An Inventor at Work at Wong

Simpson Wong's been on the Chowhound radar for some time, recognized for his home-style Southeast Asian cooking at Café Asean in the Village. Now he's moving upmarket and broadening his horizons, drawing on cuisines from all over Asia at Wong, which opened last month just a few blocks from Asean.

Hounds are enjoying the chef's well-balanced flavors and novel combinations. For starters, says michelleats, Wong ditches the typical bread basket in favor of freshly griddled naan with house-made paneer, curry sauce, and mint. The cheese is especially good, she says, "simple, but exceptionally fresh and flavorful." A meaty two-course appetizer starts with robustly flavored Newport steak tataki with pickled onion, roasted peanuts, and the assertive Vietnamese herb rau ram. This is followed by slices of toasted brioche with a rich topping of bone marrow and onion marmalade, served with powerfully seasoned (but overly sweet) pho broth.

Nicely seared scallops are paired with duck tongue fritters—crisp outside, moist inside, and seasoned with five-spice. Pickled cucumber and soy-marinated jellyfish contribute acid and textural contrast, though michelleats and kathryn don't think they quite belong on the same plate. That's a shortcoming in several of Wong's dishes: too many elements. Hong Kong pork chops and tenderloin, served with a commendably restrained sweet-and-sour sauce, come with grilled pineapple, lightly pickled Asian pear, and endive with chopped scallions. "There were maybe a few too many disparate components on the plate and it was sometimes hard to see how they all fit together," michelleats says, "but many of these components were very good."

For kathryn, everything comes together beautifully in a unique knockout dessert from pastry chef Judy Chen: duck à la plum. It's duck-infused ice cream with star anise–poached plums, a crispy sesame tuile, five-spice-scented shortbread, and a glass of not-too-sweet plum soda. "Very balanced. Complex. Fascinating," she writes. "I basically licked the bowl clean." Wong's food is seasonal and its ingredients heavily local, so kathryn expects frequent changes in the menu—and she'll be back to investigate further. "They still have some kinks to work out, and some of the dishes didn't really jell overall," she says, "but that duck à la plum ice cream is a stunner!"

Wong [Greenwich Village]
7 Cornelia Street (near W. Fourth Street), Manhattan
212-989-3399

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