The team behind Luna d’Autunno have introduced fusion tapas to the Street 308 Chinese restaurant best known for its humble noodles and dumplings
Under new ownership, Mama Wong’s on Street 308 has been revamped with a new look and new menu aiming for more “universal” flavours. While the noodles and dumplings that made the restaurant famous are still there, diners can now treat themselves to mini-burgers, pork belly doughnuts with maple syrup and even cauliflower popcorn.
“The idea is snacky things you can eat with your beer or cocktail,” said chef Kien Wagner, who was tasked with his partner, Australian restaurateur Glenn Thompson, with revamping the eatery.
The change is most pronounced in its addition of mini-burgers ($4 for two pieces). But these aren’t the sliders from Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. The beef brisket burger comes with mushroom smoked in a coconut husk, then fried with garlic, onions and Japanese BBQ sauce.
In a reflection of Wagner’s German roots, the meat patties are topped with sauerkraut.
Pork belly, Asian coleslaw and Sriracha mayonnaise, and crispy fried chicken, cucumber and kimchee mayonnaise sliders are also available.
The burgers, Wagner said, represent the restaurant’s shift toward more universal culinary concepts.
“I think that brings a lot of people together, because nobody would say they wouldn’t like a burger – everybody would try it,” he said.
While the old dumpling dishes are still there ($4 for eight pieces), new varieties include spiced lamb with coriander and cumin sauce, and duck and sweet potato.
The little contemporary touches, said Wagner, were intended to spice up traditional Chinese cuisine.
“Our customers know good food and up-to-date restaurants, but we also keep some traditional noodle soups and dumplings,” he said.
The restaurant has also undergone an aesthetic makeover – the red paint, which formerly covered the restaurant’s interior walls, has been replaced by shades of white and grey. The dark red walls and dim lighting, said Wagner, gave the restaurant a “brothel” vibe that he looked to ditch.
The staff was also retrained – and in some cases let go – to make for improved service, Wagner said.
“It took a long time with Mama Wong’s to convince them that change was good for them,” he said.
Wagner came to Cambodia by way of Thailand in 2008 while visiting his father at his new work posting. While the German chef was well-trained in European cuisine, he said it was his first time tasting authentic Asian cooking.
“It’s very easy to get addicted to Thai food – you try everything,” said Wagner, who took a job three years ago at Friends Restaurant’s culinary school before joining the team at Luna d’Autunno Italian restaurant.
Chinese food, he said, was a new frontier for him, though he said it mattered little given the fusion flavours he and Thompson were trying to create. “I would say it is not straight Chinese; it’s all the influences we found,” he said.
Mama Wong’s is located at #41 Street 308. Open from 10am until 10pm.