During a long and deprived January (a #DryJanuary for me), I kept a close eye out for my first indulgent restaurant visit of the year. And thanks to serendipity and booking luck, I find myself at the A. Wong restaurant in London on the second of February. Since the second Michelin star named A. Wong the highest-ranked Chinese restaurant outside of Asia, the typical lead time is about six months. In the afternoon, in addition to a selection á la carte, the menu “A touch of the heart”, designed around dim sums, can be enjoyed here. This is offered exclusively with matching wine accompaniment (£175, about €195) – which of course suits me just fine. First, though, I start the early afternoon with a Wang Negroni.
The total of fifteen small courses of the menu are initially served in combination. The menu starts with a variety of dumplings, dim sum and wan tans. Where directly the “Shanghai steamed dumpling, ginger infused vinegar” reveals a new reference for Xiao Long Bao: Wafer-thin dough encases a tender filling with distinct texture in the pork and a strong, ginger-infused jellied broth. In fact, I don’t know where you can get hold of better Xiao Long Baos in Europe – but any relevant information is very welcome via the comment function.
The “Crispy won ton with sweet chilli jam” presents slight difficulties in elegant handling due to its size, but is all the more fun with a very soft and only lightly cooked shrimp filling.
The second bamboo basket contains a “Clear shrimp dumpling, sweet chilli sauce, rice vinegar cloud,” which is another classic. Here again implemented very fine craftsmanship, with an almost completely transparent thin dough and a small cloud of rice vinegar.
Much stronger, but no less exciting the implementation of the “Pork and prawn dumpling, pork crackling”. As befits this form of dumplings, the dough is much heavier and more compact. The crispy pork rind on top adds an extra texture here and makes the treat even more impressive.
The nicely crafted carrot, the “Rabbit and carrot glutinous puff” I then find a bit less exciting, overall a bit artificial and the rabbit filling goes down a bit. The pickled slice of carrot balances the sweetness of the artificial carrot somewhat. In Chinese cuisine, the use of different textures, and especially their alternation, plays a major role, and it must be understood accordingly in this context.
Great then the “999 layered scallop puff with XO oil”, a tender scallop coated in crispy dough threads on a strong XO oil, whose base is presumably also dried scallop.
In a nest of straw and duck feathers, the “‘Memories of Peking duck'” float to my counter space. Luxury memories of Peking duck come wrapped in a thin pancake in classic fashion. In addition to the duck and crispy duck skin, there was also some foie gras layered inside. On top caviar on one side, a slice of winter truffle on the other, meant to be enjoyed in two bites with one of each component in the center of gravity. A beautiful corridor.
Since I was not aware at the outset that the menu already came with a suitable wine accompaniment, I had already entered into a closer dialogue with the sommelier and discussed some Riesling preferences. And kindly, every now and then, a small special was incorporated in addition to the regular wines from the accompaniment. This was also very much in line with my ideas for this afternoon.
The next course “Won ton with garlic, chilli oil and soy poached yolk” is after the very elegant Peking duck more of the classic Szechuan cuisine. On a very soft won ton, you’ll find plenty of roasted garlic and crispy chili flakes alongside an egg yolk lightly cooked in soy sauce. This is spicy, hot, extremely deep, and impressively delicious, bringing back memories of a very similar (but much spicier) dish I tried a few years ago during a trip to Quzhou in Zhejiang Province in China. I have never felt such associations in any of the local Chinese restaurants.
Another very elegant course follows with “Isle of Mull seared scallop and honey glazed Iberico pork cheung fun”. Here, the Cheung Fun noodle in frayed form is the coating of a sandwich with scallop and Iberico ham. Crispy, greasy, umami, great,
The “Abalone flaky tart with aged balsamic vinegar” is drizzled at the table with a few drops of aged balsamic. However, the visual resemblance to the Portuguese Pastel de Nata at first glance is incredibly deceiving, both in taste and texture. For bedded on the delicate dough of the tartlet is found here a carefully cooked abalone, which of course, despite all the care, turns out as usual “compact”.
The next course, “The Cantonese kitchen: barbecued pork crackling with prawn, plum and truffles,” again features gratifyingly thick tranches of winter truffle. This is the only way they can hold their own against the combination of pork, shrimp and plum.
Gua-Bao burgers allow diners to take a hand in creating their own filling for the steamed yeast bun. The “Xian ‘lamb burger’ with sesame, coriander and chilli and Xinjiang pomegranate salad” is served on a separate plate and can be mixed and matched according to preference. Coriander and pomegranate provide a fresh balance to the intense lamb. The bun is extremely delicate and gently nestles around your own creation.
I’m not usually a huge sucker for sweet desserts. The “Steamed duck yolk custard bun” is an exception, however. Fluffy on the outside, slightly crispy toasted, it reveals inside a sensational, not too sweet pudding based on duck eggs.
With a few more sweet snacks, my Chinese dim sum lunch ends after just under three hours at A. Wong. Of course, I was first and foremost impressed by the quality of craftsmanship, the depth of flavor and also the product selection of all courses. In addition, however, there is a restaurant experience that you rarely experience in this form (and especially at a two-star level): A good-humored, open-minded and extremely relaxed service team that always has time for the short or longer friendly and funny exchange despite the fully booked restaurant. All this makes for a very relaxed and exceptionally personal atmosphere – a good mood is guaranteed here. Even outside the plate.
The publishing house Jacoby & Stuart has already published in 2017 a very nice book by Andrew Wong, which gives deeper insight into the authentic cuisine of China.