Woky Ko Kauto offers up tantalising new dishes alongside old favourites, writes Sammy Milton
Larkin Cen has well and truly cracked the Asian food scene in Bristol. That’s not to say that we don’t already have many fantastic Asian restaurants in Bristol – Mayflower will always be the very best of the best – but his first Bristol venture, Woky Ko at CARGO, took off like a rocket when it first opened in Wapping Wharf in late 2016.
The MasterChef finalist has now opened a sister restaurant, Woky Ko Kauto, on the exclusive location of the Clifton Triangle. Describing itself as an extension of the CARGO eatery, it offers many of the old favourites mixed with bigger, more dynamic dishes – we couldn’t wait to see what was on offer.
Externally, you can’t miss it. Spanning two floors with a pleasingly large glass frontage, it has views over the bustling street outside and the iconic Wills Memorial building. Inside, it’s cool, calm and collected. Large wooden tables line the room, enabling people to eat side-by-side, whilst there is also a table up by the open kitchen, along the window and a larger dining room upstairs – perfect for functions.
We were seated in the window (perfect for people-watching, my favourite pastime), and ordered a couple of bottles of Hite beers whilst we looked over the menu. As well as their famous baos, there is a selection of sharing plates (xiao) and larger plates (da) to choose from. We decided to go with a sharing plate, a bao apiece and one large dish to share – and we weren’t disappointed.
From the sharing plates, we went with a classic – salt and pepper squid. It arrived piping hot and supremely fresh. As it’s one of my favourite dishes to eat, I am delighted to say that Woky Ko’s version is up there with the best. Crispy without a hint of grease, these were bouncy coils of joy. Garnished with chili and served with a side of dipping sauce, they disappeared in seconds.
My braised pork, apple and peanut powder bao was excellent. The fluffy white bao managed to be sticky and satisfying without being cloying, and the filling was so tender and flavoursome – the peanut powder packed a particularly delicious punch. My partner’s shrimp and tiger prawn, lemon and pickled daikon bao was equally as delicious. Fresh and fishy, the crunch and tartness of the daikon added a delightful tang.
Now, onto our main – and what a dish this was! Half a Korean-fried chicken atop a board arrived at the table, surrounded by pancakes, peking sauce and cucumber leeks. Easily one of the most impressive things I’ve been served in recent times, this blew us away! Anyone who has been to Asia and has eaten fried chicken will know what I’m talking about when I say it is the best – crisp, crunchy skin encased hot, juicy chicken that was so unbelievably flavoursome. Pancakes smothered in Peking sauce provided the perfect vessels in which to enjoy this, and we devoured it far quicker than I thought possible. What an excellent idea this dish is!
To finish off, we had to have the salted caramel and coconut ice cream bao. Another Woky Ko classic, it was as good as ever – a tantalising combination of cold, creamy ice cream with sweet caramel sauce, it’s the perfect thing to end a meal, or to just eat continuously throughout this good weather we’re having.
I feel I’ve barely touched the other delights that this menu has to offer – steaming bowls of ramen, small plates of char siu pork and aromatic curries to name a few – so I’ll simply have to return. In the meantime, however, make sure you give it a go. It’s well worth walking up Park Street for.
Woky Ko Kauto
7/9 Queens Road, Clifton, Bristol BS8 1QE