enough greasiness to raise a dietician's eyebrows! So what...you live only once, right? Pound for pound, and for some of the best quality pork chops, I recommend the Outback's Jackeroo Chops...they are quite lean and great tasting. Kinh Do's chops are served with a salad that always comes with 1000 Island Dressing (this dressing must have been air-dropped during the Vietnam War because every Vietnamese restaurant has it!). Steamed rice rounds out this meal...it's enough for a hearty appetite to handle.
There are other typical entrees on the menu, such as the various combination soups, Beef, Chicken and Shrimp dishes with Lemon Grass, and noodle dishes. I did notice some unusual items, such as Cold Noodle Plates, featuring Beef, Chicken, and Shrimp cold noodles with lemon grass. I think I'll try one of those next time.
The ambiance at Kinh Do is not inspired...it is a simple, quaint, hole-in-the wall, a great local hangout. The walls are painted in pink rose tones, and there are some rather unique mother of pearl Asian art pieces, depicting comely ladies in various states of reflection. These are just interesting enough to catch your attention for a while until your food is delivered, and that's really what Kinh Do is about...good, cheap, and abundant food. They probably do great take-out, for those who have memorized their menu...they didn't have any to-go menus available - I'm sure they could do more business if they did! I don't think they'll take reservations with their limited capacity. You can call them at 477-8483. With their hours, I'm sure they'll find a time to accommodate you!