Parcels of plea­sure

Auck­land’s most cul­tur­ally com­pli­cated dumpling

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - RESTAURANT - Kim Knight

on­fi­dence,” said James, nail­ing ex­actly why we were happy even though we were sit­ting on short stools with no backs at a ta­ble with peo­ple we didn’t know. The wait­per­son brought food. It wasn’t ours. “We need to get this bet­ter sorted, don’t we?” she said as she trans­ported dishes to the other end of a long shared ta­ble.

I should have booked. If you phone ahead, you’ll get a proper chair in the main din­ing room, or some­thing in the more se­cluded up­stairs al­cove. There’s an out­door court­yard. Ev­ery space was full. Shortly af­ter we were seated, I un­der­stood why.

Fang is fun. The cock­tails come with can­dyfloss and wasabi; the walls are comic-booked by bro’Town il­lus­tra­tor Ant Sang. There’s an en­tirely loopy back­story in­volv­ing a gov­ern­ment edict that the pop­u­lace eat gruel and a fight back from a rene­gade fe­male chef and her loyal “Yum Punk” fol­low­ers.

This is a high-con­cept restau­rant and the staff have swal­lowed the se­cret sauce. They know what they are do­ing and they look like they are hav­ing a good time do­ing it. As a cus­tomer, that kind of con­fi­dence is in­spir­ing — and in a crowded mar­ket, nec­es­sary.

How do you make your new Asian fu­sion of­fer­ing stand out from ev­ery other new Asian fu­sion of­fer­ing? Fang stakes a cheesy claim for the con­tem­po­rary dumpling dol­lar. A lit­tle bam­boo steamer of four silken-wrap­pered pack­ages of mush­rooms and smoked Gouda was ravi­oli gone rogue, pasta on a kick-arse OE and far, far bet­ter than I an­tic­i­pated.

Fol­low Auck­land’s most cul­tur­ally com­pli­cated dumpling with the five spice and sichuan wagyu beef ver­sion. It sent me on an ex­tended trip to the, erm, bow­els of the food in­ter­net be­cause although wagyu beef is prized for the mar­bling that makes for a melty

steak, I’ve al­ways baulked at pay­ing a pre­mium for the mince. Is it a waste of wagyu? The food jury is out, and at Fang all I could taste was the five spice — let your wal­let be the judge (four dumplings for $12).

We started our din­ner with a trio of su­per crunchy nori cones stuffed with smoked salmon and oily, salty pops of salmon roe ($16). Ef­fort­lessly cool, I’d ex­pect to see copy­cats just as soon as ev­ery­one else fig­ures out how to do this with sea­weed.

The menu is lib­er­ally spiked with sichuan pep­per. It’s not specif­i­cally listed as an in­gre­di­ent in the kung pao soft-shell crab ($21), but this crispy crus­tacean did a numb­ing num­ber on my tongue that all the ac­com­pa­ny­ing cauliflower puree in the world couldn’t soothe. It was time for a re­fresh­ing side of vege.

“Wasabi punks” ($16), a com­bi­na­tion of cel­ery gin and juice, ap­ple and prosecco. The cock­tail is an ex­act match for Pan­tone’s 2017 colour of the year, Green­ery 15-0343. This is not re­ally punk, but it is al­most cer­tainly Par­nell. This is an af­flu­ent sub­urb, and on a Fri­day night, the peo­ple-watch­ing was top class. I am quite cer­tain I didn’t see a woman’s hair­cut un­der $300 though I stopped pay­ing at­ten­tion af­ter the slow-cooked beef shin ($32) ar­rived.

Crunchy nibs of can­died pump­kin seed en­hanced the rich, caramel tones of the meat and it might have all been too much, but for some su­per smart spikes of fresh mint. We added a late or­der of Jas­mine rice to soak up the sauce — im­pos­si­bly good value ($3) es­pe­cially when it turned out to be nutty, earthy Thai red rice.

Fang’s food is rich and flavour­some. Add a tiny saucer of sichuan chilli oil ($2) if you want to guar­an­tee heat, and then ask for the star anise panna cotta ($15 and pos­si­bly too firm for purists but I re­ally like a spoon-suck­ing set) be­cause it is comes with the best sweet-spicy rhubarb I’ve eaten in Auck­land. Pud­ding was not re­ally punk, but it was — like ev­ery­thing else we had at Fang — yum.

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