100 Parnell Rd
09 213 9610
17 - Great
$172 for two
"Confidence," said James, nailing exactly why we were happy even though we were sitting on short stools with no backs at a table with people we didn't know.
The waitperson brought food. It wasn't ours. "We need to get this better sorted, don't we?" she said as she transported dishes to the other end of a long shared table.
I should have booked. If you phone ahead, you'll get a proper chair in the main dining room, or something in the more secluded upstairs alcove. There's an outdoor courtyard. Every space was full. Shortly after we were seated, I understood why.
Fang is fun. The cocktails come with candyfloss and wasabi; the walls are comic-booked by bro'Town illustrator Ant Sang. There's an entirely loopy backstory involving a government edict that the populace eat gruel and a fight back from a renegade female chef and her loyal "Yum Punk" followers.
This is a high-concept restaurant and the staff have swallowed the secret sauce. They know what they are doing and they look like they are having a good time doing it. As a customer, that kind of confidence is inspiring - and in a crowded market, necessary.
How do you make your new Asian fusion offering stand out from every other new Asian fusion offering? Fang stakes a cheesy claim for the contemporary dumpling dollar. A little bamboo steamer of four silken-wrappered packages of mushrooms and smoked Gouda was ravioli gone rogue, pasta on a kick-arse OE and far, far better than I anticipated.
Follow Auckland's most culturally complicated dumpling with the five spice and sichuan wagyu beef version. It sent me on an extended trip to the, erm, bowels of the food internet because although wagyu beef is prized for the marbling that makes for a melty steak, I've always baulked at paying a premium for the mince. Is it a waste of wagyu? The food jury is out, and at Fang all I could taste was the five spice - let your wallet be the judge (four dumplings for $12).
We started our dinner with a trio of super crunchy nori cones stuffed with smoked salmon and oily, salty pops of salmon roe ($16). Effortlessly cool, I'd expect to see copycats just as soon as everyone else figures out how to do this with seaweed.
The menu is liberally spiked with sichuan pepper. It's not specifically listed as an ingredient in the kung pao soft-shell crab ($21), but this crispy crustacean did a numbing number on my tongue that all the accompanying cauliflower puree in the world couldn't soothe. It was time for a refreshing side of vege.
"Wasabi punks" ($16), a combination of celery gin and juice, apple and prosecco. The cocktail is an exact match for Pantone's 2017 colour of the year, Greenery 15-0343. This is not really punk, but it is almost certainly Parnell. This is an affluent suburb, and on a Friday night, the people-watching was top class. I am quite certain I didn't see a woman's haircut under $300 though I stopped paying attention after the slow-cooked beef shin ($32) arrived.
Crunchy nibs of candied pumpkin seed enhanced the rich, caramel tones of the meat and it might have all been too much, but for some super smart spikes of fresh mint. We added a late order of Jasmine rice to soak up the sauce - impossibly good value ($3) especially when it turned out to be nutty, earthy Thai red rice.
Fang's food is rich and flavoursome. Add a tiny saucer of sichuan chilli oil ($2) if you want to guarantee heat, and then ask for the star anise panna cotta ($15 and possibly too firm for purists but I really like a spoon-sucking set) because it is comes with the best sweet-spicy rhubarb I've eaten in Auckland. Pudding was not really punk, but it was - like everything else we had at Fang - yum.