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Ron Mackenna: Ka Ka Lok, Glasgow

For one completely barking moment I accidentally end up translating for two Chinese waiting staff.

There's nothing flashy about the decoration at Ka Ka Lok but the cooking and service prove more than ample compensation. Photograph:  Colin Templeton
There's nothing flashy about the decoration at Ka Ka Lok but the cooking and service prove more than ample compensation. Photograph: Colin Templeton

They don't speak each other's dialect, or so the waitress tells me. And they don't understand each other's English, or so my foot-tapping impatience tells me. So Dafty here intervenes to interpret from the English to the, ahem, Scottish, to try to get to the bottom of tonight's thorny question: is the bloody card machine working or not? Turns out it's not. I think. Though confusingly, the waiter has a card machine in his hand.

Anyway, it's a longish trek for me and Luca all the way from Ka Ka Lok here on Glasgow's St George's Road round to the ATM at the Sainsbury's petrol station on Woodlands Road.

It wouldn't be so bad if I wasn't stuffed full of belly pork, a particularly crisp belly pork it was too - super crunchy, salty and sweet - and roast duck, served authentically cold, and those good but strange prawns Debs ordered. Sizzling prawns in ginger and spring onion, the menu said. It should also have added: and in batter. And then added: also still in their shells.

Luckily I'm of the school that believes there's nothing wrong with eating thin-shelled prawns whole, even if they are in batter. Unfortunately I'm the only one at this table tonight who thinks that. So I munch away lonely as a cloud until it suddenly dawns on me that along with those little leggy things still attached to the prawns there may also have been little heady things. Coincidentally, just at that very moment we're chatting to the owner's son who has been telling us his dad recently owned a restaurant in mainland China.

"The heads aren't still attached to these are they?" I ask as innocently as I can after taking a bite out of a particularly fat and delicious prawn.

"Yes, they are," he replies. "though we do them without."

I stop chewing momentarily to ponder what the correct culinary etiquette is at this point. "Do Chinese people eat the prawns' heads too?" I ask. "Some do," he says.

That's good enough for me and I begin eating again. I mean, what else am I going to do? They're delicious. If I was particularly squeamish we could have ordered from the British Chinese menu as opposed to the proper Chinese Chinese menu. Both are translated into English.

Incidentally it's Mother's Day today and there are a good few tables of Chinese families scattered around what is a light and airy, if fairly plain restaurant. Think of it as halfway between the hardcore for-Chinese-only restaurants in Glasgow and the mainstream British Chinese restaurants just about everywhere.

Appetisingly, there's a board at the door with today's specials on it. We had soft-shelled crab with "dry, spicy n garlic" to start. OK, I did. The others shared grilled lamb skewers marinated in cumin. Good, if a little chewy.

I know what you're thinking. Soft-shelled crab on sale in a restaurant right next door to Glasgow's most famous soft-shelled crab exponents: Asia Style. It's a dangerous dish to prepare as many restaurants which have tried and failed spectacularly will testify. The crab needs to be white meat only with dry, super-crisp and crunchy batter and able to stand up on its own if held by a tiny tentacle. There can be no water inside. Never. Ever.

Does Ka Ka Lok achieve this? Nearly. It's almost but not quite as good as next door's - on account of just a tad of wetness. It comes with a dry, sticky dressing of garlic and what could be Szechuan peppercorn. We have also ordered a heaped plater of Chinese broccoli in ginger sauce to accompany everything. As is common in Chinese Chinese restaurants it's fresh, delicious and could have fed eight.

Anything else? The tables are a little tight and through the kitchen hatch we could see the prawn crackers being dished out of a big tub but, overall, it's been an interesting meal in a good restaurant.

Ka Ka Lok

175 St George's Road, Glasgow (0141 353 6528)

Menu

Grown-up Chinese cuisine with a separate menu for those who prefer more traditional British Chinese. Soft-shelled crab available. 4/5

Atmosphere

Plain but clean-looking decor. The place is bustling with a mix of families and couples. Pleasant enough. 3/5

Service

The staff are extremely friendly. Helpful and pleasant service all round and reasonably quick, too. 5/5

Price

Many dishes hover around the £9 mark though the portions are very large. Starters cost less than £5. 4/5

Food

Proper regional Chinese cooking that rewards experimentation. More mainstream dishes also available. 7/10

TOTAL 23/30

If you know a restaurant Ron should review, email ronmackenna@fastmail.fm.

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