Wong proves the adage: there’s always room for one more. The palate-dazzling newcomer is the eighth restaurant lining the short Village block that also boasts Po (Mario Batali’s first venture) and Pearl Oyster Bar (the lobster-roll-craze pioneer). Not that the Malaysian-born chef Simpson Wong is a Johnny-come-lately. His charming Café Asean has been a neighborhood standby for first dates and takeout since 1996, and his higher-end, highly praised Jefferson was so buzz-worthy it hosted a wedding reception on “Sex and the City,” before closing, in 2005.
Wong’s space is simple: three rows of tables, a counter open to the kitchen, and a handful of seats at the bar. (Avoid the table for two at the end of it, which is plopped like an afterthought next to the door.) When the restaurant is full, which is usually, the room can get noisy, but it’s unlikely that conversation will be your top priority once the plates start arriving. From the first bite of the pungent paratha, served, in lieu of bread, with a curry-rich dipping sauce, the food’s complex flavors may reduce the most talkative diners to monosyllabic expressions of bliss. When one quick-witted guest tucked into her cast-iron skillet of lobster egg foo young—a succulent concoction of poached tail and claw, leeks, and half-cooked yolks with tomatoes and chiles—she declared, “It’s the gourmet answer to hangover food” before trailing off into a mumble, “I, I, I . . . it’s so good.”
Wong bills itself as the city’s first locavore Asian establishment, and its farm-to-table approach means the menu is constantly changing. A coriander-sauced Finger Lake rib eye one visit might be replaced by a Berkshire pork chop with pineapple-laced Brussels sprouts the next. But a handful of specialties make the cut every night: tender scallops with crisp duck-tongue meatballs no bigger than marbles; pork belly with “tater tots” made of taro; savory rice noodles and hake with the drag-queen-like moniker Cha Ca La Wong. With two days’ notice, you can have the seven-course “duckavore” dinner, but even last-minute types can indulge in the single best thing on the menu: roast-duck ice cream, so salty-sweet it puts caramel to shame, paired with star-anise-poached plums. If you’re lucky, skeptics will scoff at the fowl-based confection and you won’t have to share it. (Open Mondays through Saturdays for dinner. Entrées $16-$35.)