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Herald on Sunday Rating: 2/5
Address: 5b Lorne St, Auckland City
Ph: (09) 300 6381
A couple of months ago I phoned the Lorne St Asian fusion place Jimmy Wong's to see if it still existed. I had no reason to think it didn't, but it had been more than two years since I'd eaten there (and much enjoyed myself: "Good food at reasonable prices - how often do you find that these days?", my review concluded), but I was about to allude to them in passing and it's a bad look recommending to readers a restaurant that doesn't exist any more.
The bloke who answered the phone paused when I said: "I was just ringing to see whether you were still in business." He must have wondered whether I knew something that he didn't, but he gathered his wits and said something like "alive and kicking".
This is, it transpires, no longer true, and as far as I can deduce from an internet search, you read it here first. A week is a long time in politics, they say, but a couple of months is an epoch in the restaurant business. Now Jimmy Wong's is Fung.
The new place, which I noticed after enjoying a Korean barbecue at the excellent Faro next door, describes itself as offering "Shanghai and Taiwan styles".
Just back from a Cantonese gastronomic adventure in Hong Kong which included a breakfast of congee (rice porridge) with pig tripe, heart, liver and intestines (don't knock it until you try it), I was in the mood for something new.
Fung has maintained its predecessor's excellent fitout, a decision that I would have described as sensible if it were not for the fact that I suspect it betokens a lack of effort. The bill, for example, gives the address as "Lrone St" and the fax number as "303 ????", neither of which suggests an attention to detail. To make a booking I sent an email and later left a phone message, neither of which was replied to.
When I finally got through to a human, I was told rather brusquely that I didn't need a booking and should "just turn up". (There's no harm done by responding to a diner's interest by taking his name, I would have thought; it makes it sound like you give a damn whether he comes or not).
A sensible person might have decided to "just not turn up", but I had the bit between my teeth now and was determined to find out whether their food was so sublime that they could afford to treat customers with such disdain. The short answer is that it was not.
Central Auckland has noodle shops and Hong Kong barbecue restaurants in such profusion that diners are spoiled for choice.
Fung tries to set itself apart from these, although describing itself as "Auckland's premier source for fine Chinese dining" is stretching it a bit. Certainly there are some dishes on the menu which will be alien to those familiar with Hong Kong and Cantonese cuisine: coriander and cumin proliferate, the pork belly is braised rather than crisp, the won ton soup hot and sour and there's a white gourd soup, which I have not met before. But there are also things that are straight out of the local takeaway bar and cheese-stuffed Portobello mushrooms just don't have the whiff of the inscrutable Orient.
Our quartet assembled a selection of dishes - that pork belly, some crispy duck, deep-fried prawns, beef and coriander, chilli tofu and kai-lan (a leafy broccoli) - that seemed to represent most sections of the menu. Nothing impressed much, with the exception of the pork belly, which was succulent and rich without being even slightly fatty.
Everything else seemed to have a faintly sickly sheen of the same greasy oil over it, and a similar taste as well, as if they had interpreted the word fusion to mean that everything had to be cooked in the same pot. It was far from expensive - about $25 a head - but there is better and cheaper food to be had around town, even if the decor isn't as flash.
Need to know
$ = $20-$40; $$ = 40-60; $$$ = $60+.
(Price guide reflects three courses for one person without drinks.)
Faro, next door, serves the best Korean barbecue I have had; and the yeasted Korean pancakes from the takeaway stand at the other end of Lorne St are delicious and ludicrously cheap.