One of our highly recommended restaurants for Cantonese fare is MOTT 32. With global outposts in Las Vegas, Vancouver, Singapore, Bangkok, Dubai, Cebu and Seoul, we sampled their tasting menu at their original restaurant in Hong Kong, and it did not disappoint.
Chef Lee Man Sing is the talent behind the dishes served at Mott 32. With a strong career having led Mandarin Oriental's Chinese restaurant, Man Wah, Chef Lee brings elevation, tradition and high-end Cantonese fare to the table. Taking home-cooked and proud ingredients, Mott 32 offers diners from all over the world, the opportunity to explore Cantonese food in a truly memorable setting.
If you’re in Hong Kong and only spending several nights in this city, one of the restaurants to add to your list is MOTT 32. That is, if you’re after some really delicious cantonese fare where quality is excellent and portions so generous, you’ll come out with a food coma. At least, that’s how it went down for us.
For a taste of their signature dishes and what they’re best at, we highly recommend their meat dishes, particularly if you’re into your roasted and bbq meats - the menu explores the most popular Cantonese-Apple Wood Roasted Peking duck, Barbecue Iberico pork (also known as Char Sui) and Wagyu beef. The portions can feed at least 4 people, so this is an ideal restaurant to go to with a group of friends. One should come hungry and leave feeling satisfied.
The most outstanding part about our meal was the quality of the meat, the succulent flavour with each bite and more particularly, the way that each of the meats were cooked with very specific techniques.
The apple wood Peking roast duck for example had the most thinnest, crispiest and delicate skin, basted in its own juices so that when dipped into the plum and peanut sauce, your entire tastebuds are exploding with all that flavour and texture. The duck breast and duck thighs were cut and laid out with expert hands, that when you placed one onto a fresh steaming pancake with your condiments, rolled it up and tucked it into your mouth, you were just left wanting more. The reason for this is in its laborious preparation method starting with the hand selected special breed of ducks that then spend 42 days ageing. The ducks are then put away for 48 hours in a custom built fridge over a unique marination technique before being roasted in a brick oven with smoked applewood. The duck is presented to diners in front of an expert slicer who applies age old techniques with their own Mott signature cut to lock in all of the duck's juices.
The Iberico Char Siu is another must-have alongside the Peking Duck. Yes there are bits of fat within each slice, but that’s the whole point of Char Sui; the fat to meat ratio has to be just right, and it was perfect here. That it is roasted and glazed for a shiny, mouth-watering sensation and that its texture is so tender that it’s the most heavenly bite of goodness. The barbecue pork here is a parcel of such flavour and texture which isn’t easy to achieve and there are very few that can serve Char Sui in the most authentic and high-end way. Mott 32 selects top-grade Iberian pigs that are raised on a diet of acorns, grass and herbs. The cooking process alone uses traditional roasting techniques and takes 40 minutes to prepare. The fact that the roast pork needs multiple temperature adjustments to give off that succulent texture combined with a glaze of Yellow Mountain honey - its really an art in itself.
Our most favourite dish was their Crispy Triple Cooked Wagyu Beef Short Rib. Seasoned with spices and sliced up into cubes, this generously sized portion of meat was the dish that made us look at each other, stop and say ‘wow’. The flavour, the method in which it was cooked and the presentation of it felt like a star-studded event (so did the roasted duck by the way - they present the entire duck to your table and you’re blown away by the glaze against that crispy skin). The Wagyu beef acted as the crescendo during our tasting, it was the climax of our meal - that final punch in flavour and tenderness. It was that part of the meal that confirmed our loyalty to MOTT 32 and how we would certainly come back and do it again.
There was no dish that disappointed - we were strategically waiting for a dish that perhaps wasn’t quite on par with the rest of the dishes but in all honesty, everything that landed on our table was cooked expertly. From the Signature Smoked Black Cod, which we finished despite its serving for four people (it was just the two of us), the Wok-Fried Kale, to the Signature Lobster Fried Rice. The chefs at MOTT 32 know what they’re doing. We really couldn’t complain and that is why MOTT 32 is a restaurant we really think is worth checking out. It’s not a surprise that the restaurant has landed in other cities around the world such as, Singapore, Bangkok, and Las Vegas. We can’t speak for those cities but if it’s anything like the one in Hong Kong, it's a culinary adventure worth exploring.
Come here for their expert technique, high-end authentic cantonese dishes, generously sized, packed full of flavour and expertly cooked.
Q&A with Malcolm Wood, Founder of Mott 32
Where does your story start? What led you to doing what you do and how do you think you managed to build MOTT 32 into a success?
Food has always been a huge part of my life, I was raised between Taiwan, with a mother and grandmother who loved to cook and the UK by my Granddad who was also super passionate about food.
I lived in 12 different countries by my early 20s and was exposed to a lot of different cultures and cuisines and this has had a huge influence on my live and now my businesses.
My life experience has a huge influence on the brands I’ve created, I’m really hands on when it comes to the menu of each restaurant. Mott 32 has become a success as it’s built on a foundation of passion for good, honest food, award-winning interiors and a lot of hard work from a really amazing group of people.
