Friday, February 10, 2012


You've already read all about every conceivable iteration of duck in the Times ( so I ventured into new territory to get a better idea of the ways of Wong.   I have known and admired Simpson Wong from Jefferson of yore, and the neighborhood institution Cafe Asean, both impressive.  Wong steps in, slightly sleeker and more formal than Asean, on a lovely stretch of Cornelia Street.  The small room flanks an open kitchen, exposed brick walls and suspended lighting.  It's a tight space, and overheated the evening I visited.  But an amiable hostess corrected that immediately, and we took seats at a bar looking in on the kitchen.

A deliciously chewy naan is brought as a welcome, served with a punchy, peanutty tomato sauce with lots of umami.  We started with a market salad- a good, solid salady-salad with a gently sweet, tahini-esque dressing and lots of leaf variety, a few raw shiitakes and slivers of carrot.  Nothing momentous, but unique and satisfying.

For entrees, wreckfish, by name, was too curious not too order.  I'm hoping it's the kind of fish that is found skulking about mysterious deep waters near the Titanic or something, but regardless of the name derivation, it is an exquisite fish.  Succulent flakes of snowy white, with a pungent salty crust seared into its crisp skin.  I didn't detect any enoki as specified amongst the tangle of black noodles that had become bit matted, like a kugel.  But the noodles were chewy and flavorful, if they did require a bit of lubricating broth in order to separate them.  The broth is tasty, though, redolent of sea and salt and thickened with a bit of coconut milk.  This was by far our favorite dish, and paired with the coconut-sambal collards, would've culminated into a rewarding, though not award-winning, repast.  Unfortunately, the pork chop took a turn for the worse, unsalvageable even despite its accompanying brussels sprouts.  Perhaps if there had been more of them... but honestly two sprouts, halved, barely qualify for plural.  The Christmassy tasting sauce clashed harshly with a dice of fresh pineapple, and the lean chop itself was a little dry, tasting faintly smoked and sitting above and below ingredients that it feigned having nothing to do with.  Speaking of dry, there were some purported-to-be sunchokes, but whatever starchy little tuber they were, were dry ... and well, dry.  That's all they were and nothing else.

Our single concession to the duck hype came as a finale: the duck a la plum dessert.  A dense, unctuous orb of ice cream, faintly savory, was swathed with thin slices of spiced plum and a crisp tuile tasting of caramelly brown butter.  A plank of shortbread that tasted like my mom's (most excellent) pie crust was dusted with five spice, and then there was a little shot glass of I'm-not-sure-what, but it tasted like cherry Kool-Aid.  I mean, not that's there's anything wrong with cherry Kool-Aid (I quite enjoyed it!), but I'm not sure who invited it to the party.  At any rate, perhaps further menu exploration would unearth more treasures like the wreckfish and the dessert (some complimentary chocolate chip cookies and crumb-topped brownies were commensurately excellent), rather than the train-wreck pork.  Given Simpson's track record- and his "win" in the Times- I'd have faith in Wong.

tel 1-212-989-3399

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