Ok, like the zillion other fuckers who write shit about places to eat in Sydney, I’ve been dying to eat here. Fuck, I applied for a job here! Didn’t get a reply but whatever. Then later I learned an ex colleague left our old place and came here to join the floor. So I figured it was gonna be awesome. Trendy new modern Chinese/Canto in the city with ex-Hakkasan dumplings etc… I couldn’t wait. In my mind, this was gonna be the next big thing, my future-ish type own place was gonna be a microcosm of this. Long story short, it wasn’t up to the level of hype (16/20 Terry Durack) that it garnered but eating there once and drawing conclusions would be unfair on the place.

We arrived at 6:30 Friday night. It was full so the next table was like 8:45. Fine. Put me on the list son. So this French dude scribbles my name in the wrong spelling plus my number, Chat Thai style, on this clipboard. I then enquire if my ex colleague was around and got the reply that he wasn’t with them anymore. Wowsers, that was quick! I dunno what happened there and I don’t even have the guy’s phone number, just thought it would be cool to say hi. Didn’t expect him to have left already!

Anyway, we go round the corner to Max Brenner’s for a drink. Mr Wong is gonna do late nights from Thursday to Saturday until like 2am so it’s good for late night grub. I get the call around 8pm saying a spot opened at the kitchen bar so I grab it. We rock up and get seated by this rather soft spoken and polite dude. We’re right next to the wok/fryer open kitchen. It’s a large space, with a downstairs dining area as well. Seats like 240 at once or so the website informs. The toilets are unisex and individual cloistered cells. The decor is Shanghaiey 1920s and jazz plays on the airwaves. The menu itself is a send up of those classic padded Chinese banquet restaurant menus. I thought it was gonna be Cantonesey but aside from the roasts/dim sum, it’s not distinctly so and more straight pan Chinese with modern flourishes. There’s the dumplings and fried dim sum stuffs that’s a better bet for lunch but they’re hella pricey at $9-10 for 3 each or something like that. For dinner, we have no choice but to opt for the $32 (rapeage) steamed platter with just 8 pieces of dumplings. There’s also the same priced fried dim sum platter. Of course, there’s also plenty of entrees including cold cuts, soups, raw fish and a Sichuan tartare. Then there’s the “market price” seafood and roast meat selection that includes squab, duck, crispy skin chicken, soy chicken, char siu and roast pork. Pretty standard save the squab. Everything is like at least 2x the price at your local Canto roast joint. Duck is 34/60 for instance half/whole. We skip all that and get a plate of wok fried pork belly w white miso, chilli, cabbage and spring onions for $24. We also opt for some Sichuan style eggplant w chilli & dark soy ($18) plus a plate of mixed mushrooms in garlic and mushroom soy ($26). Rice is $2 pax. Don’t get the fried rice, they use fresh rice. Wtf is up with that?

The dumplings are pretty much unseasoned, which is why you have the Kikkoman container in front of you and the chilli on the side. Personally, I’d also dole out sliced chillies as well and they’re really good dumplings. Very delicate and smooth skin. Very nice, light and fresh seafood for the fillings. We got 2 each of scallop/prawn siewmais, jade seafood dumplings, har gau and mushroom dumplings. I think the siewmais were the best of the lot but the others were really good too. If anything, this might’ve been the best thing on the night. However, I query the cost. At $4 a dumpling, they are some pricey parcels. Good but not much value if at all. I can’t fault the taste/texture but man, they hurt my wallet and I don’t reckon I’d go back just for them. Remember to dip in the soy if you do.

