The name Deng G comes from Chef Deng Huadong, someone who the PR blurb tells me is one of the most talented Sichuan chefs in China. His first Hong Kong opening has 100 seats situated over three floors in Queen’s Road East, so he’s not lacking ambition. The second floor is a baiju bar and lounge where we kicked back with spicy nibbles and red wine before moving upstairs for dinner.
As this was a media invite, the ten of us sat around the 餐桌转盘 – a dinner turntable, or what some know as a Lazy Susan. This got me thinking what an odd name this was for a piece of functional furniture and it turns out that they date back to eighteenth century England, when they were first known as the similarly weird – and not a little offensive – ‘dumbwaiter’. ‘Lazy Susan’ first appeared in print back in 1917, but if you really want to get into the weeds on this, then fill your boots via The Smithsonian here.
Anyway the group dinner meant that we tried a lot on the menu, with shared starters: Shredded chicken with sesame dressing, sliced pork with garlic and chilli, Yu Xiang prawns, roasted eggplant with red chilli, okra with ginger sauce and pickled peppers with dry bean curd. All good stuff, the standouts being the sliced pork and those prawns. Yu Xiang seasoning was a new one on me and involves finely minced pickled chili, white spring onions, ginger and garlic, fried before water, starch, sugar and vinegar added to create the basic sauce.
‘Camphor smoked duck’ bought pink meat under crisp brown skin, the camphor wood gently permeating the duck without overpowering it.
Diced chicken with chili and cashew was a dish I hadn’t seen or eaten in years. Not unlike chow mein or beef with black bean sauce, it seemed far more popular in Chinese restaurants in the UK or US than in China.
Dry sautéed shredded beef with celery was crispy, oily and one of my favourites of the evening:
The crispy fish in sweet spicy sauce was also good eating, even if I felt bad for the fish, one whose last expression was clearly of horror before being dispatched.
The most genuine nod to wonderful Sichuan province came in every gweilo’s favourite of mapo tofu. Strangely it was the only dish that really spoke of the spice and hua jiao of the region, so it was all the more welcome. Perhaps Chef Deng is toning down his spice for non Chinese palates – but if I return, I’ll be sure to ask that he turns the heat up elsewhere.