Have you ever been so confident that you’re good at something, that you feel like you can get away with not giving it your best? I haven’t. But I don’t think Hardy Kam, founder of Kam’s Roast, suffers from the same insecurity.
I say this because Kam’s flagship product, the Roast Goose, is markedly absent from the first Philippine franchise’s menu. I already knew this before queueing for about half an hour, though the old lady who was beside me in the waiting area clearly didn’t. She spent about five minutes drilling the receptionist with questions like, “Bakit puro duck? Walang goose?! Hindi ba magkakaroon? Ever?”
The same questions plagued my mind a few days prior, when I learned that just like Kam’s Singapore branch, we won’t have the prized Roast Goose in Manila due to strict restrictions on importing live birds from China. I’ve read more than a few articles downplaying the situation, stating that there are other noteworthy dishes that would-be visitors should try instead.
Before anything, a little history: Kam’s Roast’s founder, Hardy Kam, was actually the grandson of Kam Shui Fai, the man behind Hong Kong’s legendary Yung Kee Restaurant. Anyone who plans on going to Hong Kong and asks which restaurant to visit always gets told that Yung Kee should be at the top of their priority list because it’s one of the best places to eat roast goose. Due to some inheritance disputes, Hardy Kam ventured on his own in 2014 and proved himself by earning a much-coveted Michelin star from 2015-2018.
I bought into the hype and headed to Kam’s first Philippine franchise in SM Mega Fashion Hall.
On my first visit, I carefully strategized what I should order so that I’d get to taste as many items as possible. I ordered a Roast Meat Combo Noodle for myself, with Crispy Pork and Soy Chicken as toppings. For my companion, I got a Roast Meat Combo on Rice, with Crispy Pork and Char Siu. We shared a lower 1/4 portion of the duck, as well as a full-plate serving of the Toro Char Siu. If you’re dining with a small group, this is the best way to go in order to get more value for your money.
Just a word of caution, though: roast meat combinations are only available from 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM. That meant I had to order items a la carte when I went to Kam’s for dinner on my second visit. Thankfully, I had already tried most of the items and only went for my favorites from last time.
The first time I tried Kam’s Roast, I could tell that the duck hadn’t been prepared to Michelin standards: the meat clung to the bone with such ferocity that I had to gnaw my way to get something to chew on. My second visit was a remarkable improvement: I finally got the tender, succulent duck meat that I was looking for. Kam’s sweet and sour plum sauce also deserves recognition because of the way it balances out the flavor of the sometimes too-salty meat.
If you’ve ever had duck meat in Manila before, you might have reservations on eating it because it has a reputation for being bony. But the duck at Kam’s was carefully selected from multiple suppliers to make sure that you get a robust, meaty, and fatty bird.
Before you get excited, though, it also pays to know that Kam’s Roast purposely doesn’t try to make the duck skin crispy to make sure that the meat stays juicy. I tried not to mind, but part of me still craved the crackling skin you get from most places that serve roast duck. I also ate roast duck at a different restaurant the day after and immediately almost cried at the interplaying textures between the crispy skin and the juicy meat.
Nevertheless, even if you won’t get any crispiness from the duck at Kam’s, the Crispy Pork provides enough crackling action, with a thick layer of crispy skin and fat attached to each slice of meat. This is served with a strong English mustard sauce, which has a lingering spice that seeps all the way up to your nose.
Other media outlets proclaimed that because of the absence of Roast Goose, the Toro Char Siu became the one item that you shouldn’t miss ordering. I agree–it’s leagues better than the regular Char Siu, which is lean, dry, and skippable (if you’re not watching your cholesterol levels). Meanwhile, the sweet and slightly charred Toro Char Siu screams decadence with every fatty and melt-in your mouth slice. Be sure to eat this along with the Marinated Cucumber with Vinegar and Garlic, which effectively cuts through the richness.
To fill you up, you can choose between two noodle options: one laced with Ginger and Scallion Oil, and another topped with Shrimp Roe. The former stands way above the latter in terms of flavor, so follow my advice and get that one. For a truly satisfying experience, however, nothing beats white rice.
If you’re planning to visit Kam’s Roast, make sure not to come at odd hours. During both my visits at Kam’s, I overheard people from the tables beside me get told that the items that they wanted were unavailable. It’s better to queue for a longer period of time rather than get told that the lower 1/4 cuts of the ducks had already been taken, and all that you’ll be left with would be the duck breast and wing. As for me, Kam’s didn’t have the Goose Liver Sausage and Century Egg when I tried to order both on my second visit.
Among the things we were able to order, though, my actual favorite came out of left field: the soy chicken. Perhaps this is due to personal bias, because I’m known to adore this particular bird, but there’s really something about the naturally sweet and savory flavor of the chicken that captured every fiber of my being. It made me even more excited that Hawker Chan from Singapore is bringing its amazing Soy Sauce Chicken to our shores. That also tells you about my just-above-average experience at Kam’s Roast.
The few times I also ate at Kam’s Roast, I overheard almost everything that the people from tables beside me were talking about. Despite the upscale finishes, you could tell that the restaurant still crammed more people than was advisable in a small space. True, it has a more luxurious feel compared to the original branch in Hong Kong, but details like these actually mess up the experience, especially if I’m paying more than P2000 for a meal for two. The tables and seats also didn’t exude the same level of luxury as the rest of the place.
I’m quietly hoping that the Roast Goose becomes available in Manila soon. Perhaps FooDee Global Concepts can strike a deal with a local farmer to raise geese that will meet Kam’s standards or something. But as it stands now, I don’t believe that Kam’s offers something that truly sets it apart from other local restaurants that specialize in roast meats. After all, Hong Kong roasts aren’t something new to us–a lot of Filipinos grew up eating it.
I don’t think a sports team can give its optimum performance without its best player. As for Kam’s, I don’ think it will stand out without its flagship product. It’s still a good team, but not exceptional.
Kam’s Roast is located at 3F Mega Fashion Hall, SM Megamall, Ortigas, Mandaluyong City