Author: Albert Chau

A Wong, London, United Kingdom (Part 2 – A La Carte Dinner)

A Wong, London, United Kingdom (Part 2 – A La Carte Dinner)

This is the second part of the review of Restaurant A Wong in London – if you haven’t read the first part on the A Wong’s dim sum lunch, you should also read it!

The style of cooking at A Wong does not resemble what you find in a typical Chinese restaurant – without experiencing the food, often people would have mistaken it as “westernised” Chinese cuisine. However, Chef Andrew Wong has travelled around China extensively before opening his restaurant and his wealth of knowledge in regional Chinese cuisine, through his research, amazes me – the way I’d describe his cooking is modern Chinese cooking, giving some of the classic dishes a 21st-century twist and improving the dishes by taking a different perspective on the cooking techniques. Not everyone would understand or appreciate Chef Wong’s work – I have heard a few Chinese people not liking this place, because of the price point but also not the standard fare in other Chinese restaurants.

I have dined at A Wong many times over the years, and the menu has constantly evolved – the following are some of the dishes I have eaten and enjoyed in the last 2 years.

One thing I rarely order at Chinese restaurants is the crab claw (釀蟹鉗). Don’t get me wrong – I love stuffed crab claws but many restaurants do it the same way and it’s almost like coming straight out of a production line. The way it’s done at A Wong – I must admit I have not seen it done like this before. It resembles the look of a sea urchin (except the colour) – the “spines” are actually made from deep-fried rice vermicelli, and then stuck into the round ball containing the crab meat and scallop. The flavour does remind me of the typical crab claw, but this is far less greasy than the usual crab claws, and with the ultra-crispyness of the vermicelli, the contrast in texture is more pronounced and interesting.

Another of my favourite snacks / appetisers is the Chengdu street tofu – the mixture of the soy sauce and chilli sauce works so well together with the beancurd, crunchy peanuts, the preserved vegetables and chopped spring onions. Definitely order one for each person – it’s not something you would want to share! Whilst it has chilli oil in the sauce, it’s not too spicy and so unless you are totally intolerable to chilli heat, you should be fine with this!

One of the signature dishes which is perfect for sharing is the Shaanxi Lamb Burger (肉夾饃): the “burger” is the gua bao which is a kind of open steamed buns from Fujian province in China, and is a perfect way to make your own burger. The filling is made from a mixture of pulled lamb (slow-cooked in a sauce for a few hours), shredded lettuce, pickled onion and pomegranate salad, coriander, white sesame seeds and a sesame dressing – you mix them all together and then just fill the bao up! The first time I had this, it did remind me of my trip to Xi’an – with the influence of the Muslim community in the cuisine in that part of China. The “Xinjiang” salad is almost linking the Chinese section of the Silk Road together, and this plays an important part of the muslim culture in China.

Another sharing dish that I have discovered and am very impressed with is the “moo shu” pork (木須肉). It’s a dish that I would never dream of ordering usually because it’s done quite badly in many Chinese restaurants, but I fell in love with it when Andrew gave it to me to try! The flavours of the pork and wood ear fungus are perfectly balanced with the sauce, and the different ingredients provide an interesting mix of texture. The dish is served with pancakes, hoi sin sauce and spring onions, so you would eat it in the same way as Peking duck / crispy duck. For the gluten-intolerant folks, the pancakes can be replaced by lettuce, which is more similar to what many Chinese restaurants would do.

A dish that I haven’t seen for years was the steamed king crab with egg white (賽螃蟹) – this was actually an Imperial dish created in the Qing dynasty in China. Empress Dowager Cixi wanted to eat crab but the Imperial kitchen didn’t have any, and so the chefs cooked the egg white to mimick the texture of the crab meat! It’s not easy to achieve this kind of texture in the egg white, and so I haven’t seen it much outside China – I think the last time I saw this dish was in Shanghai over 10 years ago!

A relatively new dish is the steamed cod cheek – this is served on the bone…. I am not so sure how non-Chinese people view this dish as you have to know where to find all the meat, but it’s no challenge for Chinese to eat it (I’d like to think that it’s in our genes to eat fish cheek). However, the sauce is the star here – the mixture of the sweetness, sourness (typical flavour of Hunan cuisine) and the warm heat from the chilli in the sauce is a perfect accompaniment to a bowl of plain rice!

A few other dishes are worth ordering, especially if you happen to order a bowl of rice to soak up the sauces:

From February 2022 onwards, the restaurant will no longer offer a la carte menu in the evenings. Instead a set menu for the day will be served. I suspect some of these dishes I have mentioned will be featured on this menu – I will provide an update after my next visit to A Wong for this “secret dining” experience.

Address: 70 Wilton Road, London, SW1V 1DE, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)207 828931

Opening Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 12PM -2:30PM, 5:30PM -10PM

Food: 10/10
Ambience: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Total: 20/20 [Based on numerous visits 2013 – 2021]

A Wong, London, United Kingdom (Part 1 – Dim Sum)

A Wong, London, United Kingdom (Part 1 – Dim Sum)

I’ve lost count how many times I have been to Restaurant A Wong over the years – as long as someone wants to have a good Chinese meal, this is one of the very few Chinese restaurants in London I would take them to. The list of friends who want to go there with me seems to be growing all the time, especially in the last few months when the restaurant won 2 Michelin stars, the first Chinese restaurant outside Asia to have achieved this level of success.

