Nobody likes to queue so if you find yourself in Wynyard looking for dinner at 6pm, you head on over to Mr Wong. We manage to walk straight in on a Monday night, hooking into the back alleyway that is Bridge Lane. There are no dinner bookings here (except for groups of six or more) which means you need to arrive early or be prepared to queue. By 6.45pm, the dining room is full.
Peking ducks in the kitchen
Mr Wong promises "classic Chinese influences in a contemporary style", presided by Executive Chef Dan Hong and Head Dim Sum Chef Eric Koh. The full dim sum menu is only available at lunch but there's a selection of dim sum baskets you can order at dinner.
The 240-seat restaurant runs over two levels, an impressive transformation of the former Tank Nightclub into a moody scene straight out of 1930s Shanghai. Since opening in August 2012, Mr Wong has cemented itself as a serious player on the Sydney dining scene, winning Best New Restaurant from Time Out Sydney, Australian Gourmet Traveller and the SMH Good Food Guide, and earning two hats in the 2014 Good Food Guide Awards.
Hainan province $16 and Anhui province cocktail $17
There's an impressive level of attention to detail here, from the warm and professional welcome we receive as soon as we arrive, to the considered decor that creates an unmistakeable sultriness in the air. We're a world away from cheesy Chinese restaurants with their bright lights, lazy Susans and salmon-coloured napkins. The crowd is different too: mostly small groups of couples, friends and business associates but there are large tables too of work groups and families celebrating a special occasion.
The menu might be primarily Cantonese-influenced but the cocktail list runs across twelve provinces, each concoction featuring an individual fruit, herb or spice specifically found in that region. I pick the Hainan province cocktail which combines Otokoyama sake with Paraiso lychee liquer, rhubarb bitters and a homemade ginger syrup. It's sweet but not excessively so.
Billy goes for the Anhui province cocktail just because it includes hoisin bitters, something which intrigues us both. It's shaken up with Wyborowa vodka, shochu, lemon juice, freshly muddled lemongrass and ginger, shiso leaves and a Sapporo top. Can you taste the hoisin? Definitely. There's an odd savoury note, as though you accidentally dropped a piece of pork in your drink but didn't want to waste it. Really.
Peking duck pancakes $45 (half duck)
Where you do want to taste hoisin, though, is on your Peking duck. You can order half a Chinese roast duck for $34 but another tenner gets you crispy skin, a steamer basket of pancakes and all the Peking duck trimmings of cucumber, spring onion and hoisin.
Peking duck is a one-course affair here, with the skin served still attached to the meat. Other Chinese restaurants tend to serve you mostly skin only, and then serve the remaining meat as duck san choy bao.
The skin isn't as glazed and crisp as I've had before but the flesh is impressive, with a plump and juicy succulence in every bite. There's a lovely flavour too, not overwhelming with star anise, but sufficiently complex to get your tastebuds firing.
Crispy eggplant with "fish-fragrant" sauce $19
I've always loved crispy eggplant, but I've been even more obsessed since eating the spiced red vinegar version at Lee Ho Fook in Melbourne. At Mr Wong the eggplant batons are sheathed in a thicker shell of batter - great news for lovers of toffeed crunch.
The fish-fragrant sauce refers to sweet and sour spicy sauce that is commonly used to accompany fish dishes in Sichuan cuisine. It's sweet and spicy but feels like it needs an extra oomph of vinegar to balance things out. This doesn't stop me reaching for seconds. And thirds.
Sweet and sour crispy pork hock $28
We'd hemmed and hawed about adding crispy pork hock to a dinner for two that already included half a Peking duck, but sensibilities took hold as we realised "Why compromise and live with regret? Our arteries will be fiiiiine."
The hunks of fat-ribboned pork glisten tantalisingly under the lights. I find the sauce a little on the sweet side again (what I would have given for an extra splash of black vinegar) but the pork itself is dreamily soft and sweet and fatty and good.
Stir fried sweetcorn, soybeans, almonds, lap cheung and spiced tofu served in lettuce cups $19
There's a reasonably broad selection of veggie dishes to choose from (water spinach, asparagus, bok choy, greens with XO or four types of mushrooms) but I convince Billy to get the stir fried sweetcorn served in lettuce cups. The cheerful mix of fresh corn kernels, soy beans, lap cheong and spicy tofu are a welcome counterpoint to the richness of our other dishes.
There's a fantastic undercurrent of star anise in the hoisin sauce that I relish with glee. With so many heavy dishes, I find that bundling the vegetables up with bits of the pork hock in lettuce works well together too.
We've ordered way too much for two but our food bill isn't too pricy at $55 per head. And there's a doggy bag to take home as well. Win.
3 Bridge Lane, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9240 3000
Lunch 7 days 12pm - 3pm
Dinner 7 days 5.30pm - 10pm
(til 11pm Mon - Wed, till midnight Thu - Sat)
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Chinese - Chairman Mao, Kensington
Chinese - Two Sticks, Sydney
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5/25/2014 02:45:00 am