I mentioned before that I've had a few meals of dim sum lately that I've wanted to blog about, and here is the second of those visits! This time, I had lunch at A Wong, which is the new reopening of an ageing, more 'traditional Chinatown style' Chinese restaurant. The place is generating quite a lot of talk, thanks to some creative reinventing of traditional dim sum, which I always look forward to trying! So I was very excited when I finally managed to make a booking.
On top of reinventing the traditional dishes, A Wong was also working on quite a different model of serving dim sum by allowing diners to order per piece, as opposed to the more traditional method of ordering per 'basket' of usually 3 or 4 pieces. I think this is a great way of serving dim sum, catering for people that may not come in such a large group (or in a larger than normal group), and allows people to really pick and choose what they want to eat. So for that, I give them a big thumbs up.
However, I have to say that the quality of food was quite disappointing as a whole for me. Firstly, the shrimp dumpling topped with a sweet chilli foam was one of the most anticipated dishes for me, simply for the novelty factor of having the foam. But the prawn filling was rather prawn-less and, much worse, a little mushy. I hope this was a one-off issue, because this actually is quite a fatal flaw and would warrant being sent back to the kitchen.
Faring a little better were the shanghai steamed dumplings, which are admittedly a very difficult thing to master. I thought this rendition was good, scoring points on making the dumpling skin very thin the way they should be. The 'invention' here is that the usual accompaniment of ginger and vinegar is already on the dumpling, in the pearls sitting on the dumpling, which is a nice touch. However, echoing the prawn dumplings, I felt again that the texture of the filling was not perfect and could have been more firm and springy.
I enjoyed the siu mai, which is typically my favourite dim sum of them all. The 'A Wong' twist works, topping the siu mai with a punchy sauce and a piece of pork crackling. Either this managed to distract me enough from the siu mai itself, or the filling of the siu mai was better than the preceding two dishes, but this was the best of the three thus far.
I also enjoyed the baked roast pork buns, which is another reinterpretation of a classic and is done well. Although slightly on the dry side, the bun is pleasantly sweet without being sickly.
Also falling flat were the turnip cakes, which did not strike the right balance between batter and turnip to give it a good texture. They should be quite light when the right amount of turnip is used, but this turned out quite stiff and doughy.
Our lunch ended on a much more positive note with the two 'mains' that we ordered: yangzhou fried rice and beef fried noodles. Both were done well, not sticking entirely to traditional recipes but pleasantly so and portions were also very reasonable given the price. All in all, these two were the highlights of the meal for me.
I have to say that it's with regret that I had to give a negative writeup, because I think what A Wong is doing is commendable. Reinterpreting the traditional dishes that get such a bad rap from 'Chinatown standards' is always a good step to take, but I think that A Wong really needs to make sure they're on getting the basics right before they build upon it with their innovations.
Price: £ £ out of 5
You can find the A Wong home page here.