From broken promises to unleashed secrets, there are many forms of betrayal in the cruel, cold world that we live in. Often, it is the people we care for the most who hurt us, and at times, it can be difficult to find the strength to forgive them. Of all the painful moments that I’ve endured at the hands of Steak – from blinding headaches caused by time spent in her company, to a kick in the shins for calling her a dwarf, nothing ever cuts me as deeply as when she visits a restaurant without me.
Of course, such events are to be expected, given that Steak actually has a social life, whereas I have to constantly bribe people to be friends with me. But, when I discovered that Steak had visited Bintang on more than three occasions without me, I decided that enough was enough. Located in the midst of Camden Town, Bintang is the Pan-Asian brainchild of Filipino chef Omar Shah, who, for the last twenty-five years, has dazzled Londoners with the flavours of the Far-East. Having neglected this popular eatery for years on end, I promptly dragged Steak to Camden in a bitter bid to end my envy.
Note: All the meat served here is certified halal.
From pad thai to katsu curry and everything else in between, Bintang offers a varied menu that bears inspiration from Filipino, Indonesian, Malaysian, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese cuisines. As such, making a decision would have been a little tricky, had I not caught a glimpse of the adobo lamb ribs, which simply had my name written all over them. Having undergone a low and slow sous-vide preparation, each and every rib possessed a level of succulence that was truly astonishing. As the meat slid off the bone with no resistance whatsoever, the adobo sauce – (in which they had been soaked), delivered a rich and sweet flavour, and a short, sharp tang, both of which penetrated the tastebuds in delightful fashion. However, the sweetness did become a touch too much by the time I got to the last rib, so if you’re not a huge fan of sweet meat, be wary and consider ordering them to share.
Adobo lamb ribs (£11) *Must-eat*
We also ordered a portion of miyagi fries, and were a little bemused when we received what seemed to be a plate of sweet potato fries instead. It was indeed a mix-up by our waitress, who kindly told us that we could keep them – free of charge. The sweet potato fries were light, crispy, and possessed a sharp and savoury cocktail of seasoning, which was complemented by a light and mellow coriander aioli.
Sweet potato fries with a coriander aioli
When the miyagi fries did arrive, we found them to have a rich and rustic flavour, which was complemented by a generous slather of katsu curry sauce. Delivering a strong, savoury touch, the sauce worked well with the soft strands of fried egg and the crunchy spring onions, and ultimately, helped to create a moist, potato-based mess that somewhat reminded me of all the delicious poutines I devoured in Toronto.
Miyagi fries (£6)
Whilst I was busy feeding the ribs to my beard, (and taking no shame in the process), Steak enjoyed a large rice bowl filled with crispy chicken thighs – for about five minutes, before passing the remains over to me. Encased in a crispy, chewy batter that was covered in a sharp and mildly spicy rub, the soft and tender chicken thighs delivered an exciting array of flavours and textures. Even the rice – which was extremely soft and moist, refused to be boring, meshing in with the wasabi to deliver a subtle kick to the palate. By all accounts, it was a hearty and satisfying bowl, filled with a fantastic mix of spicy and umami flavours.
Chicken thigh rice bowl (£7)
A few weeks ago, Steak and I stopped by Bintang for a second visit, and began proceedings with a portion of salt and pepper squid. Soft, crumbly, and exquisitely seasoned, it delivered a full and sharp flavour, which was almost as addictive as the sweet tamarind sauce served alongside it.
Salt and pepper calamari (£6) *Must-Eat*
For mains, I ordered the “surf and turf” katsu curry, consisting of panko-coated chicken breast and panko-coated shrimp, served with a generous portion of jasmine rice, and a thick kastu curry gravy. The crunchy panko coats contrasted fantastically with the soft shrimp and the surprisingly succulent chicken breast, and went hand in hand with the delightfully savoury katsu gravy.
Surf n’ Turf Katsu Curry (£14)
Steak meanwhile, had opted for the beef pad thai. Unfortunately, the beef proved to be slightly overcooked and bland, whilst the noodles needed a much stronger essence of lime and lemongrass.
Beef Pad Thai (£9)
For dessert, we tried the “suman churros” – a fusion of the Filipino suman (a sweet Filipino rice cake), and the Mexican churro, served with coconut ice cream and dulche de leche sauce. As we broke through the crispy outer coat and into the soft, sticky-rice core, we found a pleasant contrast between the slightly salted rice, and the rich sweetness of the sauce and ice cream. The churros were however, a little too thick, and this smothered out the sweetness of the dulche de leche sauce.
Suman Churros (£6)
Value For Money: 4/5
Generally, starters range from £5-£8, mains from £8-£13, sides from £2-£3, and desserts cost around £3-£5. Paired with the generous portion sizes and the great satisfaction to be found within (most) of the dishes, we can say with certainty that Bintang is a rather cheap and cheerful eatery.
In fact, the only thing more cheerful than Bintang, is Omar himself, who heads up an incredibly friendly and bubbly team of waiters and waitresses, who go out of their way to ensure that you have a fun and problem-free meal.
As with any Camden-based eatery, you can expect to find a rustic and minimal decor, complete with a care-free dining environment. Whilst there isn’t much room to manoeuvre and the wooden furniture isn’t exceptionally comfortable, you should still be able to have a fairly pleasant meal – provided you don’t over-order and snap a chair or get stuck in the doorway. The restaurant can be found a five minute walk away from either Camden Town station, or Camden Road station, and parking spaces may be available on nearby residential roads. Be aware however, that restrictions may apply.
With a varied and fluid menu, Bintang may just be one of the better casual Pan-Asian restaurants we’ve visited in London. There is certainly some scope for improvement – particularly with some of the main courses, but from what we’ve sampled so far, we can tell that Omar doesn’t just slap any old food onto your plate. Rather, he puts a significant amount of thought into each dish and takes a certain amount of pride in his cooking, and it is this pride that is reflected in the calibre of the food that leaves his kitchen. With twenty-five years on a clock that’s still ticking, it’s clear that he’s not done feeding London just yet, and we’re certainly not done with Bintang. Whether you’re specifically searching for a Pan-Asian restaurant or simply passing through Camden Town, this is one little eatery that should reside firmly within your list of considerations.
Address: 93 Kentish Town Road, London NW1 8NY
Telephone: 0207 267 2197
Originally Published: 27/08/16