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
Total: 20/20 [Based on numerous visits 2013 – 2021]