I have to split the review of this restaurant into 2 parts, otherwise it will be too long to read in one go. Also the dim sum lunch and the a la carte dishes are quite different and I think they merit separate reviews.

For dim sum, this is not the place to go if you only want to spend £20 per person (go to Chinatown instead!). However, the dim sum lunch here is impressive, whether you order a la carte or the “Touch of the Heart” set menu.

Take the Xiao Long Bao (小籠包) for example – being a real lover of Shanghai soup dumplings and also been to Shanghai several times, I’d like to think that I know a thing or two about Xiao Long Bao. Many Chinese restaurants in the UK that serve this dish can be disappointing (Min Jiang in Kensington being the only exception). At A Wong, don’t expect a list of fillings to choose from, and you won’t find a serving dish of vinegar with julienned ginger on the side – instead, the vinegar is already injected into the soup dumplings. The dumpling is plump and filled with a generous amount of filling, whilst the skin is thin and translucent – unless you pick this up in a rough way, the skin doesn’t break apart despite the weight. A fine example of a good xiao long bao.

There are some of the standard dim sum such as har gow (蝦餃) and siu mai (燒賣) but they have additional elements added to them…..

One of the more recent additions to the dim sum menu is the “scallop cheung fun” (帶子腸粉) – Isle of Mull seared scallop and honey glazed Iberico pork cheung fun. Instead of just steamed rice roll with scallop and pork instead, the A Wong version is presented like a sandwich – the layers of deep-fried spring roll pastry gives this a very interesting contrast in texture, and the flavour and the delicious fat of the Iberico pork works so well with the scallop.

Another dish that I really like is the wonton with garlic, chilli oil and soy poached yolk (红油抄手) – the addition of the egg yolk just gives the sauce a creaminess texture. But be warned – if you can’t cope with spicy food, you may not enjoy this as much. It won’t blow your head off, but it does have a kick to it. And for those who loves spicy food, keep the sauce and order a bowl of plain rice – You won’t regret it!

When it comes to presentation, the 999 layered scallop puff with XO oil (帶子酥) does look impressive. The threads of pastry wrapping round the filling and the delicate texture reminds me of silk worms in their cocoons (not that there’s any silk worms in the dish!). The flavour is amazing also.

Other dim sum dishes you may want to explore would include the abalone flaky tart with aged balsamic vinegar (酥皮鲍鱼撻) and rabbit and carrot glutinous puff (兔肉咸水角).

No matter how many dishes you have ordered or how full you feel, one piece of advice – make sure you order the steamed duck yolk custard bun (流沙包)! The salted duck egg yolk custard bursts out of the perfectly shaped bun when you cut into it – imagine when you cut into the most decadent lava cake and the liquid just oozes out! The custard bun is like that, but million times better!

As I mentioned, there will be a separate post about the a la carte dishes…. (When I get round to write it)

Address: 70 Wilton Road, London, SW1V 1DE, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)207 828931

Opening Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 12PM -2:30PM, 5:30PM -10PM

Food: 10/10
Ambience: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Total: 20/20 [Based on numerous visits 2013 – 2021]

Hannah Restaurant, London, United Kingdom

With the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, one thing that I haven’t managed to have for a long time was Japanese food. One day, whilst I was doing some internet searching, I came across Hannah Japanese restaurant in Waterloo. The menu looked interesting enough, and with the credentials of chef Daisuke Shimoyama (who was the head chef at Umu in London before he opened this place) and the fact that he’s a qualified sake sommelier, I thought I’d booked the place and give it a try – at least I know the sake menu would be decent enough.

For dinner, there are 2 set menus to choose from – a 10-course Omakase Menu (£105) and a shorter 6-course Omakase Menu (£75). As usual, Russell and I went for the longer menu as we wanted to try everything, and we also went for the sake pairing to share between us.

The first “course” was actually 5 small dishes of Seasonal Starter Selection – all came on a large block of wood. In terms of presentation, it’s definitely got the wow factor. For the two of us, fortunately we were seated at a table of 4 – otherwise accommodating two blocks of wood on the table for 4 people would be a bit more challenging (one of the neighbouring tables did have 4 people and I must say that I wouldn’t have enjoyed this course so much with the more restricted table space). From right to left:

  • Sweet potato, aubergine, lotus root & padron pepper
  • Chawanmushi
  • Steamed vegetables with mushroom
  • Slow cooked duck breast with duck sauce
  • Tuna Fish with chilli sauce

The 5 starters all tasted very fresh and delicately flavoured. The first sake for the pairing was Koshi No Kanbai’s Muku (“Pure Realm”) which was light and worked well with these light starters.

