Food Restaurant A Wong

The green things with the flowers on top are just somewhat pickled normal cucumbers (the vegetable kind), aren't they?! Maybe abalone underneath?

Despite having been cited as a source above (thanks Tom, very flattering) I don't have masses to add, but I do think the Instagram tendency for people going to restaurants to go once only and to have a menu they've already seen over and over is a very bad trend in general. It is funny how fashions change, I remember an episode of Mad Men where one of the characters, wanting to show off, asks the restaurant for something 'special, out of season'....

I too very rarely eat in the higher end French places in London, but outside that world have recently enjoyed Kol (although that fades in the memory somewhat) and the Kurisu Omakase popup, which was probably not for the absolute purist but really pretty fantastic. Pre-pandemic I had several excellent meals at Ikoyi but haven't been back yet, and am looking forward to trying Roketsu. If I was to only go to one expensive restaurant in the UK it would be The Sportsman...
 
The green things with the flowers on top are just somewhat pickled normal cucumbers (the vegetable kind), aren't they?! Maybe abalone underneath?

Despite having been cited as a source above (thanks Tom, very flattering) I don't have masses to add, but I do think the Instagram tendency for people going to restaurants to go once only and to have a menu they've already seen over and over is a very bad trend in general. It is funny how fashions change, I remember an episode of Mad Men where one of the characters, wanting to show off, asks the restaurant for something 'special, out of season'....

I too very rarely eat in the higher end French places in London, but outside that world have recently enjoyed Kol (although that fades in the memory somewhat) and the Kurisu Omakase popup, which was probably not for the absolute purist but really pretty fantastic. Pre-pandemic I had several excellent meals at Ikoyi but haven't been back yet, and am looking forward to trying Roketsu. If I was to only go to one expensive restaurant in the UK it would be The Sportsman...
If you like Ikoyi you should give Akoko a try
 
I admire your certainty; I had understood it to be a bit more complicated than that. The process for soaking the finest sea cucumbers takes four or five days; they are roasted over a flame then soaked for half a day, simmered for half an hour and soaked in the same water for another day, vigorously scrubbed, brought to the boil again and soaked another day. The bellies are opened and very carefully cleaned. At that point they should be soft and ready for their initial cooking in water with some ginger and spring onion all of which is then discarded, then its subsequent one with salt, sugar, pepper and sesame oil. This liquid is also discarded and the sea cucumber is now ready for its final preparation. There is I suppose an arguable ghost of original flavour left, but they take on the characteristics of the potent ingredients with which they are cooked. There are certainly lower grades that are prepared in a less painstaking manner, like the kind that is eaten alive in South Korea.

If cooking and eating is only about the very finest ingredients cooked in the most exquisite manner(not that I am dismissing that pleasure in the slightest, nor the connoisseurship required to appreciate it) then it is a subject considerably more sterile and tedious than I had heretofore imagined. To my weak mind gastronomy is above all about identity, in all its many splendours, and if that sense of identity very occasionally invokes the preparation of an ingredient that is 'out of season' it seems to me hardly calamitous.
Fanny Cradock thought that cooking was mostly for intimidating one's neighbours. Good old Fanny.

You are speaking of Chinese gastronomy. I assure you they are not treated that way in Spain, even though there is a different emphasis on texture in the opposite direction. I also think about what the Chinese do to abalone vs. how they are prepared in Japan, which do you prefer? Certainly unique in their own ways, but a steamed giant abalone served with its liver vs. what I have had braised in top class restaurants in HK and Guangzhou? My preference is for the former.

I suppose you could also debate cured Jamon to fresh pork leg in the other direction, but back to A Wong... this is not a produce driven restaurant, which excludes it from any serious discussion. Call it sterile if you must, but I would rather eat great food in a fluorescent cafeteria than rubbish in plush surroundings and perfect lighting. Diff' strokes for diff' folks.
 
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You are speaking of Chinese gastronomy. I assure you they are not treated that way in Spain, even though there is a different emphasis on texture in the opposite direction. I also think about what the Chinese do to abalone vs. how they are prepared in Japan, which do you prefer? Certainly unique in their own ways, but a steamed giant abalone served with its liver vs. what I have had braised in top class restaurants in HK and Guangzhou? My preference is for the former.

I suppose you could also debate cured Jamon to fresh pork leg in the other direction, but back to A Wong... this is not a produce driven restaurant, which excludes it from any serious discussion. Call it sterile if you must, but I would rather eat great food in a fluorescent cafeteria than rubbish in plush surroundings and perfect lighting. Diff' strokes for diff' folks.

I was indeed speaking of Chinese gastronomy, that being the subject in question. They are obviously not dried in Spain, and it is only quite recently that they have been consumed at all there. I've never eaten abalone in the Japanese manner, indeed Japanese cooking is a considerable blindspot in my life, I greatly respect it at its best but I do not love its various aesthetics which for me far too often cross the line between purity and sterility, entirely a matter of taste.
Hams were cured in China centuries before they were in Spain, FWIW. I haven't been to A Wong. I suspect you are right about it not being produce driven but that only excludes it from your serious discussion. There are other ways of being and Chinese cooking is paradoxical in being both obsessive about and completely careless of its materials. I'm negatively prejudiced about both A Wong's style and its assumptions myself, as it happens, but am willing to prove myself wrong.

