A Wong in Victoria
“Eat where chefs eat” is an age old adage. Phaidon of course, print a stout little book based on just that premise, and the general concept is one that has guided culinary adventurers for decades. Eat in the same place as the men and women whose passion for food so often eclipses anything and everything else, and you’re sure to be onto a winner.
In a happy stroke of luck whilst visiting A Wong, we spot a familiar face. Pierre Koffmann, dining with his wife in the spring sunshine, his face full of mirth and his plate full of dim sum. It’s a testament to the quality of the food on offer here that by the end of our meal, his presence seemed less spectacular than it did initially. Of course Koffmann eats here, who wouldn’t?
The sensational selection of dim sum really is that exceptional. Take the much vaunted Steamed Duck Yolk Custard Buns. The bun itself is light as a feather, supple and lean with just enough heft behind to actually serve a purpose other than being a vehicle for the custard. And what a custard! Stunning rich but never unctuous, it tastes like sunlight encapsulated: a burst of warm, sunny energy dancing over your tongue with every bite.
Wong draws heavily from tradition, but his dishes have lots of little streaks of individual flair. Rabbit and Carrot Glutinous Puffs taste exceptional, the intense gaminess of rabbit so at home in a cuisine that uses offal and western offcuts without so much as the batting of an eyelid. The sweetness of the carrot is soft here, but serves to accentuate the meat’s own sweet side nicely, an element of rabbit’s flavour profile so often ignored. It’s their presentation that wows us though, sent out in cute little carrot-shaped puffs that are oddly endearing.
On occasion, that creativity gets a bit odd. Wild Mushroom and Truffle Steamed Buns are utterly delicious, bursting with umami goodness. The mushroom’s intense flavour is easily a match for the truffle, but the pair are softened just enough by their pillowy bun casing for the dish not to be overpowering. It’s a deft course that, for some reason, comes served on a square of astroturf. It seems a little jarring, but there is a distinct sense of fun here. Wong is clearly serious about his excellent food, but not excessively so. This is not the type of restaurant where one talks in hushed voices and admires the crispness of the linen.
It couldn’t be, not with Shanghai Steamed Dumplings inspiring little sighs with every soup laden mouthful. Silkily thin and deliciously alluring, these are the kind of Xiaolongbao that could make a believer of even the most sceptical.
Won Ton with Garlic, Chilli Oil and Crispy Bean Curd, Foie Gras Sticky Sesame Dumplings, Pork and Prawn Dumplings and Pork Crackling, the list goes on, each dish executed with the technical precision that defines great Chinese food.
It’s a rare thing to have almost a dozen dishes and find not one lacking, but Wong makes it look easy. This might well be some of the best dim sum in London; it’s certainly the best custard buns we’ve ever had.★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Daniel Masters (except interiors and portrait)
To book a table at A Wong, 70 Wilton Road London SW1V 1DE, call 020 7828 8931 or visit here.