Occupation: Executive Chef, Ms. G’s, Mr. Wong, El Loco
Years lived in Sydney: “Born and raised in Sydney”
Years worked as a chef: 13
Accolades: 2 Hats, The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide (2016 for Mr. Wong)
1 Hat, The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide (2012-present for Ms. G’s)
Josephine Pignolet Best Young Chef Award (2008)
Name the top restaurants and dishes that you think every visitor to Sydney should try.
Golden Century: Garlic butter snow crab on thin egg noodles. My favorite Chinese restaurant and open till 4 a.m. The snow crab from Western Australia is the best crab in the world.
Sokyo: The best sushi in Australia. Make sure you get the sushi omakase. The chefs there take pride in aging their own fish.
Malay-Chinese: Easily the world’s best laksa.
Ester: Everything they do is awesome, especially when it’s out of their wood-fired oven.
If you had to name one favorite dish from each of your restaurants, what would they be?
Ms. G’s: Vietnamese steak tartare. Never get sick of it, super tasty with herbs, lemongrass, and served with prawn crackers. It is delicious.
Mr. Wong: Charsiu roasted toothfish. We use a sustainably caught “glacier 51” toothfish from Western Australia and marinate it like charsiu pork and then roast it over charcoal and glaze in honey. Epic.
El Loco: The secret taco. The secret taco uses only offal and it changes every day. It could range from chicken hearts to tongue, tripe and even testicles!
What’s your favorite neighborhood to dine out in?
Haymarket. I love Chinese food, but you can get amazing ramen, Korean BBQ and Thai food, as well.
Describe your “perfect dining out day” in Sydney.
Breakfast: Palace Chinese for the best trolley-style yum cha.
Lunch: Long lunch at Papi Chulo – smoked chicken wings and BBQ, as well as some seafood cooked over charcoal.
Dinner: Live seafood at Golden Century.
Snacks: Soft serve at Aqua S, cheeseburger at Burger Project, chicken burger at Mary’s, Victor Churchill to buy some charcuterie, Chatime for bubble tea.
What’s one dish in Sydney that blew you away and left you wishing you came up with the recipe yourself?
Cafe Paci‘s carrot, yoghurt, liquorice dessert (closed as of December 23, 2015).
Since it’s Sydney, we have to ask: what is your favorite place to grab a meat pie?
Flour and Stone. The chicken and tarragon pie is the best.
What are some of your top places for great cheap, quick food?
Definitely Sussex Centre food court in Chinatown. They have great food stalls, like Happy Chef for their noodle soups and laksa, and also Ramen Ikkyu – awesome ramen. I also love Campbell Street for the array of Thai restaurants.
Are there any favorite watering holes you love frequenting?
I don’t drink that much, but I do love to go to Palmer & Co. for an after-service negroni.
What food is your guilty pleasure, and where do you go to get it?
At the moment, I love the sea salt soft serve at Aqua S. It’s super creamy and tastes like salted caramel. I always get a cone.
Since this is a site geared for travelers, are there any favorite restaurants or bars at Sydney Airport or in Sydney’s hotels that you particularly enjoy visiting?
The Establishment Hotel is great.
Are there any foods native to Sydney that visitors should try to seek out?
Hard to say what’s “native” to Sydney, but I guess everyone has to try a tiger pie from Harry’s.
What do you love best about Sydney’s food scene?
Definitely how multicultural it is and the quality of ethnic food, especially Asian.
Having lived in Sydney your entire life, how have you seen the dining scene change over the years? What are some new or different things you’d love to see more of?
[Over the years], a steer towards casual dining, with an emphasis on quality of food. Even cafes are doing outstanding things. I’d like to see more classic French and European restaurants doing traditional dishes really well.
What would you say every visitor must see or do before leaving Sydney?
Go out west to Cabramatta to see how awesome the Vietnamese food is there.
Chef Hong’s Shortlist:
Ms. G’s, 155 Victoria Street (Potts Point); Asian fusion, lunch and dinner daily.
Mr. Wong, 3 Bridge Lane (CBD); Chinese, dinner daily, yum cha Saturday-Sunday.
El Loco, Excelsior Hotel (Surry Hills); Mexican, lunch and dinner daily, late night Friday-Saturday.
Golden Century Seafood Restaurant, 393-399 Sussex Street (Haymarket); Chinese, lunch and dinner daily, late night supper Friday-Saturday.
Sokyo, The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street, Level G, The Darling (Pyrmont); Japanese, breakfast and dinner daily.
Malay-Chinese Takeaway, 50-58 Hunter Street (CBD); Malaysian/Chinese, lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday.
Ester, 46-52 Meagher Street (Chippendale); modern Australian, lunch Friday and Sunday, dinner Monday-Saturday.
Palace Chinese, Piccadilly Tower, 133-145 Castlereagh Street (CBD); Chinese, yum cha and dinner daily.
Papi Chulo, 22-23 Manly Wharf, Manly, NSW; American/BBQ, lunch and dinner daily.
Aqua S, 501 George Street (CBD); soft serve ice cream, open daily.
Three other locations in NSW.
Burger Project, 644 George Street (Haymarket); burgers, lunch and dinner daily.
Second location: 19 Martin Place (CBD); lunch and dinner daily.
Mary’s, 6 Mary Street (Newtown); burgers/bar, lunch Friday-Sunday, dinner and late night daily.
Victor Churchill, 132 Queen Street, Woollahra, NSW; butcher shop, open daily.
Chatime, multiple locations in Sydney and NSW; Taiwanese tea cafe.
Flour and Stone, 53 Riley Street, Woolloomooloo, NSW; bakery/cafe, breakfast and lunch Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday.
Sussex Centre food court, 401 Sussex Street (Haymarket); mall food court.
Happy Chef Noodle Restaurant, Sussex Centre food court, 401 Sussex Street (Haymarket); Chinese/Malaysian, lunch and dinner daily.
Ramen Ikkyu, Sussex Centre food court, 401 Sussex Street (Haymarket); Japanese, lunch and dinner daily.
Palmer & Co., Abercrombie Lane (CBD); cocktail bar, open daily.
Establishment Hotel, 252 George Street (CBD); contemporary Australian, lunch Monday-Friday, dinner Monday-Saturday.
Harry’s Cafe de Wheels, Cowper Wharf Roadway and Brougham Road (Woolloomooloo); meat pies, breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night daily.
Multiple locations in and around Sydney.
About the Chef: Chef Dan Hong grew up being surrounded by good food; his family still owns and operates Thanh Binh, a Vietnamese restaurant in Newtown. But becoming a chef was a proposition he didn’t consider seriously until he was in high school.
Chef Hong’s first job was at southeast Asian restaurant Longrain, and then he trained at French eateries Pello and Marque. In 2008, while he was working his first sous chef job at Bentley Restaurant and Bar, he won the prestigious Josephine Pignolet Best Young Chef Award, which gave him the chance to stage at Wylie Dufresne’s much-acclaimed WD-50 in Manhattan. Upon his return, he started his partnership with Merivale, which now includes executive chef roles with three of its most popular restaurants: Asian hotspots Ms. G’s and Mr. Wong, and Mexican cantina El Loco.