Ekachai – a wok star turn in King’s Cross
Fifth branch from team specialising in Thai, Malay and Cantonese street food is a joy to behold
02 February, 2018 — By Tom Moggach
Ekachai specialises in Thai, Malay and Cantonese street food
IT’S never dull exploring King’s Cross – a patch of London in constant flux.
I strolled to Ekachai, a new Southeast Asian restaurant, via Camley Street Natural Park.
The just-open footbridge swoops you over the canal to Bagley Walk, a promenade dotted with gasping joggers.
Arriving in Granary Square, the highly rated Grain Store restaurant has closed down. (The French chef cashed in the lease and decamped to rural Australia – wise move.)
In its place is the luxe Granary Square Brasserie. Next up is the opening of Coal Drop Yard – “100,000 sq ft of experiential shopping” – a prospect I find distinctly less thrilling.
Ekachai is just around the corner, past the offices of the Guardian in York Way.
It opened in mid-January, the fifth branch from a team specialising in Thai, Malay and Cantonese street food.
Wok cooking is their thing – and it’s a joy to behold. To do it properly, you need turbo gas burners to cook lightning fast and impart “Wok Hei” – “the breath of the wok”.
Here, the wok holders are surrounded by a bubbling moat of water to prevent the metal from melting. “The sound is like a jet engine,” explains a chuffed chef. “I can cook a Pad Thai in one minute.”
The décor here might be described as rustic chic: distressed wooden chairs and tables; flashes of blue, yellow and green. Strings of wooden lampshades, a dozen long, span the ceiling.
Order the Xiao Long Bao dumplings (£5.25). Best slurped whole from a spoon – with a quick dunk in Chinese vinegar – these are cunning creations, filled with minced pork, prawn and a jelly-like stock which melts when steamed. This fragrant, savoury liquid oozes delightfully around your taste buds.
Kai Krapow (£8.25) is a more fiery main of minced chicken with firm green beans, red chilli and lime leaves. Choose from either jasmine or egg-fried rice.
A starter of salt and pepper tofu (£4.95) was crisp in texture but too timid on the seasoning; a side dish of bok choi (£5.75) was spot on – firm and crunchy, with an umami-rich Chinese mushroom sauce.
The menu is extensive, so Ekachai merits multiple visits. Further temptations among the starters include soft shelled crab, spare ribs or a prawn and mango salad.
There’s all manner of noodles, soups, stir fries and curries, including a thick seafood laksa, beef rendang or a vegetarian soupy dish of tempe, tofu and spinach.
Best of all, service is dazzlingly fast. I watched other diners receive their starters in a couple of minutes; I’d wolfed down two-courses in way under half an hour.
This new mini-parade of restaurants in York Way is handy to have up your sleeve.
There’s a large Franco Manca next door; a Pret just across the road. Prices are keen. And the woks at Ekachai are firing seven days a week.
62-68 York Way, N1