Editor’s Note: This review was originally published in April 2016, and has since been updated to remove language rooted in harmful stereotypes around Chinese cuisine. To learn more about The Infatuation’s commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion, click here.
If you spend time eating in New York, you’ll begin to collect a list of favorite Chinese restaurants - top spots for different cuisines, for different situations, in different boroughs. We don’t update these mental power rankings often, but then we had several meals at Kings County Imperial in Williamsburg, and it shot to the very top of the list.
This is a modern, incredibly satisfying approach to classic Chinese cooking with excellent takes on everything from dumplings both long and soupy, to spring rolls, to crispy garlic chicken, to mu shu duck. On top of excellent food, Kings County is a fun place to hang out: they make great cocktails and also have a nice outdoor/patio situation for warmer months. Dim sum brunch al fresco? We’re in.
Aside from being an inviting, accommodating, and friendly place to enjoy a meal, complete with cushy, circular red booths and lazy susans, the secret sauce at Kings County Imperial is the soy. The restaurant actually brews its own soy sauce, which is used in all the dishes on the menu. The sauce is sun-fermented in antique porcelain pots that sit in a Chinese field for 6-8 months, which apparently allows the soy to reach maximum flavor. Once it arrives at Kings County, they run it through a nitrogen line at the restaurant to prevent it from oxidizing too fast. It’s on tap at the bar, right next to the beers, and the negronis (also on tap, of course). It’s another example of the little details that add up to a great experience overall.
It’s time to turn the volume up on Kings County. If you are someone who likes Chinese food, dumplings, or an enjoyable dining experience amongst friends, then get to Kings County Imperial immediately.
These are long, lean, dunking machines. It’ll take you multiple glorious bites - and multiple glorious dunks into Kings County’s signature brewed soy sauce - to take these down. Go big when thinking dumplings. Get the long ones.
But also, don’t forget the soupy ones. The special soy takes these up a notch.
These are made by hand, to order, with high quality ingredients, and you can absolutely tell.
This may look like eel or calamari or shredded crispy beef, but nope, those are actually mushrooms. A super cool, super unique dish that was a big hit at our table. The ’shrooms are tender, savory, and sweet - a different approach, and a great appetizer to share.
A mountain of fried rice with pig parts. Get one on your table.
KCI’s cold sesame noodles are straight fire. The Dan Dan Noodles are good, too, but a little light on the spice.
The longbeans at Imperial are ridiculously good, elevated by all kinds of tasty pickled vegetables and ground pork.
An awesome take on a classic mu shu, featuring plenty of root vegetables and thin slices of duck. Pour on a dash of soy sauce, and maybe add some hot sauce.