It’s not often you’ll find me wandering the streets of Pimlico, in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been there before. That was until the other night after a visit to a Chinese restaurant called A.Wong. After reading some quite positive reviews and seeing its name in the Bib Gourmand recommends section in the Michelin guide, we popped along for a spot of dinner.
It’s not much to look at on the inside, with two small dining areas and a bar with stools overlooking the open kitchen. There was clubby music in the background which seemed a little misplaced to me as it was too loud and the atmosphere didn’t match. The place was positively packed though – a reservation is certainly recommended.
The menu was big and seemingly reasonably priced. From the snacks section we started with the mushroom, bamboo and vermicelli spring roll (£1.50 each) which had an internal temperature similar to that of magma. The outside of the spring roll had been covered with vermicelli, giving it an extra crispy coating which was lovely. They were massive too. The accompanying sweet chilli sauce was needed to give it all a kick.
The sweet and sour ribs with toasted sesame (£1.50 each) were utterly divine. Sometimes with ribs there’s so much bone and such little meat it hardly seems worth the mess and effort, but here there was plenty of pork to get my teeth stuck into. The sauce was seriously sweet and totally addictive.
The dry braised salt and pepper tiger prawn (£3 each) was served with a skewer running through it’s body meaning it looked impressively straight but it was quite hard to eat. Once de-shelled and de-skewered the flavour was wonderful and it had been cooked perfectly.
Next up was the A. Wong dim sum basket (£6) which featured three dumplings – all being very impressive and of higher quality than we expected. The prawn ball with chilli vinaigrette was served separately though – I think it should have been placed in the basket with the other two as they a bit looked lonely. The flavour was brilliant however and the tangy vinaigrette cut through the richness of the prawn.
The clear shrimp dumpling which was impressively covered in a citrus foam was lovely but the foam lacked any flavour; it looked fun, if not a tad pointless. The pork and prawn dumpling with pickled cucumber topped with crackling was also full of delicious flavour. Three really impressive dumplings.
Next was crispy duck and pancakes (£12.95). The duck was shredded at the table and had the desired moist flesh with a crisp, fatty skin (the skin is totally the best part!). The plum sauce, that was served with a paint brush instead of a spoon which was a nice touch, was tangier and less sweet than I had expected.
We then went on to the main course dishes which were served in large bowls. The sweet and sour corn fed chicken, smoked meat and marinated pineapple (£8) had a pleasantly subtle spiciness which I loved. It was topped with popcorn which sounds a bit weird but worked brilliantly as it provided some texture and the sauce stuck to it perfectly giving it loads of flavour.
The Scotch beef rump with salsify, preserved plum powder and oyster sauce (£8) featured impressively moist and tender beef and the sauce was thick and intensely sweet which made it all the more delicious. Neither dishes were served with a spoon though which was annoying as we couldn’t scoop up the remaining sauce. The egg fried rice (£3) was particularly good as it was sticky and therefore easier to pick up using the chopsticks – which were disposable, maybe it’s just me but I’d have preferred proper chopsticks.
Desserts were really enjoyable – which is unusual for a Chinese restaurant. The coconut ice cream with glutinous dumpling, apple, pandan jelly and peanut cream (£6.50) was served in a martini glass and topped with a big ball of candy floss. Underneath was the ice cream encased in a slightly chewy dumpling-esque coating and a peanut butter crumble which was delicious.
The winning pud however was the tobacco smoked banana, nut crumble, chocolate and soy caramel (£6.50). It didn’t look how I imagined it to be; a jug of warm caramel sauce was poured over the chocolate dome, which melted away revealing the crumble and banana. Very impressive. At this stage it looked a bloody mess but my God was it the tastiest thing I’ve eaten in a long while. Seriously sweet and indulgent; it was totally divine.
Service throughout our meal was a little hit and miss; we had that awkward thing of our waitress not being able to hear us and nor could we hear her, then there was the language barrier. There was also huge gaps between courses which was fine for us as we felt quite full but I can imagine on other occasions it could easily become annoying. All that said though, we absolutely loved A.Wong. The food was proper tasty and although the meal wasn’t without its faults, I’d go back in a heartbeat.