Mr Wong, Mr Wong!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Oh man, this ad cracks me up. Produced before I was born actually, it plays on almost every Chinese cliché there is!

"What kind were they?!"

If you hadn't already guessed it, I'll be reviewing my visit to Mr Wong - the new mega-restaurant opened up by none other than Merivale group (set on world domination one bar/restaurant at a time). This is their third venture in 2012, it was only last month that I posted about the Fish Shop (right here). The 240-seater venue is tucked away in Bridge Lane, in the basement of the Establishment Hotel. The space was previously incarnated as Tank Nightclub and at the snap of his fingers, Justin Hemmes has wrangled the cavernous space into a multi level Chinese yum-cha bonanza. Good for him!

Hemmes, with the help of stylist Sibella Court has done it again fit-out-wise. Reportedly costing $4 mill (loose change, really), the restaurant speaks to the colonial stylings of the 1930s Photo credit: Broadsheet Sydney

Upon stepping inside (no queuing for lunch service today, thank goodness), we were welcomed with the hustle & bustle of the kitchens x2. Not surprisingly, Hemmes has roped in Dan Hong and Jowett Yu (BFF chefs from Ms G'sto run the 36 strong kitchen. Dim sum is taken care of with a little help from Eric Koh from Michelin starred Hakkasan in London. We were shown to our table down yonder, taking the staircase winding around the massive glass elevator shaft of a wine cellar (a massive whiff of modernity there!). It soon became clear how important alcohol is to this business...give me a pot of Chinese tea however and I'm a happy camper. The bar takes up a good spot on the lower floor, the ridiculously-good-looking bar staff (what did you expect :P) doing their job with a hospitality-grade smile.

An interesting departure from tradition was their à la carte menu. Luckily I had already read a thing or two so I knew what dishes looked like. I was pretty keen to order the Dim Sum platter, but sadly that's only available for dinner. It felt slightly odd ordering what was 'apparently good'. It's true what people say, you do eat with your eyes. Call me old-fashioned but I love being able to look at what's available from the trolleys being pushed by the little Asian ladies at yum-cha. And of course 'the requisite' chair legs being crashed into mid meal by out of control trolleys...whoops! And what about the cards that you get stamped with each dish? I'm such a tragic, I know.

Wonder wall: so much effort has been put into the details in this restaurant. For example, the curtain downstairs is hand-strung with beads sourced from Ecuador, yikes. This wall is very Chinese herbalist (all we need is a set of scales). 

Sydney Rock oysters, fried shallots and ginger vinaigrette. These were scrumptious, fresh oysters with minimal interference can't be beat. I managed to snag one before one my dining buddies demolished up the rest!

Mr. Wong's drunken chicken. As a galantine?! I think they Frankenstein-ed that a bit too far. Chicken bones contain so much flavour, it should be cooked as a whole. I know that many people have a thing about bones in food, but seriously!

Chueng Fun (steamed rice roll) with prawn - this was rather yum. I liked the addition of the asparagus slices, which gave it a nice crunch. The garnish here is really not necessary ;)

Abalone chicken shumai: a delicacy in Asian cuisine it was good to see that this was a popular choice. 

Prawn har gau ($9) - plump mouthfuls of prawny goodness. The skins of these dim sum were nice and delicate. Eric Koh's influence is a clear winner on the dim sum front

I distinctly get the impression that Mr Wong is trying to teach an old dog new tricks. The dim sum here are rather refined, slightly smaller sized and done with some delicacy (read: $$$). The garnish is more an afterthought, there's absolutely no need to trick up anything here. Posh yum cha is clearly not my thing. With daily covers of up to 850 (scary) and queues snaking down Bridge Lane come dinner time, the hungry masses beg to differ.

Don't mind the flailing chopsticks, it's the Chinese Roasted Duck (half). A labour of love, this duck takes 3 days to prepare. At a tidy $34, this was surely the highlight of the meal. Crispy skin for days (hah) and beautifully juicy duck meat - so so good with a bit 'o' plum sauce! That 3-tonne custom duck roasting oven was obviously a good investment...

Mr Wong's westernised version is basically an entirely different experience to traditional yum cha. The first thing I thought when I sat down was, "Where are the trolleys?". They do actually serve a purpose to keep the bamboo steamers piping hot, so when they get to the table they're not luke warm (like our char sieu bao, damn it)! Whilst the food was very decent, there was something about eating here that I sorely missed. Yum-cha is a cultural institution that has been ingrained in me from a very young age. Half of the experience is that raucous energy that you get from eating in a massive hall that quite literally, seats hundreds. The noise, the heady aromas floating in the air and the authenticity (not quite HK, but you know - we do try).  This version has been sanitized and prices jacked up for the Aussie market. Okay, I'll stop ranting now.

This one is set to be a downright crowd pleaser, particularly to the Western audience who might find Chinatown yum-cha a little intimidating (may I suggest carting your Asian friends along!). It's location also suits the business lunching type down to a T. In case you didn't already know, Mr Wong has been heaped with praise in the press. Time Out Sydney gave it an adoring 5 stars. Even chef David Chang of the Momofuku empire has also given it his stamp of approval - must be a'ight then.

Thanks for reading! x
Mr Wong on Urbanspoon



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