We see that you have new menus offered
Yeah, we’ve mixed things up a bit. We still offer a la carte lunchtime dim sum, but we have also launched a regularly changing dim sum fixed menu called Touching the Heart (literal Cantonese translation of dim sum). It includes many of our classic dim sum, including the Shanghai Steamed Dumpling with Ginger Infused Vinegar; and the pork and shrimp dumpling with pork crackling. There are also more substantial things there, including our Xian âlamb burgerâ, and we’re even doing a cheese class. We have found a cheese that closely matches the flavor profile of fermented tofu.
Why go out of your way for such a labor-intensive menu item?
We don’t make it easy for ourselves. Dim sum is incredibly complex, but we want to show people how sophisticated it is and also point out the parallels between European pastry chefs and dim sum chefs. It bothers me to think that some people see dim sum as an unskilled, mass produced thing that you only eat on a Sunday afternoon. We’ve always served our dim sum in individual pieces, in part to make sure people don’t put two different dim sum pieces in their mouths at once, which sometimes happens. The Touching the Heart menu also includes four different wines. We want to show people that there are other things that go well with it than Champagne.
What are the wines?
Our sommelier Danny (Murray) is constantly changing flights. But for now, we have Nyetimber’s demi-sec, a sour beer, a white southern RhÃ´ne, and a Kabinett Riesling (a German wine made with ripe grapes which generally give a lighter style). We serve these latter two with a great selection of dim sum so people can compare and contrast. The cheese is accompanied by fig vinegar, a nod to the Chinese practice of drinking vinegar to aid digestion.
Did the Second Star make you rethink what you do at A Wong?
I like to think of myself as a pretty grounded person. I disagree with our best reviews and disagree with our worst reviews. Two Michelin stars was amazing. But I had already thought about where I wanted the restaurant to go. As you get older, it’s not about creating a brand or showing off different techniques. I just want to create an amazing dining experience that stays true to us as a team and also stays true to us as a Chinese restaurant in London.
Was there a temptation to ditch the Ã la carte dim sum?
We are committed to keeping the restaurant accessible. But it’s certainly fun, I doubt there is a two star restaurant in the world with such a range of spending. If people come in and order two dumplings, it messes up our average spend calculations, especially since we’re now capping the numbers much lower than before (A Wong makes a maximum of 40 for lunch and 50 for dinner). But the biggest concern for us is that people don’t have the right experience when they come – you can come here and eat for Â£ 30 but you won’t leave full. In reality, we are rarely less than Â£ 100 a head. It’s tricky because we want to stay humble and approachable and stay true to our roots, but we employ 36 people and that comes at a cost, unfortunately.
The building that houses the restaurant is being redeveloped. Is there an update on this?
Plans keep getting pushed back. There is no date yet, but we are also running this restaurant in a targeted manner. We must constantly improve ourselves and strive to be the best we can be. My parents started this restaurant in 1985, which is incredibly long. I never want this restaurant to become a relic. I don’t want this to be a dynasty that I leave for my children to work here just for the sake of working here. The day we stop moving forward is the day we call it a day.
The Chef of the Year award is sponsored by Ritter Courivaud.