Excuse the exaggeration of my title, but it sure seems that way nowadays with Tony Wong opening more and more stores in Kowloon City. First there was Cookies Quartet…then he opened this patisserie, then more recently he opened a froyo store called Smile. Why has he enjoyed such great success? One can speculate. More at the end of this post as I know you want me to talk about the food.
The first cake I got was the Mixed Berries Napoleon （千層酥）. For any overseas readers, we call mille-feuilles, Napoleons, in Hong Kong. Also, unlike in Paris, Napoleans in HK are almost always filled with creme AND fruits, especially mangoes, which really should be our city’s official fruit as Hongkongers are so obsessed with it lol. I choose the mixed berries Napoleon because it was the only one which looked vaguely traditional, as opposed to the circular cherry Napoleon and mango-laden Napoleon.
So, back to this Napolean. Was it any good? Frankly, no. I know many locals rave and shower praises on his Napoleans. But even if you’ve just had ONE mille-feuille from a patisserie in France, even a random neighbourhood patisserie, you would be completely dissatisfied with this. The pâte feuilletée is really thin, compact, and even slightly soggy where it touches the similarly thin and meagre layer of custard. It didn’t taste or feel like the lush, generous crème pâtissière in Parisian mille-feuilles, like the one I had at Pain de Sucre. At least the berries were sweet. And there were real vanilla seeds in the custard, although the custard was too diminutive in amount to actually taste it.
The One Two Tea is one of Tony Wong’s recent creations. From top to bottom: white chocolate plate, Earl Grey Crème Brulée, Earl Grey Mousse, Sponge Cake, Earl Grey Crisp. The flavours were quite good in this one, unlike the too sweet Starbucks Earl Grey cake. On the other hand, it’s more than 50% more expensive, so I’d expect the flavours to be better. The pale layers were smooth and tasted like a milky Earl Grey, slightly floral in nature. Not as smooth as the Pierre Hermé Tarte Infinitement Vanille though. Damn I miss that. The bottom layer had tea leaves in what was supposed to be a crispy layer (I think), although it was quite soggy when I ate it. This was an enjoyable cake. My only gripe is its size; for the same price, I can probably get something bigger and more interesting from a patisserie in Paris. But I guess they don’t have HKD$2 eggtarts over there either, so I won’t complain too much.
Read on for more thoughts on Tony Wong’s success…
How did the man manage to build an empire out of French cakes in HK? For one, he worked at Fine Foods (Royal Garden Hotel) before leaving his nest and opening his own store. I believe he’s the first pastry chef from a hotel to do so, at least the first one widely publicized. Later, others followed suit, like Thomas Lui of Thomas Trillion and Roy Chan of Gioia by Chi.
Prior to setting up his own shop, I believe he also appeared on cooking shows and wrote some cookbooks. Of course, he was also well known for being a partner in the highly successful Cookies Quartet (with a local celebrity).
I supposed being good-looking helped too, as he’s known as the “leng jai” (handsome) chef in HK. A bit old for my tastes, but he has a son who also works as a pastry chef…;);)
He also provided novelty to the Hong Kong foodie scene, as pâtisseries were quite rare except in hotels. Bonus points for being Asian too, I guess.
As for the quality of his work? On the whole, really, it’s quite good for the HK scene. I just wish the cakes were bigger so the flavours can be more fully appreciated. It’s hard to really taste something when one forkful is the size of your thumbnail. Not liking the price rises couple with the perceived (or real) size decreases either…but I understand the principle of demand, supply, and pricing. His cakes are geared more towards the Asian tastebuds, with clean, simple compositions and not very sweet. I would like to see more complex creations, but I guess that’s not his style.
I gotta admire the chef for attracting crowds even in Kowloon City, which is quite far away from the MTR. And I do thank him for starting the patisserie craze, as competition means consumer’ tastebuds are rewarded.
Nonetheless, I still wish the French patisseries can set up branches in HK. Tokyo and Taipei seems to get all the lovin’ from them…when is it our turn to have Sadaharu Aoki and Pierre Hermé, Eric Kayser and Ladurée?