Andrew Wong has taken over the old Kyms premises in Wilton Road, opposite Sainsbury’s near Victoria station, and opening in December 2012. The dining room is quite smart in a modern style, with an open kitchen, bare wooden tables and decent lighting, seating 40 at the ground floor level with a similar number downstairs. Andrew has an unusual background for a chef, studying at Oxford and the LSE before travelling around China learning about the cuisines of the regions, including a stint at the Sichuan Institute of the Culinary Arts. The menu was unusually short by Chinese standards, suggesting that the kitchen wants to use fresh ingredients where possible. Main course dishes were relatively small in size with prices to match, encouraging diners to try a range of offerings.
The wine list was a rather odd mix of ambition and omission. Sauvignon Blanc St Clair was £22.50 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £12, Pouilly Fuisse Domaine Ferrand Prestige at £32 for a wine that retails at around £23, up to grander choices such as Dom Perignon 2003 at £150 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £110; there was even a short selection of dessert wines, and tasting notes for the wines. Why then, were no vintages listed in most cases? This matters less for a simple Antipodean wine where the weather and hence the wine is consistent from year to year, but it matters a lot for grander European wines, of which the list had a few.
An unusual nibble was a tapioca cracker with satay sauce, crisp seaweed and sweet chill dressing as garnishes (13/20). A dim sum platter (£12) had several elements. Steamed shrimp dumpling was excellent, the dumpling light and the shrimp cooked carefully (14/20), as was a Shanghai soup dumpling with a liquid centre, which reminded me of the version at the Taiwanese chain Din Tai Fung (14/20). Also pleasant were steamed pork and prawn dumpling with pork crackling and a plain dumpling, the latter with a hint of sweetness (13/20). Hot and sour soup (£5) had clean taste and good balance (14/20).
Spring rolls had a crisp exterior and good bamboo shoot and vegetable filling (13/20). Better was a vegetarian ”fish” made from fried taro with an excellent ginger accompaniment (14/20). Aromatic duck (£12.95) was good though the pancakes could have been lighter (13/20) but the best dish for me was gong bao chicken (£6), which featured skilful use of Szechuan peppers: these have a numbing effect and can easily be overused, but here were in just the right proportion relative to the chicken, giving a spicy lift without killing the flavour (15/20). A diver-caught scallop (£4) served in its shell was carefully cooked (14/20), and Szechuan aubergine (£6) was enjoyable though for me was light in spice (13/20).
The bill came to a very reasonable £38 a head for more food than a sensible person would eat. Service was unusually friendly and capable by Chinese restaurant standards (admittedly not a high bar to jump), with staff attentive and efficient. I was impressed by A. Wong, which is clearly ploughing a different furrow from the usual Cantonese fare that we have become used to in London. I will happily return and see how the cooking develops, but the best dishes here were already very good indeed.
The dim-sum at A. Wong has both some unusually ambitious dishes and also the nice feature that you can order by the individual dumpling. This is very useful if you are dining alone or with one companion, allowing a range of dishes to be tried.
Shanghai steamed dumpling (£1.50) had good texture and nice filling (14/20), whilst har gao (£1.30) had better quality prawns than you would see in most UK Chinese restaurants (14/20). Sui mai (£1.30), open-faced pork and prawn dumplings, again had good texture, the pork nicely seasoned (14/20).
Smoked egg (£4.95) came in a nest of finely shredded filo pastry that had been fried, an unusual dish that worked well, the smokiness not overdone (14/20). Crab cheung fun (£3.50) had none of the sliminess that so often afflicts this dish (14/20) whilst quail egg croquette puff (£1.75) was delicate (14/20).
My least favourite was the pot sticker (£1.50), which perhaps was cooked a fraction long but I think this is probably a matter of personal preference rather than any serious flaw in the dish (13/20). I was particularly impressed with tofu (£3), prettily presented and with silky texture; it takes a lot for me to get excited about tofu (15/20). The bill for all this dim sum came to just £26, a real bargain in my view.