Chicken skin crackers. It's like an even better version of pork crackling. Chef Lex Wong takes the skin off the chicken bones he uses for stock and transforms it into thin sheets of crunch, pressed flat between cast iron sheet pans and cooked in the oven until crisp. They're sometimes added as a bonus to the confit chicken lettuce cups but Wong admits that half the time they get eaten as chef's treats. Who can blame them? I would too.
If you've ever wondered what happened to Yang's food truck, here's the good news: Wong and team have set up permanent digs at a bricks and mortar restaurant. Yang & Co opened in Castlecrag in November 2015. And yes, you can order the truck's signature Singapore chilli soft shell crab - and sit down with proper cutlery to eat it too.
Yang & Co dining room
The menu at Yang & Co is like a mix tape of Wong's favourite Asian dishes. That means a whirlwind trip through Vietnam, China and Malaysia with stops that include deconstructed banh mi pork rolls, General Tso's popcorn chicken and roti paratha with dahl. Home is still his anchor - Wong spent his early years in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - and a larger than life mural of his grandmother on one wall of the restaurant is a touching tribute.
On a Tuesday night, the place is heaving. Castlecrag locals have taken to this pan-Asian eatery like ducks to water. Glass windows onto Edinburgh Road don't offer much of a view but there's still a calming vibe in the dining room, accented by the warm professionalism of restaurant manager Tina Nguyen on the floor.
Chicken skin crackers
Disclaimer: We're all friends with Wong and Nguyen, first watching them realise their dream of Yang's food truck and now, finally, a restaurant of their own. It's a friendship that provides a glimpse into life on the other side of the pass. And tonight it comes with the best surprise of all - a whole bowl of those chicken skin crackers served with a side of sriracha chilli sauce. We crunch through the brittle paper thin shards and can barely hide our grins.
Twice cooked masterstock lamb ribs with nahm pla dressing $17
The twice cooked masterstock lamb ribs are a huge portion. The ribs are first cooked in masterstock and then deep fried, creating a sweet and salty contrast between the crisp skin and the fatty succulent flesh beneath. Nahm pla dressing on the side provides an acidic foil to the richness of the lamb. They're meaty ribs, sourced from local butcher Castlecrag Meats, supplier for most of the meat on the menu.
Singapore chilli soft shell crab with man tao $17
It's a pleasant change to eat their food truck favourite, Singapore chilli soft shell crab, off a plate and not out of a bamboo takeaway container. The soft shell crab is packed with sweet flesh, fried to a satisfying crunch and served on a lake of that wickedly addictive Singapore chilli sauce. Four mantou buns, deep fried until golden brown, are perfect for ripping apart and dipping into the sweet and spicy sauce.
Roti paratha with chilli caramel pork belly and kimchi $16
Roti paratha acts as sauce-soaking vessel for chilli caramel pork belly. There's no shortage of fatty goodness running through the pork belly cubes, glazed in a sticky chilli sauce. Kimchi offers some palate-cleansing respite but it's still a heavy artery-clogging dish.
Picked spanner crab with bone marrow and spicy Hennessy sauce $29
We order one of the blackboard specials too - picked spanner crab with bone marrow and spicy Hennessy sauce. "I knew you guys would order that dish as soon as I put the word bone marrow in there," Lex tells us later with a laugh.
The dish is much saucier than I expect but there's a generosity of spanner crab meat dotted with fatty discs of bone marrow. The spicy Hennessy sauce includes soy, chilli and sugar. Watercress and rosettes of daikon are a pretty touch.
Crab and bone marrow on buttered baguette
As if the globules of fatty bone marrow aren't intense enough, we're given heavily buttered baguettes on the side. That burst of bone marrow plus melted butter is enough to make my arteries shudder. If there's anything Wong is guilty of, it's giving you a good thing and then doubling it. Restraint does not appear to be in his vocabulary.
Tea smoked duck with roti $39
The tea smoked duck is less fatty than the ones you'll find in Chinatown and although there's a charred look to the skin, there's not a strong flavour of smokiness. This is a fun and interactive dish though, presented with condiments that include fresh lime, hoisin, mustard, black vinegar, chilli sauce, cucumber spears and shallots. Panfried roti on the side can be used to wrap it all up. I probably would have preferred the traditional and lighter Peking duck pancake instead of the heavier and oilier roti, but if you're looking for a hearty main, this would be it.
Poached QLD banana prawn and corn wonton with ramen broth and onsen egg $17
We're already struggling with fullness by this stage but Wong still sends out the poached Queensland banana prawn and corn wontons in ramen soup on the house. It's a striking dish with three wontons bobbing in a fragrant ramen broth.
Breaking open the onsen egg
Piercing the onsen egg to release the sticky yolk only increases the richness. The prawn and corn wontons are delicate and sweet but the robust intensity ramen broth does tend to overwhelm. It's like Wong has relentlessly set the flavour dial on everything to maximum.
Lemongrass marinated T-bone with Vietnamese salad $37
Which is probably why I love the lemongrass marinated T-bone with Vietnamese salad so much. The steak is cooked masterfully - seared until caramelised on the outside but maintaining a juicy succulency in the middle. I relish the Vietnamese salad, just a simple medley of bean sprouts and Thai basil leaves, but the bean sprouts themselves are spectacularly plump and crunchy. The Thai basil leaves add a freshness, bathed in a sweet nuoc cham fish sauce dressing.
Sago, compressed rockmelon, poached peaches, honeycomb and rockmelon granita $12
We've ordered way too much so can only fit in one dessert between the three of us. We go with the lightest one - a rockmelon granita with sago, compressed rockmelon, poached peaches and honeycomb.
Coconut mousse and sago beneath rockmelon granita
Fine shavings of rockmelon granita melt instantly on the tongue. We pick at at treasure hunt of honeycomb shards, compressed rockmelon and poached peaches. A foundation of coconut mousse and sago pearls is cooling on the tongue.
The damage? $65 each including a beer each. We did score the chicken skin and the wonton soup on the house but we paid for everything else.
There were more dishes I wish we could've tried, including the goat curry and Yang's fried rice. It's only after we order that we notice the fried rice comes with Wong's own housemade pastrami. The fried rice is also garnished with crushed potato chips. I can't think of a crazier mash-up. Or a tastier one.
Yang & Co Restaurant and Bar
79 Edinburgh Road, Castlecrag, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9967 5913
Tuesday to Wednesday 6pm-10pm
Thursday to Saturday 4pm-10pm
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4/21/2016 12:04:00 am