If you are looking for a rising star of the London restaurant scene, look no further than Andrew Wong, owner and head chef of A. Wong in Victoria. He has been shortlisted and no doubt by the time you read this possibly winner of the Evening Standard London Restaurant of the Year award. His meteoric rise through the world of gastronomy has been all the more surprising, considering he works with a cuisine notorious for making classical dishes very well, but possibly lacking in innovation.
He has also turned Victoria into a foodie destination with his restaurant, A. Wong. The breadth and scope of his menu is astounding considering China has 2000 years of culinary history and has 14 national borders. The best way to sample the menu is to opt for his 10 course ‘Taste of China’ menu. It is getting a cultural understanding of the amazing country without having to take 3 months off work travelling around the different regions and the staff at A. Wong knowledgeably gives you a quick insight into the different provinces.
Detail is the key to Andrew’s success. An innocent looking pork and prawn dumpling has extra pork crackling whilst the shrimp dumpling has citrus foam. The Shanghai steamed dumplings were a pair of angels sent from heaven; the skin was soft and delicate, the broth inside was divine with ginger vinegar to breakdown the meatiness of the dish.
Dishes on the tasting menu range from the street-food variety type such as a Shaanxi pulled lamb ‘burger’ to exquisite banqueting dishes like braised abalone. Their take on the gong bao chicken from an ancient traditional recipe elevates a dish that was in danger of falling into street food banality into a showpiece dish. The moist chicken is richly flavoured with the Sichuanese aubergine and presented in a ‘hot pot’ essence complete with dry ice.
Dishes like chilli barbecued pineapple with Beijing street yoghurt might sounds simple in construction but the silky, smooth texture of the street yoghurt must have taken considerable thought and effort to execute correctly.
The decor in the restaurant area strikes the right note for the food-loving crowd they are regularly attracting: it’s not overly sophisticated to target the millionaire crowd nor is it too downmarket and surrounded by red lanterns to attract the takeaway crowd. Where they are some subtle red lanterns and dragon-patterned cushions is in their secretive forbidden city bar in their basement which transports you to the golden era of Shanghai circa 1920s/1930s. Their Peking duck-infused negroni is not just one of the best cocktails you will ever try in London, but possibly in the world.
With his own cookbook already, you have to hope he won’t follow the path of other successful chefs and spend more time on TV shows rather than in the kitchen. Although that is unlikely, as any of his restaurant guests can attest, when you see him at his most comfortable best is when he is leading his kitchen team and bringing gastronomic joy to his customers.