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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Mr Wong, Sydney

Peking duck pancake at Mr Wong, Sydney

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 at Mr Wong, Sydney
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.

Cocktails at Mr Wong, Sydney
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 at Mr Wong, Sydney
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 at Mr Wong, Sydney
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 at Mr Wong, Sydney
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 in lettuce cups at Mr Wong, Sydney
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.

Mr Wong, Sydney

Mr Wong on Urbanspoon

Mr Wong
3 Bridge Lane, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9240 3000

Opening hours:
Lunch 7 days 12pm - 3pm
Dinner 7 days 5.30pm - 10pm 
(til 11pm Mon - Wed, till midnight Thu - Sat) 

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Peking duck - Lynn Shanghai Cuisine, Sydney
Peking duck - Old Town Hong Kong Cuisine, Haymarket Chinatown
Chinese - Chairman Mao, Kensington
Chinese - Two Sticks, Sydney
25 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 5/25/2014 02:45:00 am


  • At 5/25/2014 9:08 am, Blogger The Food Mentalist said…

    It's been a while since my last Mr Wong fix I may have to visit. I like the idea of not waiting in line so weeknights are the perfect choice. Love your choices too. My faves are peking duck pancake and anything eggplant always gets my vote! I could eat it all day :)

  • At 5/25/2014 9:31 am, Anonymous Gourmet Getaways said…

    I will surely love that pork hock! The eggplants also look amazingly transformed! I think I will really like it at Mr Wong. Thanks for sharing!

    Gourmet Getaways

  • At 5/25/2014 9:54 am, Anonymous Sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    I will admit to being a bit of a Mr Wong fan girl. I adore their crispy pork hock, could eat bowls of the stuff. Now that hoisin bitters sounds...... umm........ interesting.......

  • At 5/25/2014 2:06 pm, Anonymous Eha said…

    Living 100 kms south of the CBD have as yet to go - but this review is making that a must!! Love the look of the place and the food!! Walking distance to the Opera House also: a bonus in my case :) !

  • At 5/25/2014 11:33 pm, Blogger Annie said…

    thanks for the heads up on when to go to mr wong without dealing with the queues. must get the crispy pork hock next time!

  • At 5/26/2014 12:47 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    love the food at mr wongs esp the roast pork but aw no desserts?

  • At 5/26/2014 6:41 am, Anonymous Cindy (a foodie's joy) said…

    I haven't been there yet but I surely would like to try their Peking duck!

  • At 5/26/2014 7:53 am, Anonymous john | heneedsfood said…

    I still haven't been, and it's less than two minutes walk from my work. One day.

  • At 5/26/2014 9:30 am, Blogger Jarhead said…

    Great photos! My favourite dish when I went to Mr Wong was the Beef Short Rib Shandong style. It was unbelievably tasty!

  • At 5/26/2014 12:45 pm, Anonymous Berny @ I Only Eat Desserts said…

    Lovely to met you at the Words To Go and thanks for making me drool all over the keyboard with the photos ;)that peking duck looks and sounds amazing!

  • At 5/26/2014 1:38 pm, Anonymous Tina@foodboozeshoes said…

    Love the cocktails here - clever, fun and tasty. I would never queue for Wong's though... I find something strange about queuing for that higher-end style of dining.

  • At 5/26/2014 5:22 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oo i love the look of that peking pancake. I could have 20 of those!

  • At 5/26/2014 5:50 pm, Blogger CQUEK said…

    Thank you and have a Wonderful Week.

  • At 5/26/2014 7:36 pm, Blogger Sherrie @ Crystal Noir said…

    Omg I would eat all the fatty meats :D They look super delicious

  • At 5/26/2014 9:12 pm, Blogger Sarah said…

    Oh yum! All of my favourite foods in one meal: peking duck, fried eggplant, pork hock, and sweetcorn! Amaze. :)

  • At 5/26/2014 11:03 pm, Anonymous Chris @ MAB vs Food said…

    I am mesmerized by all those roast ducks hanging there! They look incredible!

  • At 5/27/2014 8:02 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Merivale, pure genius. I am glad you enjoyed your time at Mr Wong Helen, those duck pancakes are giving me belly rumbles!

  • At 5/27/2014 11:10 am, Blogger lizzie {Strayed Table} said…

    This post has made me hungry - conveniently for lunch time. Though I wont be having fantastic crispy skin chicken with pancakes, which is what i really want. This place looks amazing and how about those cocktails!

  • At 5/27/2014 3:37 pm, Anonymous gastronomous anonymous said…

    oh one of my fav places in Sydney! I have missed this place and can't wait to try it again!

  • At 5/27/2014 8:03 pm, Anonymous adrian (food rehab) said…

    Haha love your reasoning behind choosing the crispy pork hock

  • At 5/27/2014 10:25 pm, Anonymous Iron Chef Shellie said…

    I REALLY need a trip to Sydney! I need to start starving myself now in preparation! :P

  • At 5/28/2014 11:23 pm, Anonymous Alice said…

    This is on my foodie bucket list Helen. I've always wanted to eat here, but I can never seem to find anyone willing to wait in line with me! Thanks for the tip on when to get here. I'm also intrigued by the style of Chinese cooking. Got to say that duck looked heavenly though!

  • At 5/29/2014 10:31 am, Anonymous Michael @ I'm Still Hungry said…

    I've actually never had the Peking Duck here, despite having visited three times. That'll be my dish next time I visit.

    For you Helen, I recommend the char siew toothfish on your next visit - buttery heaven with the flavours of BBQ pork...but in fish!

  • At 5/29/2014 4:07 pm, Anonymous MrsPigflyin' said…

    I went a few days after you, I like the place and the dim sum platter was Mr's favourite of the evening! Most dishes were good but we did feel the flavouring of some dishes were lacking a little bit of something. Will go again, especially I didn't get the cocktail list!!

  • At 6/23/2014 1:10 pm, Anonymous Amanda @ Gourmanda said…

    I've always been so loyal to my old trusty old-school Chinese restaurants that I've never tried these new hipper places. I really must try somewhere like this!


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