Creative and side-by-side
East truly does meet West at these adjacent spots opened by Jimmy Lliang, the boy wonder behind three other Asian restaurants in Quincy: Fuji 1546, Beni Cafe, and Shabu. Lliang is 31, and he’s been in the food business since he graduated from North Quincy High School. At 19, he and classmate Peter Tse opened their first restaurant, Fuji on Hancock Street. Lliang’s latest endeavor is Bistro Chi, which offers creative Chinese food. Next door at Kama, American tapas and small plates rule; Tse is a partner in the venture.
We start off in Kama, which has a faint goth look; black dominates. Lliang and Tse’s design and construction business did the renovation.
The cocktail list is inventive; try Blueberry Blues ($8), blueberry vodka and schnapps with muddled blueberries, soda water, and a dash of lemonade. Grilled cheese ($6) is deliciously crunchy and oozy, the buttery, thinly sliced baguette and salty prosciutto offset by the mild taleggio. Duck confit ($9) is melt-in-the-mouth tender, balanced by salty, crispy skin and served over wilted spinach.
Kama’s menu has 20 items, but we’re going to Bistro Chi for dinner, so we stroll over to the dining room, a stylized gray and white combination of banquettes and tables. Customers may sit in either spot and order off both menus, since the two establishments share a kitchen. Kevin Long, executive chef at Tosca in Hingham, helped write the menu for Kama, where Matthew Cox, formerly of Tosca, cooks.
On the bistro side, it’s chef Chen Da Chao who turns out the dishes. Here, the menu is a mix of authentic Chinese and Chinese-American favorites (woe to the place that forgets General Gao’s chicken). Lliang, who moved to Quincy from China at age 3, wants it to be casual dining with simple stir-fries. The menu is more ambitious than that.
Start with crab rangoon ($4.50). They’re ethereal: hot and puffy with a real crab filling. Dumplings ($8) are equally pleasing: light steamed wrappers that surround a seasoned orb of pork.
Shrimp with candied walnuts in a white mayo sauce ($14, pictured) is a pretty and tasty dish: large, pink shellfish drizzled with a light sauce, with glossy walnuts on top, wreathed by broccoli florets. Another good bet is the King Do pork ($12), a plate of sweet and tender spare ribs. Singapore vermicelli ($9), is a tad dry.
For a good deal, try lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; an item served over a bed of rice, accompanied by soup, is $7.95.
Desserts are not made on the premises; we’d rather skip them and have an extra appetizer. The service in Kama and Bistro Chi is efficient and friendly, and if Lliang and Tse’s track record holds, both places are in for a good, long run.