W1 Wending – Zhejiang comes to iSquare
A great meal, complicated by the fact that the restaurant serves shark’s fin.
I’m always keen to try new Chinese restaurants, and W1 is definitely very new. The original restaurant is in Ningbo, one of my favourite Chinese cities – coastal, a tasteful mix of old and new, well-planned, with friendly people and great food. They have only just opened up in iSquare and the management have been transplanted from Ningbo. For once my admittedly poor Mandarin skills were actually of use in this city!
Zhejiang cuisine is probably best encapsulated in Dongpo Pork. The sublime, meltingly soft pork-belly is stewed in wine and soy sauce and it’s that aspect that seems to come through in many dishes. A mellowness that is then accented with vinegars and crunchy vegetables.
Food: As there were only two of us the restaurant manager sized the portions down of those dishes that would more normally be shared in a bigger group. I loved that. I have often asked restaurants to do this as I hate to waste food, to varying degrees of success. What a refreshing change for the restaurant themselves to suggest it. They also don’t use MSG which is a big plus.
So, we started off with the Four Pickles: Delicious Drunken Crab that was ice cold, with sweet, sweet roe, crazy fresh and a wonderful gingerness to the marinade. Sucking the meat out of the joints was very satisfying. Then there were boiled peanuts, some pickled greens and duck tongues which were all very tasty.
Next up was shrimp with beancurd. Buttery, melt in the mouth prawns served with a gentle red vinegar. Very simple and well balanced.
Then we had crab soup which again was delicate and fresh.
After that the pork belly stewed in wine and soy sauce with turnip. Mmm. Mmm. Mmm.
By golly those Chinese knew what they were doing when they came up with this one! There’s been about 1000 years to perfect the dish, and W1 certainly did it justice. The addition of turnip was perfect and the sweet unctuousness of the pork and gravy was balanced by it being served with a fresh, crisp, steamed baby green on top.
They had run out of the mustard greens we ordered, so we had baby cabbage instead. This was served in a super hot stone pot and the cabbage had been stir fried in pork dripping, with shallots and garlic. It was so good that my partner described it as among the tastiest vegetables he’d ever eaten.
Drinks: We didn’t delve too deeply into the drinks menu as I was driving. We had Puer tea, in a pot that was kept full throughout the meal, being refilled from a source in the kitchen rather than the same leaves being left to stew for hours at our table. Again, a service touch that was much appreciated.
Service: Efficient wait staff and the manageress on duty was incredibly helpful and friendly. We muddled through in our mix of English and Mandarin. The menus have good and full descriptions of the food and the restaurant’s ethos in English.
Ambience: The views from the restaurant are fantastic. Straight over the harbour from the 25th floor. The restaurant itself is light, with lots of crystal and Louis XIV influences. The booth tables are a little uncomfortable though as you can’t move the seats, so I had to perch on the edge of the seat to get close enough to my bowl to eat. The food was so good though that I didn’t really notice this slight inconvenience after a while.
Price: Very reasonable for the quality of the food. We paid HK$695 for the meal above.
Summary: I would like to say that I will definitely go back to W1, towing a whole group of people with me so that I can try more of their dishes and make a proper meal out of it. The food was excellent.
However, because they have shark fin on the menu, I can’t until I know the source of it. Finning disgusts me but apparently the practice is limited and it’s unlikely that fins used in HK restaurants are from sharks butchered in this way. However, my issue is one of sustainability. To my knowledge there are no sustainable fisheries of sharks, and their numbers have been so decimated that many species are on the verge of extinction. So, this is why I have to rate W1 as Caustic even though the meal was excellent.
Location: 2501, iSquare, 63 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui. Tel: 3153 2188. www.wendingno1.com (this is their Ningbo restaurant website)