232 Keefer Street – Chinatown
Date of Visit: July, 2017
I passed by Kent’s several times while wandering around Chinatown and wanted to give it a try but it always seemed to be packed. One morning, just after 11am I happened to catch it when there were only a few patrons present. It was a little earlier than I had intended for my lunch but I didn’t want to lose the opportunity and so I stopped in for a quick bite…
Kent’s is a decidedly informal and no-frills sort of place. A lot of the trade is in take-out but they seat about 20 or so sit-down guests. The tables are simple formica and all the plates and utensils are disposable except for the chopsticks. It is bustling, with the cookery being carried out visibly just a few feet away, and it has a rather slap-dash, cheerful atmosphere.
There is no table service. Customers order from the large board on the wall behind the serving station or just point to the various dishes on the steam table. One can select a large or a small portion for each dish and I was surprised at how much I was given with the small portions I ordered.
Pork Hock with Lotus Root – This consisted of largish chunks of pork hock and fresh lotus root in a very tasty brown sauce. I was surprise but there were no bones in the pieces of hock… I don’t know if this was deliberate, or just happened to be the case in my portion. In any event, the meat wat was very succulent and the skin unctuously soft. It was my first time with fresh lotus root, having only ever had the reconstituted dried variety so far, and I liked the texture which was very much like that of bamboo shoot. This was a very homey and satisfying sort of dish.
Salt and Chili Smelt – These reminded me a bit of the Eperlains common in New Brunswick which, like these, are also eaten whole, head, tail, bones and all. Here, though, these are first dusted with flour, salt and chili flakes and fried. The coating added a nice piquant flavor as well as a satisfying crispiness. Best of all, though, in my opinion, was that the little fish had obviously been allowed to ferment slightly, giving them a great umami depth. I think these would be great as a snack with plenty of cold beer.
For a really cheap and genuinely decent meal, you can’t go wrong here. It isn’t fine dining, as far as the ambience is concerned, and you won’t get waited hand and foot, but whatever you get is pretty well guaranteed to be satisfying and filling. Kent’s is not a high-end place but it delivers what it promises so I rate it at a 4 out of 5.