The next course was “Sushi” – Langoustine Sudachi Rice with Kombu Cured Wagyu Beef Tartare and Caviar. It came with a piece of seaweed paper which you have to wrap round the rice and beef. The beef just melted in the mouth and it’s a little piece of heaven worth having again! The sake served with this dish was Kokuryu “Ryu” (Gold Dragon) – a daiginjo that was so bland that it lacks any sort of characteristics for me and so I might as well be drinking water!

Third course is Sea Urchin Tempura with Shiso Leaf & Truffle. I love sea urchin but it seems that every time I see this on an a-la-carte menu at a Japanese restaurant, conveniently the sea urchin is not available. So I am pleased to see this course on the set menu at Hannah! It’s topped with a copious amount of shaved truffle also. The sea urchin and truffle flavours kind of got a bit lost with the cooking, but still very delicious (I actually came to Hannah again the week after for lunch, and this dish was a lot better, with a buttery flavour of the sea urchin). The sake that came with this course was Sohomare “Indigo”, a junmai ginjo.

Next is the Seasonal Grilled Vegetables and Pork Belly with Seasonal Mushroom. Now this is quite something – the flavour of the various vegetables works well with the tender pieces of pork belly that blends in well with a rich flavoursome sauce. I was literally using the chopstick to try my best to pick up every last drop of the sauce using the bits of vegetables. If I wasn’t at a restaurant, I would have used my fingers to wipe the sauce from the block – finger-licking good! It paired well with the Masumi Hiyaoroshi “Sleeping Beauty”, a junmai ginjo made using the yamahai method.

The next course was Tsukuri, a selection of 5 kinds of sashimi.

From left to right going clockwise (The middle one was cuttlefish):

  • Fatty Tuna
  • Sea Bass
  • Turbot
  • Salmon Tataki

The sake served with the sashimi was Kuzuryu “Junmai” (Nine-Headed Dragon) – again, not really something I was too impressed with.

The sixth course was Hot Somen Noodle – Japanese thin somen noodles with sea bream shabu shabu and dashi stock. The sea bream was beautifully cooked, and it was a very enjoyable dish. The sake served was Dassai 45 – I love Dassai anyway…. Do I need to say more? Actually I do…. after tasting other sake earlier on, this one actually was not as spectacular. But still very drinkable and definitely worked well with the sea bream and the soup stock.

The course that followed was the Charcoal Grilled Miyazaki A5 Wagyu. The aroma of the charcoal was rich and comforting, as soon as the dish came to the table. The flavour of the beef reminded me of the most delicious bakkwa (beef jerky) from Asia (even though the meat was far more tender than bakkwa – just that BBQ flavour notes of sweet and umami).

The sake that came with the wagyu beef was Tamagawa’s Tokubetsu Junmai. Now this was a very nice discovery – the toji (master sake brewer) is a British guy (moved from Cornwall to Kyoto) called Philip Harper – who has written several books on sake, including “The Book of Sake: A Connoisseurs Guide”

Even more interesting is the pairing of this one. It has a rather umami aroma and has a umami and cereal grain flavour when tasting on its own. However, with the wagyu beef and the salt level of the sauce, it brings down the alcohol flavour of this sake and releases a hidden orange flavour in this sake. 

The last savoury course was probably the dish I looked forward to the most: Lobster Curry Rice.

Imagine the best fried pieces of lobsters, and then served in a rich curry sauce with rice – this is like katsu curry heaven!

The sake that was served with this curry rice was Seitoku “Bessen”. On its own, the sake came across a bit harsh. But it mellowed out quite nicely with the curry and the pairing worked pretty well. So a reminder that this is a good choice to pair with curry or another big flavour in future – I will have to try this with my Okinawan pork belly!

There were 2 desserts to finished off the meal – one was a fresh fruit salad with sake, and the second was Hojicha ice-cream with matcha and azuki bean paste. Both were very nice.

And again there’s a sake to go with each dessert (so by the time we finished the meal, we felt that we had drunk a bit too much even though we shared one sake flight!) – for the fruit salad, it’s a umeshu (plum sake) – I couldn’t quite figure out the details… I’d like to say that this is from Kamoizumi Brewery Company but not totally sure. For the ice-cream, it was paired with Tamagawa “Time Machine” 1712 – Because of the kimoto brewing method, this has a more “funky” aroma on the nose (purely a personal preference thing), and despite not being a huge fan of sweet sake, this one is pretty nice and mellow, and I would be quite happy to order it in future as a dessert sake.

On the whole, it was a very enjoyable meal and definitely one of the more impressive Japanese meals I’ve had in London in recent years. I returned a week later to try the shorter 6-course omakase lunchtime menu with my nephew (who loves Japanese food and the poor chap doesn’t get many opportunities to have Japanese food, let alone decent Japanese food, where he lives currently), and he was so happy with the meal too!

Address: County Hall, Southbank Riverside, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 7PB, United Kingdom

Telephone: +44 (0)20 3802 0402


Opening Hours:  Wednesday: 5 – 10 pm ; Thursday – Saturday: 12 – 3 pm, 5 – 10 pm ; Sunday: 12- 3 pm, 6 – 10 pm

Food: 9/10
Ambience: 5/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 18/20 [Based on visits in November 2021 and December 2021 ]