Ever since opening it’s been a go-to, a must-visit for out of towners after serious duck with all the theatre. I hadn’t been back to Mott 32 in years, but a recent visit reminded how and why they are still one of the very best destinations in the city for Cantonese textures and flavours.
Mott 32’s unusual name pays homage to the first ever Chinese convenience store in New York city, founded in 1851 at 32 Mott Street, later to become the heart of the city’s Chinatown. Fast forward 165 years and this incarnation of Mott is in another distinctly Chinese venue, the Standard Chartered bank building.
The mirrored staircase to get the basement features hanging metal chains, not unlike the entry to an S&M club. Not that I’d know, of course, but it’s a dramatic descent into what is a dramatic space. Dark, beautiful and cavernous, undoubtedly striking, it’s the work of Joyce Wang architects and mixes wrought iron with concrete, fabrics and pendulous lights in a strange but cool industrial-Asian mash-up.
‘Barbecue prime Iberico pork with yellow mountain honey’. There are no words in that menu description which don’t sing to me a lullaby of sweet, carnivorous joy. It was excellent and disappeared with unseemly haste.
Crab, caviar and more Iberico pork in their utterly flawless dumplings, the perfect combination of technique to render these xiao long bao absolute beauties.
But let’s be honest, if you come to Mott 32 and do not order the roast duck, you need to take a look at yourself. It’s like going to Fernandos and not ordering prawns, like ordering the cheese plate instead of steak at La Vache, (the clue’s in the name) or missing the Baked Alaska at Jimmy’s.
You go because it is their logo on the menu, but most of all you go because it is just unspeakably good. The 2kg birds take 48 hours to prepare, are cured in special marinades, smoked over Applewood, before being presented and expertly carved tableside. The crisp snap of the skin, the perfect gamey hum of the meat, rolled into pancakes (not the paper that separate them, that would be a hugely amusing schoolboy error, even if the restaurant is dark), where you choose your own adventure with hoi sin, cucumber and more.
Other standouts included the brilliant fried rice with Maine lobster, mushrooms and broad beans. This is the fried rice of your dreams, where the grains don’t even dare think about sticking together.
Another special mention too to their signature smoked black cod that is served theatrically under a dome of smoke which clears to reveal another textural and flavour masterpiece:
Other dishes came and went, before the finale and last hurrah of desserts, the winner of which was their beautifully-plated soy sauce ice cream with fresh strawberries.
Mott 32’s Executive Chef Lee Man Sing earned a Michelin Star at the Mandarin Oriental, so why he is yet to be recognised here is, frankly, beyond me. Given the competition – and often baffling stars elsewhere – his turn seems well overdue.
Incidentally Mott 32 have a special New Year’s Eve dinner, details here