Inside Chinatown has been called the ‘best shopping district in the world’ but for a lot of locals it’s not so much the food, but the lack of it.
For decades it was home to the world’s largest indoor Chinese restaurant, the iconic ‘Cheng Yue’ (or ‘Huo Yue’) which became a landmark for many, and its grand opening in 2007 marked the start of a resurgence in the district’s fortunes.
But now the Chinese are making a comeback as well, and even though the new restaurant is now on the verge of opening its doors to the public, it’s just one of many that remain shut.
Now, there’s a new contender to the throne – the ‘Phenomenal’ – the modernist reimagining of the original ‘Cheg Yue’.
“The original restaurant was in an abandoned house in Chinatown, but now it’s being renovated, the original facade is being restored and the new one has been built to resemble the original,” says local chef-owner Michael Wong.
“But the real challenge is to create a place that is not only the best, but also the only one that we know of.”
“Phenomonic” is one of a growing number of restaurants in the area that are trying to take on the traditional feel of the ‘Chegu’ and its famous dishes, with a distinctly modern take on traditional Chinese ingredients.
“The food is all very modern.
It’s very much contemporary,” Wong says.”
It means the market has really been able to develop, and it’s great to see it.””
It’s very exciting.
It means the market has really been able to develop, and it’s great to see it.”
And I think that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Phenomania is an amalgam of the restaurants that cater to the crowds of tourists visiting the area, as well as the traditional Chinese restaurants, as they have become the go-to place for traditional Chinese food.
Wong says the new eatery aims to offer more authentic Chinese food in the heart of Chinatown, and also offers a wide range of other Chinese-inspired dishes.”
They’ve been bringing a lot to the market, including their signature fried chicken and beef prawns,” he says.
“I like to call them ‘chinks’ in Chinese, because the whole dish is actually made from two parts of pork.”
You add in some chicken to the mixture and then you add some chicken stock and you’ve got this fantastic, fatty mixture that’s going to get a really, really juicy flavour and not go bad, and you can add some fish or a bit of sesame oil to really add some flavour.”
We also like to add a little bit of sour cream, which is a classic Chinese treat.”
But what is it exactly, exactly?
The concept behind the ‘Chink’ restaurant, Wong explains, is that it is an extension of what the old ‘Cheh-gwa’ (Cheng) Restaurant used to be, and that this new version incorporates elements of both.”
In the old restaurant we had all these traditional Chinese dishes.
But we didn’t have a kitchen and we had a whole bunch of people coming in and out of the kitchen, and we just kept cooking and trying different things,” he explains.”
What we’ve done is we’ve got the old kitchen with a modern kitchen, so it’s all a big open kitchen and the modern kitchen has all the traditional ingredients, but it’s still very modern.””
In this new restaurant, we’ve also got the classic ingredients, which are all still there, but there’s this modern touch, which makes the dishes really different.
” Woo says the idea for the ‘Boom’ and ‘Chang’ was to create something that would take on ‘the old’ feel of what was there, while also adding to the ‘authenticity’ of the traditional menu.
“The name refers to the restaurant itself, which was the biggest restaurant in the city and it was the largest restaurant in Guangzhou. “
It means a happy meal,” Wong explains.
“The name refers to the restaurant itself, which was the biggest restaurant in the city and it was the largest restaurant in Guangzhou.
The original name of the restaurant was ‘Cheu Yue’ but it became a symbol of the city of Guangzhou, so people were called ‘Ching Yue’.”
The name means ‘hoo-ho’ in Cantonese, and so it has a very romantic and ‘hollywood’ feel to it.
Its a word that describes a happy and healthy meal, because it’s got lots of good things to eat.
“The ‘Choo-Choo’ is the signature dish that has become synonymous with the ‘cheng’ (chee) and ‘chang’ (chong) of the old Chinese.
The dish is served with a ‘ching’ (chiang) of minced