The newest addition to the Merivale restaurant empire is Mr. Wong – a slick Cantonese restaurant specialising in dim sum, with some modern twists. It opened last Friday with a trio of high profile chefs at the helm: Dan Hong and Jowett Yu of Ms. G’s and also Eric Koh, the head dim sum chef from the Michelin starred restaurant Hakkasan in London. I’ve been looking forward to trying this new yum cha destination ever since I caught wind of it a few months ago and we booked ourselves a table for Saturday lunchtime, the day after the opening.
It is a little hard to find the entrance to Mr. Wong, hidden down the dingy alleyway of Bridge Lane but I am reassured that we’re heading in the right direction by the sight of some chefs milling around in the open kitchen, visible through the clear glass windows framing the restaurant.
Upon entering the restaurant, I am struck by how cavernous it is, a feeling which is enhanced by the unfinished exposed wooden beams. The overall fitout of the place is very similar to the popular Merivale speakeasy bar, Palmer and Co. which is located just around the corner from Mr. Wong’s. The ornaments adorning the wall are a nod to the Chinese cuisine which the restaurant serves, with oriental prints and designs giving a charming Shanghai 1930′s kind of vibe.
We sit down on some fabric covered bamboo chairs and peruse the menu to see what they have on offer. A few interesting sounding dishes catch our eye but they don’t have the traditional yum cha trolley service so we flag down a waiter to place our orders. We’re dining in a party of 4 today and the waiter informs us that due to their superstitious chefs, their dimsums come in portions of 3 (the number 4 is unlucky in Chinese culture), which would make it quite difficult for us to share the dishes evenly. The waiter helpfully suggests for us to try their steamed and fried dimsum platter selections which are usually dinner only but come in servings of 8 pieces.
The Steamed Platter consists of 4 types of dimsum and it’s a great selection of yum cha classics with a luxe twist such as the addition of succulent scallops to the Shumai which is usually served with minced pork. I’ve also never seen the Jade Seafood Dumpling before, a muted green in colour and full of tasty savoury seafood. The Chinese Mushroom Dumpling was also surprisingly flavoursome. As one of my favourite dim sums, I had high expectations for the Prawn Har Gau dumpling but it was only so-so compared to the more interesting flavours in the rest of the bamboo steamer.
Steamed dim sum platter – Prawn har gau, Jade seafood dumpling, Chinese mushroom dumpling and Scallop prawn shumai, $32 for 8 pieces
Up next was the Deep-fried Platter to balance out all the dumplings we had gobbled down. The offerings on this platter were less conventional than the steamed ones, but even more enjoyable due to the fantastic flavour combinations. Each dim sum had been fried to crispy perfection and the highlight was the Foie Gras Prawn Toast (the one with the sesame seeds on top). This consisted of the creamy foie gras flavour contrasting with the juicy prawn mince on a crunchy piece of mini toast. Mmm.
Deep-fried dim sum platter – Crispy beef roll, Lobster Mei Si roll, Pear and taro croquette, Foie gras prawn toast, $32 for 8 pieces
Coming in at a close second was the Lobster Mei Si roll with a coating of shredded fried bits encasing the meat, although I couldn’t really taste any strong lobster flavour. The pear and taro croquette sounded promising from the description, but I was not so impressed with it after accidentally biting down on a small stick of cinnamon (or something like it) which is visible in the picture as the “stem” of the croquette. The crispy beef roll was a bit predictable in its flavours, but was helped by dipping it in the sweet soy sauce that came with the platter.
We were eager to try more at this stage because we were nowhere near full and we settled on their steamed BBQ pork rice roll (cheung fan) and their Sichuan steak tartare. The cheung fan was an unexpected hit, with silky smooth ribbons of rice noodles enveloping the softened meat.
Steamed BBQ pork rice roll, $10.80
But even more surprising was the presentation of the Sichuan steak tartare which came with Indonesian fried prawn crackers and deep fried garlic chips on top of the small mound of raw minced beef. I’m not really a fan of raw red meat so I was the odd one out on a table of steak tartare enthusiasts, but we all agreed that Mr. Wong’s take on steak tartare was quite impressive. The Sichuan spice mixed into the meat gave it a great kick and the crunchy Indonesian prawn crackers complemented the flavours well.
Sichuan steak tartare, $18
All in all, it was a delicious meal but not one which left us feeling particularly full. In a reflection of the quality of the food served here, the price point of Mr. Wong is around double the usual cost of dimsum at yum cha restaurants in Sydney. But there are definitely some unique dishes here which are worth trying because you won’t get a chance to sample them anywhere else. The platters were a great way to try a bit of everything, as we had planned to order most of the dim sums separately anyway. Our only complaint is that we wish the portion sizes were bigger; we’d be back in a heartbeat if it wasn’t such a pricey way to have a fancy yum cha experience!
3 Bridge Lane
Sydney, NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 9240 3000