Elegant Cantonese. Street spot with a fine feel.
MUST ORDER Mapo tofu; Peking duck pancakes
AMBIANCE The worst-kept back-alley secret
SERVICE Plenty of staff
WOULD I GO BACK? Already happening
Mr Wong is another Merivale venue, and my second favourite, behind Bert’s.
Executive chef Dan Hong is famous for his duck, so that’s what I’d always recommend ordering. As you glide past the open kitchen, you’ll notice a badling of ducks (<the archaic collective noun for a group of ducks, FYI) hanging about, aged and glazed for 48 hours. These are also some of my favourite Sydney restaurant bathrooms–saloon style, individual, un-gendered.
Peking duck pancakes ($49 for 8 pancakes) is the way to go if you’re losing your Mr Wong virginity. You get lots of crispy skin, fatty edge pieces, simple spring onion, cucumber and hoisin sauce accompaniments. The pancakes are fresh, warm and in an adequate ratio to the duck provided.
My first visit to Mr Wong was on the day of my 19th birthday for lunch. Since 2015, I hadn’t visited until May 2018. So far, two visits were for lunch, and two for dinner. The only difference in the menus on offer is that the dim sum menu is lunch-only. Unmissable from this selection is the wagyu and truffle puff ($15 for 2pcs). The pastry on the outside melts in the mouth, and the inside has a surprising, gravy-like filling as tender as the balance of truffle flavour. A testament to the success of this part of the menu: demand has led to supply of a special yum cha dining opportunity on weekends.
The dim summer platters are only available at dinner. I’m yet to try one, because I suspect they aren’t the best value ($36 for eight of ‘today’s specialities’).
One of my favourite dishes in Sydney right now has to be one of their tofu dishes–shock your mother. ‘Mapo tofu’ ($29) is a generous bowl of stir-fried pork mince with chilli and Sichuan pepper, served on freshly steamed soy milk custard. I’ve ordered this twice in 2018 already. The mince is so sweet, and the custard, so smooth.
While we’re on pork mince, another go-to side dish is the twice-cooked green beans ($23) with pork mince and XO sauce. Usually, I refuse to order greens or side dishes because of their price tags. It seems uneconomical. This, however, is an investment in flavour. On the other hand, as good as ‘salt and pepper crispy mushrooms‘ ($28) sounds, the combination of shiitake, wood ear and tea tree mushrooms was slimy and flavourless.
When it comes to meat, you can appreciate punchy dishes like crispy pork spare ribs ($36) with Sichuan vinegar salt, Thai basil and curry leaf if you’re able set value for money aside.
On a recent visit I branched out and spent up big on the meaty dishes at the heart of the menu. Angus beef short rib on the bone, Shandong style ($54) was soaking in an overly sour and vinegary soy, chilli and shallot dressing. The dish wasn’t warm enough and the fat was hard and unrendered. Whereas most people order a short rib specifically because it’s a fatty cut that melts in the mouth. Likewise, honey-glazed Kurobata char siu pork ($36) was tough and would have been dry if it hadn’t been cheating by sitting in a delectable sauce, which constituted 100% of the desirability of the dish.
I was unimpressed by the noodle dishes, such as the spicy wok-fried Hong Kong rice noodles ($30) with Angus beef, shallot and dark soy. Mainly because they were far too overpriced, and covered in a sickly amount of soy.
I was not a fan of Mr. Wong’s deep fried vanilla ice cream ($19) with butterscotch sauce, because it was way too sweet, with far too much batter. The ice cream itself was boring. None of the other desserts are worth ordering.
Although the food is designed to share, it’s so noisy that I wouldn’t recommend going with more than four people (unless you hire out a private area).
There’re plenty of reasons to come back.
Visit dates: 9 April 2015, three times between May-August 2018, once in 2019.
Order next time: prawn toast with foie gras and sesame; prawn, XO and mussel dumpling; King crab with golden soup, crystal dumpling; crispy eggplant; hotpot of grilled black lip abalone.
Mr Wong is located at 3 Bridge Lane, Sydney. You’ll find it at the back of Bridge Lane, near Circular Quay. It looks like a brick wall until you get right up close.
Many of my photos were lost in my Great Data Crash of 2018.