I have no interest in dining in palaces; I think you may have completely misunderstood what I meant by narrative, which is rather about people and places and their stories. Whole cuisines are based upon the cook's fine hand and judgement rather than access to the finest raw materials, which have always been the privilege of the wealthy, and they are not to be dismissed summarily on those grounds, thrilling as the best produce undoubtedly is.
 
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I was indeed speaking of Chinese gastronomy, that being the subject in question. They are obviously not dried in Spain, and it is only quite recently that they have been consumed at all there. I've never eaten abalone in the Japanese manner, indeed Japanese cooking is a considerable blindspot in my life, I greatly respect it at its best but I do not love its various aesthetics which for me far too often cross the line between purity and sterility, entirely a matter of taste.
Hams were cured in China centuries before they were in Spain, FWIW. I haven't been to A Wong. I suspect you are right about it not being produce driven but that only excludes it from your serious discussion. There are other ways of being and Chinese cooking is paradoxical in being both obsessive about and completely careless of its materials. I'm negatively prejudiced about both A Wong's style and its assumptions myself, as it happens, but am willing to prove myself wrong.

I have no interest in dining in palaces; I think you may have completely misunderstood what I meant by narrative, which is rather about people and places and their stories. Whole cuisines are based upon the cook's fine hand and judgement rather than access to the finest raw materials, which have always been the privilege of the wealthy, and they are not to be dismissed summarily on those grounds, thrilling as the best produce undoubtedly is.

Fair enough on sea cucumber on it being relatively new to Spain as an ingredient, a lot more history in China.
I am familiar with the Chinese dried hams, but as you know the finest ones are Spanish (probably because the Japanese don't have enough land) and there is far less history in Spain, but there is more connoisseurship because they have been relatively more wealthy over a much longer recent period.

I also had prejudices about A Wong, which is partially why I went, having generally negative experiences with Chinese in London (HKK when it was around - chef now at Mei Mei), Min Jiang, Royal China Marylebone. Gold Mine is OK for casual Cantonese roast duck, but most of their other dishes fall well short. Imperial Treasure looks good but the price point is laughable.

You don't like palaces? L'Ambroisie? I'm not a fan of the atmosphere either, yet they deliver the goods. Ultimately my concern is what is in front of me, I don't need any narrative, as interesting as it may be. Whole cuisines are indeed as you say, based on technique/spicing, but the very best combines both. I'll sight Mikael as an example, a man that basically hates Chinese food and... you know what? He didn't have bad things to say about top Chinese restaurants in Tokyo because they used top quality produce.

Doesn't sound like you have had a proper Japan trip. To quote Kelly LeBrock in Weird Science, "Mindscrambler"
 
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I also had prejudices about A Wong, which is partially why I went, having generally negative experiences with Chinese in London (HKK when it was around - chef now at Mei Mei), Min Jiang, Royal China Marylebone. Gold Mine is OK for casual Cantonese roast duck, but most of their other dishes fall well short. Imperial Treasure looks good but the price point is laughable.
The problem with Chinese restaurants in London has always been inconsistency but it seems much worse in recent years. Cooks from China are no longer allowed in and those from HK etc will always get better offers elsewhere. Things were hugely better thirty years ago, only partly because of a much more demanding and knowledgeable native population.
You don't like palaces? L'Ambroisie? I'm not a fan of the atmosphere either, yet they deliver the goods. Ultimately my concern is what is in front of me, I don't need any narrative, as interesting as it may be. Whole cuisines are indeed as you say, based on technique/spicing, but the very best combines both. I'll cite Mikael as an example, a man that basically hates Chinese food and... you know what? He didn't have bad things to say about top Chinese restaurants in Tokyo because they used top quality produce.
I didn't mean that I don't like palaces, I meant that I don't need them. I love L'Ambroisie and its slightly ecclesiastical atmosphere on the grounds that if something is to be done it should be done properly. That isn't at all what I mean by narrative, however.
I have the greatest admiration for Mr. Jonsson but while his particular and highly exigent standards are commendable I do not regard him as the sole arbiter of what is good and true. I was about to write that I'm sure he doesn't either but on reflection that is probably incorrect!

Doesn't sound like you have had a proper Japan trip. To quote Kelly LeBrock in Weird Science, "Mindscrambler"
I've had endless plans to go to Japan but it never quite happened and sadly probably won't now.
 
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I have the greatest admiration for Mr. Jonsson but while his particular and highly exigent standards are commendable I do not regard him as the sole arbiter of what is good and true. I was about to write that I'm sure he doesn't either but on reflection that is probably incorrect!
When it comes to Mikael, definitely incorrect!

Shame if you couldn't make it to Japan, haven't been for years but something I hope to rectify sooner rather than later.
 
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