What was your vision for MOTT 32 and what was the purpose behind building this particular restaurant? Essentially, what is the MOTT 32 story?
When we opened the first branch in 2012, we had a vision to open a luxury Chinese restaurant that served authentic Chinese cuisine in a beautiful setting where you could enjoy an amazing mixology programme, a top tier wine programme and of course excellent service and we have stayed true to this across all our venues – now in Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Cebu, Seoul, Las Vegas, Vancouver and Dubai.
Mott 32 was highly awarded in Hong Kong and across Asia during its first year and was voted top restaurants in Hong Kong for its food. It was also awarded best interior at the World Interior Festival out of all the categories which really put it on the map for taking food and design in Chinese cuisine to the next level. Since then we have been in high demand and each project we have worked on has been in some of the most iconic buildings as well as top 5 star hotels in the world which we are extremely proud and excited for.
Can you tell us what is the meaning behind the name? And why did you choose to name it as such?
Mott 32 is named after 32 Mott Street-the location of the first Chinese convenience store that opened in New York in the 1800s, the epicenter of the area that is now known as Chinatown. With each of our restaurants, we aim to create this same epicenter – a place where guests want to come time and time again, not just for the food but for the experience.
How would you describe the food scene in Hong Kong compared to other parts of the world? And what’s your favourite thing to eat and your favourite places to travel to?
The food scene in Hong Kong has been one of the global leaders in my option alongside cities like London and New York and there has been plenty of innovation and great concepts over the years coming out of the city. Its still the most densely populated restaurants per square foot than anywhere else in the world. I love all food but I would happily settle for any type of Asia food from Thai to Japanese and of course home cooked Chinese food! Anyone who knows me know I love high mountains and Nepal holds a dear place in my heart.
Do you find travel a necessity or a past time? What does travel mean to you?
These days travel is a more of a necessity rather than a past time. I actually prefer to be at home in my own space with my family as much as possible but it’s also important for me to connect with each of our venues and continue to build our brand.
Whenever I travel, I’m really conscious of the impact I have on the environment so I always offset my carbon emissions – airlines make this so easy these days – there is no reason why we shouldn’t all do it.
What does it mean to be a restaurateur in today’s culinary world?
In today’s culinary world, you really have to pay attention to your audience and be willing to change when things aren’t working. It’s also important to innovate. We are one of the first global brands to remove single use plastics from all our restaurants and to introduce a plant-based menu. It would be great if we could move to a completely plant-based offering but unfortunately consumers are not ready for this yet so we try as much as possible to give them responsible and delicious choices to perhaps influence their future choices. TALK ABOUT MARKETING CHANGES AND KEEPING UP AND FASTER CHANGE
Can you share a few pieces of your own advice for someone starting out in the industry - whatever field it may be in, for someone wanting to build their own brand, what are a few pieces of advice you could offer?
The first piece of advice I give everyone is to start with a spreadsheet. The figures are the most important factor of any business. While the brand, the menu and the location is important, you really need to know what your costs are going to be and how you are going to fund each stage of the process.
After that, you need to be prepared to be deeply involved in every aspect of your business, or hire experts to help you and always be learning, growing and developing you’re your approach and mindset.
Most important, don’t be afraid to fail. Some of my biggest successes have come from my biggest failures.
Q&A with Chef Lee
With a longstanding career in the culinary industry, having worked for the renowned Man Wah restaurant (at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel), also known as one of the best cantonese restaurants in Hong Kong, what has been your vision for MOTT 32 and how have you managed to set your signature dishes apart? What do you want your diners to take away from the experience?
When I joined Mott 32, my goal was to promote our most distinctive Chinese cuisine internationally. We aim to preserve the traditional flavours while presenting them in a modern and eye-catching presentation, offering a refreshing experience to our guests. Whether it's the interior design or the food itself, I aspire to provide a rich and unique dining experience for everyone.
Do you believe in innovation and elevation when it comes to Cantonese cuisine? Or are you a Chef that prefers to stick to traditional methods, particularly when it comes to utilising the technique of preparing dishes such as Peking duck and Char Sui (barbeque pork)?
Our approach is to uphold traditional flavours while incorporating modern innovative techniques. This allows us to enhance the overall quality and culinary excellence of our dishes.
Do you have a favourite dish that you like to prepare or a favourite dish that you urge diners to try out?
I highly recommend our Signature Apple Wood Roasted Peking Duck, which is meticulously prepared in limited quantities every day. This ensures that each duck maintains the highest standard of quality.
Homecooks are becoming more respected and admired - for someone that wants to try preparing Char Sui, can you share any secrets that would make it almost restaurant quality?
The key to making excellent char siu lies in the quality of the meat and precise control of the grilling process. It should have a crispy exterior while remaining tender and succulent on the inside.
What does Cantonese cuisine mean to you?
Cantonese cuisine has been my favourite culinary style since childhood. Its cooking techniques are diverse, and the emphasis on using fresh ingredients results in a harmonious blend of sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, and salty flavours. The combination of these six tastes creates a multi-dimensional sensation that tantalizes the taste buds.