Who hasn't realised that the new Merivale restaurant, Mr Wong, has arrived?
They certainly know how to build up the excitement, with the Merivale marketing machine in overdrive with the tweets and the emails and goodness knows what else announcing the imminent opening of star chef Dan Hong's latest venture.
There was a tweet last week saying that the restaurant, in Bridge Lane, Sydney, was a day early in its prep and was opening right now! So when we went there for lunch on Saturday, it had been going off for only two and a bit days. You wouldn't know it, though, it already runs like a well-(sesame)-oiled machine.
Entrance to the restaurant. It is in the former Tank nightclub site, on the lower ground floor of the Establishment complex in George Street. Lots of heavy wooden beams, exposed pipes, open kitchens.
Dan Hong in da kitchen.
The menu is mainly nouvelle Cantonese. The food is fabulous.
There were 2 of us for lunch, with its dim sum menu. This is what we had.
Warning: Lots of pictures and a corny advert at the end.
This is chicken and jellyfish salad with pig's ear ($14).
Just like the salads in Chinatown, with smooth poached chicken and crunchy jellyfish and pig's ear in sesame oil. Lots of coriander (unfortunately for me, the coriander-hater).
Foie gras prawn toast ($12) was piping hot, with fresh oil used to fry the prawn on bread. The subtle but the unmistakeable flavour of foie gras takes this to another level.
Sichuan steak tartare ($18) had sweet-tasting undertones and a chilli oil kick, and the raw steak was nicely tender. Topped with fried garlic slices and served with fried crispbread (like pappadums) and refreshing cucumber slices.
Abalone chicken shumai ($9.80) had tiny, tender abalone atop chicken mince. Intense flavour in the chicken, maybe from shiitake mushrooms. Wish they served this at normal yum cha places.
There is a roast meat section on the menu, and freshly roasted ducks and chickens hanging in the kitchen. Out the back are dozens of denuded raw ducks ready for their tanning treatment.
Those doors (above right) are for the toilets.
We only ordered one main, Salt and Pepper Calamari ($27).Again, good frying technique results in tender calamari coated in lots of salt, pepper and spices such as star anise. Quite salty, but moreish.
Tsingtao beer ($9) and silver jasmine tea ($2 per person).
I must say that this was the most fragrant, beautiful jasmine tea I've had in a restaurant. The waitstaff don't seem to recognise the international signal of teapot-refilling-needed, though (lid askew on the pot).
The only criteria I had for ordering the other dishes was, "Must leave room for dessert".
Mr Wong's deep-fried ice cream with butterscotch sauce ($14) was eagerly awaited - and quickly eaten.
Fresh cake crumbs around the ice cream, but for me, the butterscotch sauce was to die for.
I ordered the roast white chocolate ice cream with yuzu curd, longans and raspberries ($14).
One word: OMG!
The citrusy yuzu curd was the perfect foil to the smooth ice cream. There was also some biscuit crumbs in there, making the dish like a deconstructed something.
In case you hadn't noticed, I really, really like Mr Wong. Excellent food, wonderful atmosphere.
The waitstaff are dressed like stereotypical French waiters, with black waistcoats and long white aprons. The open kitchens are filled with industrious workers who are surprisingly quiet, and it's the diners who are the noisy ones as they enjoy their meal and each other's company. It's probably not the type of place your traditional Chinese parents might enjoy (the prices!), but like Red Lantern on Riley, it's a Gen X-Y-Z version of what the parents like.
By the way, I'm definitely showing my age, but do you remember that ad from the 80s? It went like this:
Scene: A group of Aussie tourists in Hong Kong with their tour guide
Tourist: Mr Wong! Mr Wong!
Mr Wong: What is it?
Tourist: I've lost all my traveller's cheques!
Mr Wong: Ohhh. What kind were they?
Tourist: American Express...
Mr Wong: Ahhh, they have an office right here in Hong Kong!
Smiles and nods all round.
And that's how this new Mr Wong makes you feel, all happy that everything is right in the foodie world.
Mr Wong is at 3 Bridge Lane, Sydney (enter via Pitt St or Bridge St).
ph: 02 9240 3000