Mr. Wong is a serious Chinese-Cantonese addition to the Merivale empire, taking on the likes of Golden Century in the corporate diner and hospitality industry stakes with its lunch and late night hours. But with so much style and the magnetic attraction that Merivale boasts, the dining masses are bound to descend upon Mr. Wong in hoards.
As we headed towards seats at the drinks bar, I was stopped in my tracks by an unlikely sight up this end of town.
|Chinese barbeque goods on display at Mr. Wong, Bridge Lane, Sydney|
|The dumpling kitchen|
We also passed a bright private room occupied by a large, round table of industry somebodies, while the left side dining area - where the feel is a little Shanghai colonial - featured a range of table set-ups including tall, long tables with stools down the middle of the room.
Needless to say, for a Merivale venue, the ambience is easy to love and charmingly opulent in an other-worldly fashion.
|Fujian Province cocktail|
The Fujian Province was my first pick, featuring a combination of shochu Japanese liquor, sake, Choya plum wine and Russian Standard vodka, with a vanilla hibiscus tea syrup - tea presumably being the area's famed ingredient.
The pretty fizz, served tall on lots of ice with a meringue-like egg white top, was a light and refreshing drink without much of a kick, but appropriately easy to drink on an early Sunday afternoon.
|Beijing Muncipal cocktail|
Duck fat from the in-house duck roasting process is fat-washed into the dark rum, which is cut with normal Havana 7-year-old and stirred on ice with the potent spice and hoi sin bitters, finished with orange zest.
The rather straight rum and spices are immediately warming, with notable hoi sin sweetness from the bitters. As the bartender put it, this cocktail was "not for the faint of heart".
|Pan-fried pork bun|
Diners can opt for the full yum cha experience by going all out on dim sum, or just mixing and matching a few with the rest of the food menu which, in proper Chinese style, is huge (but not quite as enormous as the endless pages of the wine list).
We start with one of my favourites: Shanghai-style sheng jian bao pan-fried pork buns, which arrive startlingly soon after ordering, without vinegar sauce (which is available on request).
The bun pastry is pleasingly thinner than most versions I've had - probably between bun and dumpling thickness - with plenty of squirty soup inside plus a fine pork filling.
|Mr. Wong's drunken chicken|
The perfectly round pieces feature silky, white chicken skin on the outside and moist, just-cooked chicken within, garnished appetisingly with ginger slivers and baby coriander.
|Foie gras prawn toast|
Mr. Wong's version, deep-fried to an almost orange hue, features some very decent minced prawn atop the inevitably oil-soaked but crunchy bread, while the small dab of foie gras within is a tiny touch of decadence.
|Xiao long bao|
The meaty, soupy flavours were superb while the skins were a little thicker and less delicate than my favourites, although their almost al dente characteristic put up some very good competition.
|Roast ducks (and soy chicken and barbeque pork) on display|
It is so impressive that Mr. Wong roast their ducks and other meats in-house as, again, it's not something all Chinese restaurants do themselves. If I were to be picky I might say the char siu and ducks need to be glossier, but I'll leave it to a taste test next time for more definitive thoughts.
|Textural salad of poached chicken, jellyfish and pig's ear|
The thin slivers of brown braised pig's ears have a different sort of crispness, of the cartilage variety I suppose - and which I think are better eaten in this firm fashion than cooked soft.
Poached chicken breast pieces add bulk to the 'surf and turf' salad and a degree of familiarity for most, while I adored the abundant coriander and thin, shredded green vegetables.
|"Mapo tofu" - stir fried pork mince with chilli and Sichuan pepper, |
served on freshly steamed soy milk custard
Garnished with coriander, the mapo minced pork is decidedly spicy, almost too much for me, but that shouldn't have surprised me given the reddish hue and chilli and Sichuan pepper mentions on the menu listing.
|Freshly steamed soy milk custard beneath the pork mince|
Mimicking the smooth, creamy texture of silken tofu, the in-bowl steamed custard is almost as delicate in flavour and texture as its completely soy cousin, but a bit sturdier for its egg content.
|The main kitchen|
Saying that, we weren't kicked out at 3pm but rather, even offered desserts, so it would seem the restaurant remains open between its lunch and dinner hours - for drinkers at the very least.
|Cooked ducks drying before roasting|
As we polished off our second round of food, there was much appreciation for the relaxed but buzzy Sunday afternoon vibe at Mr. Wong, with plenty of attentive service from the large crew of well-dressed floor staff, keen to impress.
While I didn't catch a glimpse of the downstairs, Merivale seems to have gone all out converting the ex-nightclub into a destination restaurant, and even three days in, I think Mr. Wong is hitting all the right notes.