Chef Wong’s streamlined summer fare
After suffering a heart attack at 41, Simpson Wong decided to focus on healthier alternatives that never sacrifice flavor — and the results are on display at his restaurant, Wong, in the West Village. Tucked into Cornelia Street just off Sixth Avenue, the restaurant is a cozy place to take in the delicious fare, from succulent pork blade with lime pickles and summer squash fries to lobster egg foo young, all of which blends Asian technique with local flavor.
What inspired your summer menu?
We go to the market and see what they have, and we bring it back. We talk to the farmers, they’ll tell us what they will have, so we usually say that if you have it, save it for us.
Where do you shop for ingredients?
We go to the Union Square market four times a week. We go to the one in Borough Hall once a week, on Thursday. Everything is hand-carried from the farmer’s market: all the greens, collard greens, all the salad greens, all the peas, eggs. We buy a case of eggs, fish.
A lot of the dishes seem regionally inspired. Do you try to use food from the NYC area?
It’s a lot of work. You have to go there every day to look for it. The only thing as far as protein that is not that local is the shrimp is from the Gulf of Mexico. Lately we’ve been featuring shrimp from Maryland. They know what we are and what we do. They will bring it over, and if we like it, we will order.
What’s your favorite dish right now?
The Blue Moon Boat Black Bass, with sour curry and lots of summer vegetables, eggplant, okra, tempura wax beans. We also have a lot of whole fish, from the Long Island Sound. We’re selling fluke a lot because fluke is not too expensive, you have the same benefits, same nutrients. If you eat local, if you buy things local, it’s going to save you money and it also benefits your heath.
The menu seems healthier than others — tell us how the heart attack changed the way you create menus.
We only use butter for one dish, the scallops that are caramelized. We don’t use butter at all and then sometimes we use olive oil. We use more canola oil to sauté stuff, it’s not as much cholesterol, and then we’re doing a lot of steamed stuff. We watch out for the fat content, so we have a lot of grass-fed steak on the menu.
Do you cook at home, or is cooking work to you?
I have a beach house in the Hamptons, so when I’m there I don’t leave the house — I just stay in the area. I even buy the vegetables and the seafood from the farmers market [in New York] and put it in the trunk and drive out there because it’s so expensive there, and I don’t want to deal with people going out to eat. I just cut the herbs, and then I eat pretty well. Just this past weekend I had some pesto pasta, and then I had shellfish, mussels. … You can eat a lot because it’s so light.