I’m not certain what is gaining more interest at restaurants these days, the interior design or the food. With places like Duddell’s, (art gallery or dining establishment?), St Betty’s (Hanging Gardens of IFC) and AMMO (Tate Modern meets metallic staircase) distracting diners with their decoration, the food could be in danger of being a side dish rather than the main attraction. However, with newest Maximal Concepts’ venture on the block, (does this group ever stop?!), Mott 32, the food AND the decor are certainly neck to neck in the attention stakes.
Mott 32 is not your local Chinese eatery. The food is top-notch quality with prices to match, so don’t say I didn’t warn you if you look at the bill with bulging eyes. I will say this- I will most definitely be taking all my future visitors there. Mott 32 is the epitome of Chinese fine dining, and Maximal Concepts have gone all out for their first Chinese restaurant. Named after New York’s first Chinese convenience store which opened in 1851 on 32 Mott Street and an homage to those who left HK for NYC’s Chinatown, Mott 32 showcases Cantonese cuisine with regional specialties from Sichuan and Beijing using the Maximal Concepts’ farm-to-table cooking principles. Even finding it is an eye-opener; situated in the enormous basement of the Standard Chartered Bank building in Central, beyond one set of escalators and a seemingly never-ending and heel-unfriendly spiral staircase.
Enter and you will find a splendorous space beautifully furnished with an array of Chinese artifacts, sumptuous sofas and Oriental wooden screens that divide the restaurant into zones, each with their own gorgeous design. Their semi-open kitchen with an industrial duck oven and special air-drying duck fridge is an interesting focal point and one can get quite diverted by the duck carcasses hanging as if in suspended animation. My meandering took me to my favourite room- an intimate area decorated with hundreds of Chinese calligraphy paintbrushes and round the corner I admired a wall cloaked in a breath-taking silkscreen of silver birds and flowers. In yet another corner, a giant abacus floats serenely from the ceiling, whilst the walls play host to a hotch-potch of Chinese antique vases and ornaments. Street art and graffiti complete the East meets West/ ancient meets modern look and you are left with what is a truly magnificent interior, courtesy of award-winning interior designer Joyce Wang. There are also five private rooms, all equally stunning, that ensure you can have an uninterrupted, elegant meal with a party of friends. The bathroom is also worth a mention, not least because it feels like you’re at Hogwarts. Polyjuice potion scene springs to mind.
And onto the food, which is as impressive as the decor. The kitchen is headed by Chef Fung, previously of Dynasty Restaurant, Renaissance Harbour View Hotel , which explains why Mott 32’s prime char siu made with Iberico pork is a smorgasbord of excellent flavours and succulence and touted as one of the finest in town, and Dynasty’s char siu has gone downhill in the last few months. When the char siu arrived, consistency was a slight issue though, as our table had two plates of this popular dish, and one was distinctly lacking the same love and care the other had. The winning plate was sensational; the char siu unbelievably tender and juicy, fragrant with the perfect amount of sweetness to the taste and edged with drool-worthy caramelisation. Its sister plate however, was a lighter colour, a little on the soggy side unfortunately and not quite as charred on the edges.
We sampled a few of their dim sum delicacies starting with the Dry Fried Squid with sweet chili and lime zest. Whilst the squid itself was nice and chewy, this wasn’t overly memorable and the batter tasted a little on the chalky side.
I loved the Crispy Sugar Coated BBQ Spanish Teruel Pork Buns which were delicate, light, soft and fluffy. The sugar coating was beautiful to bite into and the pork filling sweet and lean. Another hit were the Kurobata pork, quail egg and black truffle siu mai. These posh siu mai were plump and delectable, and who can resist a surprise quail egg in the middle plus fragrant black truffle on top?
The Australian Wagyu beef with Shitake Mushrooms was a solid dish and we enjoyed the Aged Black Vinegar Sweet & Sour Pork which was a more sophisticated version of the classic dish. The sweet and sour sauce was great and a perfect balance of flavours. Rach from Through the Looking Glass and I were a bit confused by the addition of dragonfruit, (of the normal red variety I believe, as they had absolutely no flavour at all). The dish wants the pineapple back please.
As if we hadn’t had enough food, there was the Apple Wood-Roasted Peking Duck, (you need to pre-order this), which was stupendous. I couldn’t get enough. A bamboo steamer holding wonderfully thin pancakes was emptied at lightning speed as we feasted on crispy, glistening duck skins and succulent slices of meat.
At this point my stomach was starting to protest but we powered our way through a 12 hour Slow Cooked Sticky Pork Belly which was another outstanding dish. The invitingly glossy exterior of the pork belly fat was even better to taste as each mouthful melted.
I was disappointed I did not have more room to fully indulge in the next dish which was Black Cod, Potato, Chilli, Garlic, Spring Onion, or as we affectionately called it ‘Chinese Fish and Chips’. The whole dish was well-seasoned and aromatic; the battered cod was light yet meaty and the potatoes fat and moreish.
We were all on the precipice of a food coma when the final savoury dish emerged- Fried Rice with Pork Belly, Preserved Vegetable and Egg. Don’t ask me how- pure greed coupled with a carb craving and a love for preserved vegetables in anything, meant that I finished both mine and Rach’s bowl of rice. It was delicious though, so no regrets!
To end, (yes, we had dessert too), we had the Green Tea coated Chocolate Mousse, 3 of which made up part of my dinner grazing at their opening party, and the Osmanthus Flower Jelly. The green tea flavour was a good counterbalance against the rich and smooth chocolate mousse and the jelly was a lovely, refreshing end to a hugely satisfying and delectable meal.
Mott 32 is simply stunning to dine at, just sitting there to take in the ambiance and admire the interior is enough, let alone sampling the stellar food. The high-quality ingredients, first rate preparations and clever twists on traditional dishes without losing the essence of the original creations, make a dining experience at Mott 32 a must despite the price. With main dishes between $200-400 each, (the Iberico pork is $295), you are looking at a fairly hefty bill, especially if you are a) a glutton and b) ordering some of their delicious cocktails. However, I do think Maximal Concepts have really done a fabulous job with their latest venture, and while I won’t be a frequent visitor, I will definitely be saving up for my char siu fix on special occasions and when I have visitors to impress.
Chopstixfix rating: 4/5
Mott 32, Standard Chartered Building, 4-4a Des Voeux Road, Central, Hong Kong Tel: +852 2885 8688 Reservations@mott32.com
This meal was by kind invitation by Maximal Concepts. Many thanks!