The pork stir fry is good. Tasty and chockful of miso and the flavour is good. I just feel again, that the portion is a little stingy given it’s $24. I don’t think I got 160-180g of pork in my serve, maybe like 120-150g, which is a little tight imo. The eggplant, again, really tasty and bright flavour. It was like mostly dark soy with some vinegar, sugar and a good chilli hit, zero corn starch (they use none of it in everything I ate) and bits of coriander and some fried stuff I can’t remember. Again, I think it was like 2 or 3 small Japanese eggplants, which doesn’t cost that much but the dish was near the $20 mark. The mushrooms were exorbitant, mostly because there were like slippery jacks. But again, the plating and pricing needs work though I suppose if you made it under $20, it would be an absurdly small portion. The flavour of the mushies was spot on though, really tasty, great texture from the jacks…

I feel like a broken record here. I can’t stop the feeling that it’s well cooked, simply presented “Chinese” food, with a little change here and there. The main thing is the removal of corn starch in the sauces so you get a lighter but bigger and brighter flavour to everything. But I feel that they have to do more than just that. Compared to Ms. G’s, Mr Wong feels like a weary, old man who’s put on a new suit. There’s not enough fun and interest on the menu in my opinion. Overall, the food is executed well but just tastes good not great. Perhaps the fuss is all about the roast meats which I have not had the chance to try. I wanted to but 2 peeps is hard. I’d recommend eating here in a group of 4-6 and getting more stuff. However, you’re gonna ask for a lotta rice, which wasn’t quite warm enough for me. Maybe on my next visit, I will have a more enjoyable experience but this time was a little underwhelming considering the hyperbole.

Dessert was almost totally unrelated to Chinese cuisine, we had deep fried vanilla ice cream in a salty butterscotch ($14) and also roast white choc ice cream w yuzu curd, longans and raspberries ($14). The former is crumbed and coated with a bit of coconut and deep fried. The coating is cooked well and you don’t get a horrible soggy mess and the ice cream looks like it was fresh scooped. The sauce itself is good and goes well with the big golden brown ball. At least you don’t get a shitty half melting quenelle. I do however, wonder if there’s ever a point to deep frying ice cream. I suppose the main thing is the hot cold contrast but I got none of that. By the time the ball got to me, the exterior was fine and crunchy but it wasn’t even warm. I mean, you could also plate it up by frying some crumbs and coconut separately from the ice cream. The white choc ice cream is basically caramelized white choc churned and it’s tasty, like something in between dulche de leche and caramel as it should be. However, I don’t think it really went well with all the acid on the plate from the yuzu and berries. The longans offered little in the way of extra texture or flavor at all. The curd was nice and bright but I don’t think it goes with caramel. Like I mean, caramel type flavours and citrus are not bestest friends. Not enemies but I mean, not bestest friends for me. The good thing was the crunchy crumble that gave you bite in the dish. Otherwise, half melted ice cream and creamy curd with that same same texture was a little underwhelming.

Service as well, wasn’t great. I asked for a beer, never got one. When the waiter came with the 2nd round of food, he left the dumpling plate on the open kitchen bench, where it probably still is. The rice came a little cold and the serve was like pretty small. The pork took a while to arrive after the veg and when they were clearing the plates, because of my spot at the counter, the waiter basically carried dishes full of sauce over my lap one by one in an accident waiting to happen. Where I sat is also the worst table ever to get attention etc. It’s horrible but I get to stare at the wall of roast meat and the roaster and the chefs. If you’ve been to Rockpool Bar & Grill with it’s wall of wagyu, there’s a wall of ducks on the way to the toilets at Mr. Wong, which is kinda cute maybe.

I really wanted to like Mr Wong. I’m gonna give it more than one shot but as of right now, I think it’s really pricey and I can easily get heaps more food for heaps less money elsewhere. It’s an unfair comparison and I know I’m not necessarily the target market but I think even those people should have food adventures. Despite all the bigging up even from people I know, I was let down by the fact that I feel this place upped the class factor too much. If I compare it to upmarket Chinese in Singapore/Sydney in terms of quality, it’s about the same, which means, it’s offering nothing significantly new or different from the existing model but it’s got a wall of half cooked ducks staring at you and a loudspeaker calling dockets and a French guy in a gray suit greeting you. Maybe I expected too much or maybe it’s so close to home for myself personally that I think and hope that I can do a better job?

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