Starting university this year was not what I would call ‘easy’. I expected this new adventure in life to be quite similar to school. I would be learning new things, completing assignments and exams but there was most definitely something different about this experience – a combination of the old and known learning with the new and unknown environment and faces.
When I reflect back on this meal, I realised that Mr Wong’s seems to encapsulate this notion of bringing together the new and old and appropriately, I made the trip down the unknown city alleyways to this new and hyped joint to celebrate the end of first year uni with my family!
Merivale’s latest venture begins with the old style Chinese cuisine, which we are all rather familiar with and takes diners on a vicarious journey through a new environment and presentation of the concept of well known dishes, typical of Merivale’s ability to ‘push/blur the boundaries’ in their creations. Gone is the typical rush of Sunday morning yum cha or dinners in China Town with the clatter and flinging of bowls, being replaced with a new and impeccable level of service and refined elegance paralleled with the energy of authentic Chinese eateries.
We arrived just before 6pm on a Wednesday night and there was already a line!! After a short five minute wait, the doorman provided in true Merivale fashion efficient and accommodating service, providing us with a few different options for seating and we found ourselves at a nice spacious table. There are communal tables, bar tables and they were all full – both floors of the restaurant were packed out!!
I had seen numerous posts on Mr Wong and had a list of ‘to try’ dishes that was enough to feed <insert ridicululously large number> people. So, I left the ‘culling’ of my list to the responsible one, Mumma (with the aid of our very helpful and informative waiter!).
We began with the ‘Snow Crab Salad’, which was reminiscent of a dish I had previously tried at Ms G’s, another of Merivale’s fine establishments! Beginning with this dish undoubtedly indicated the slight redefinition or ‘new’ ideas of Chinese cuisine that Mr Wong would be presenting to us. I absolutely loved this starter! It was fresh, yet very satisfying, with the crab singing the great quality of Sydney seafood as it was balanced by the refreshing taste of the greens!
On recommendation of our waiter, we ordered the special of the day, ‘Scallops with XO sauce’. I have to admit that I was slightly disappointed with this dish although we all know that I heart anything to do with scallops. I felt that the Scallops themselves were quite bland and the XO sauce just couldn’t compare with that addictive quality produced in Golden Century. Overall, it was still enjoyable but I would have liked to have tried something else on the menu instead.
The ‘Steamed Dim Sum Platter’ of eight pieces consisted of Scallop Shumai, Jade Seafood Dumping, Har Gao and Mushroom Dumpling. The moment Mumma and Lil’ Bro had their first bites, they claimed the rest of the platter to themselves. “Order another one,” Mumma ordered as my jaw dropped. So yes, we did order another one and my stomach, along with Pappa’s had to patiently wait for the next platter to arrive. How glad I was that we did so as the quality and freshness of the ingredients incorporated was evident – definitely worth the higher end of pricing. This was quite different from my typical yum cha at Marigold, with the Dim Sum’s actually being quite large, but the underlying notion of these well known items in Chinese cuisine were well executed in a new ‘Merivale’ way!
Next came the signature ‘Drunken Chicken’ which was very tender, with exactly four pieces so that there would be no fighting over the dish – one each! The sauce rang a familiar note, although once again the presentation of the dish was very different from the typical larger pieces of chicken swimming in sauce one would normally receive. I found this to be a smart move, decreasing the serving size, allowing diners to still experience the textures and flavours of this great dish while still being able to try many other dishes.
There was quite a sad moment when I realised that I had to decide between ordering ‘Peking Duck’ and ‘Roast Duck’. Creating the generic scene from a bad soap opera, Mumma and I stared at each other with eyes of painful indecision when it came to making the choice. Our waiter managed to sway us towards the Roast Duck with his words “Don’t discount the Roast Duck” although people were known to order the popularised Peking Duck! I was quite intrigued to see whether this dish would be able to compete with or possibly defeat the delectably succulent yet crisp Roast Duck at my ‘go-to’ Chinese establishment, Golden Century.
While, this Roast Duck was by no means bad, I found that it lacked the juiciness and special something that Golden Century continuously manages to achieve with their Roast Duck. However, one really has to give Mr Wong some kudos for popularising this item and the process in such a simple dish through their famous wall of hanging ducks! Although slightly off-putting as even a non-vegetarian felt slightly guilty, it was a genius display!
Mr Wong took a slight twist on the traditional Sweet and Sour Pork in the creation of their ‘Sweet and Sour Crispy Pork Hock’. The sauce had just the right amount of sweetness and was super sticky, combined with the crispy skin and fatty jelly of the meat. Not much of a meat eater, I would have been perfectly content with just the sauce in all its glory!
We decided upon a simple plate of greens for the vegetable dish as our waiter suggested something ‘light’ to balance out the richness of the Roast Duck. Luckily, we did so, as those delicious Dim Sums had really filled me up! There wasn’t really much to be excited about with this dish as it was really just to satisfy the vegetarianism within but once again, the high quality of the fresh produce was definitely detectable.
I was not going to pass up on dessert! It was most definitely a battle having to make this choice, but we decided upon the ‘Deep Fried Ice Cream in Butterscotch Sauce’ and ‘Green Apple Ice, Osmanthus Jelly, Water Chestnuts and Coconut Sorbet’. The Butterscotch Sauce absolutely changed the well known and stereotypical idea of ‘deep fried icecream’, giving the dessert a little Western flair and ultimately creating close to a perfect dessert! The Green Apple Ice Dessert took the known flavour of coconut, popularised in Asian desserts and combined it with the new and modern flavours of champagne jelly and it was most definitely a hit with the palette! It was a refreshing and different dessert, that still allowed me to reminisce on the coconut flavours many Asian desserts!
Mr Wong definitely managed to live up to its name and hype. The old, authentic and known nature and flavours of Chinese cuisine were effectively juxtaposed with the new-age thinking of concepts of three fantastic chefs and I am sure Merivale’s new venture will maintain it’s popularity! It was a perfect way to give something a little different a try, much to Pappa’s scepticism (he has slight issues with the ‘redefinition’ of Chinese cuisine – “it’s not really Chinese food” hehe) while celebrating the end of a hard, unknown, yet productive and rewarding year of work!