While Tong’s cooking is steadfastly rooted in history and familial heritage, his dishes have evolved over the years to welcome and embrace progression, modernity and innovation. He fuses traditional Chinese culinary techniques with contemporary gastronomic methods, using both the steel wok and open flame to achieve wok hei – the sweet caramel char caused by cooking at a high heat – and the sous vide to perfectly and precisely cook meat or vegetables while retaining their nutritional value, elevating the Cantonese cuisine at Hakkasan and creating unique and elegant dishes bespoke to the restaurant.
Tong’s dedication to excellence has achieved himself and his restaurant many awards, including Michelin stars in both Hakkasan Mayfair and Hakkasan Hanway Place. Yet it is the driving force of the people behind the scenes at Hakkasan who continue to allow it a place to shine in the thriving restaurant scenes around the world, from the bright lights of Shanghai to the bustle of New York.
With the recent opening of Hakkasan Dubai in Atlantis, The Palm, this evolution has never been more fast-paced. Many of the signature dishes have been elevated in celebration of the event, from the delicate spicy prawns served with lily bulb petals and sweet flaked almonds to the meaty wagyu beef ribs smoked using aromatic jasmine tea leaves.
In addition, a number of new dishes have been added to the menu, showcasing the diversity and elegance of modern Cantonese cuisine. New Zealand blue abalone farmed from a unique conservation area which sustains native Maori traditions are served wok-fried and intricately plated with crunchy asparagus; the dim sum selection features cobia fish and wild mushrooms, of which there are plenty.
Importantly, this evolution must take into account the global issues of sustainability and the environment. Whereas once these issues weren’t acknowledged in the wider food industry or the press, now their importance need to be addressed. This means ensuring that fish are sourced responsibly to ensure the future of fish stock; of cooking local and seasonal produce wherever possible to reduce the environmental impact of long-haul transport; and of reusing and recycling to reduce food wastage and removing single-use plastics from the restaurants. Ultimately, this brings adaptability to the fore: it is important for Hakkasan, and for all restaurants, to be able to adapt to this new awareness about the impact on its surroundings.
Hakkasan aims to be a leading force in the future of sustainable food. It is through the adaptability and flexibility of Chinese cuisine that this will be possible.