Sunday, 10 August 2014

Mr Wong - 7 August 2014

Mr Wong, the contemporary Cantonese restaurant in Merivale's ever expanding empire, has been since August 2012. It has received many rave reviews and awards, including 2 chef hats and Best New Restaurant from the SMH Good Food Guide 2014, yet I still hadn't dined at Mr Wong's. My friend and I happened to talk about this restaurant recently and since we both hadn't been, we decided to check it out on a whim.     

I was impressed by the fit out as soon as I set foot into Mr Wong. This is a warehouse space that the Hemmes family splashed out a cool $4 million on. The dining room is huge: 240-seats running over two levels. The dimly lit room felt like you transported to Shanghai in the 1930s. 

Unlike other Chinese restaurants in town where you might find rude, abrupt service, expect to find something closer to silver service at Mr Wong. All the waitstaff were friendly, professional and helpful. They're dressed snappily here with aprons, white shirts, ties and tuxedos.

The open kitchen
The chef team at Mr Wong is headed by Dan Hong, who is executive chef at Ms.G's, El Loco as well as Mr Wong and Eric Koh, the head dim sum chef. Eric Koh was poached by Justin Hemmes from all the way in London, where he had been plying his dim sum making craft at Michelin-starred Hakkasan.   

The dim sum was exactly why I was here today. The full dim sum menu is only available during the lunch service. Dim sum platters are available at dinner.

Abalone, snow crab and white rice bamboo roll ($15 for 2)
First dim sum to arrive was abalone, snow crab and white rice bamboo roll. This was Mr Wong's version of 'lor mai gai' (steamed sticky rice with chicken), a more upmarket version.   

Unwrapping the bamboo leaf
Wrapped inside the bamboo leaf parcel was pure deliciousness. The rice had a great texture: sticky but not gluey. The abalone was sweet, flavoursome, and tender, whilst retaining its bounciness. Hiding underneath the abalone were strands of snow crab, which were very delicate in flavour. There were also dried scallops and shrimps. This was my favourite dim sum today and one that I would happily order again and suggest to others.

We then decided to go into truffle mode and ordered every dumpling on the menu that had the words 'black truffle" in the description. Each dumpling was topped with a dab of black truffle specks and truffle oil. In truth, I wouldn't call having these a "truffle experience" as it tasted more truffle oil than fresh truffle and the flavours of the dumpling masked the truffle flavour. Having said this, the dumplings here were all well-made, freshly steamed/poached, and enjoyable.
Black truffle and wild mushroom dumpling ($10.80 for 3)
The black truffle and wild mushroom dumplings were fantastic and was the only dumpling which had black truffle cooked inside the dumpling. The assorted wild mushrooms worked well with the truffle flavour. The dumpling skin had a pleasant, slippery and smooth texture. This was my favourite of the "black truffle" dim sum. 

Pork xiao lung bao with black truffle ($15 for 3)
Next up is everyone's favourite Shanghainese morsel, pork xiao lung bao (well mine at least). The skins were not as delicate as the ones at Din Tai Fung, but the dumplings were substantially larger. These were tasty with the usual hot broth and pork filling. I am not sure if I would pay an extra $3 again for the drop of black truffles on each dumpling.

Poached pork, prawn and black truffle dumpling ($12 for 6)
These poached pork and prawn dumplings were nice, springy and spongy parcels wrapped with a silky, delicate skin. The soy-based dressing that it came with was filled with aromatic herbs and quite delicious; I would have happily run my finger through this. But the truffle? Again the other flavours of the dumpling, particularly the soy dressing, dominated the truffle. 

Black truffle fried rice ($34 for small)
I smiled gleefully when this plate of food arrived. My time to try Mr Wong's black truffle fried rice has finally come! I have wanted to have this ever since Dan Hong posted this insane truffle fried rice on his Instagram account, which he served to David Thompson when he was in town. Like a big blanket of black truffles, it is pretty obvious why this truffle fried rice has become one of the most Instagrammed dishes this winter.

The truffle fried rice from Dan Hong's Instagram account
I'm not David Thompson, so the truffle to fried rice ratio for us was not as ridiculous, but still enough to make my jaw drop. And there's no mistaking the smelly, intoxicating aroma and flavour of black truffle, which Mr Wong sources from Manjimup, WA. This was a very simple fried rice with egg, shiitake mushrooms, peas, butter and seasoned with salt and pepper to not overpower the truffle.         

This was definitely the best fried rice I have had for some time. This was Mr Wong's answer to the Italian black truffle risotto, but I have to say the Italian version still wins with its richness and creaminess; these are things that really make truffles sing. 

And the small size is massive, easily enough to feed 3 or 4. We may not have finished the rice, but we made sure every trace of truffle was gone before we left Mr Wong.    

Roast duck, char siu, pork belly? Next time!
As I only got to sample a small subsection of Mr Wong's vast menu, I would like to return to Mr Wong to try other dishes, such as the Peking duck. Mr Wong is on the pricey side, so I probably won't be here too often. It's more a special occasion venue or a place to go if you want to splash out. But what you are paying for, in addition to the Merivale stamp, is the space, the atmosphere, the service and the food, which you know has been sourced from fresher and better quality produce than most other Chinese restaurants in Sydney. But is this all worth the extra premium? I will let you be the judge...

Highlight: Abalone, snow crab and white rice bamboo roll
Lowlight: It's pricey so not sure when I will be back next
Overall: Merivale's foray into Cantonese cuisine is a mostly successful one. The dim sum were delicately crafted little morsels, full of flavour and delicious. But it all comes with the Merivale price tag. 7/10 (Great)

Mr Wong
Address: 3 Bridge Lane, Sydney NSW 2000
Contact no: (02) 9240 3000

Mr Wong on Urbanspoon