Madame Kwong’s is a new, upmarket Chinese restaurant in a city which sorely needs one. The cuisine focuses on Cantonese and Sichuan food, and also offers dim sum for lunch. It is probably the largest Chinese restaurant in town, well set up for functions and easily seating 300 across two floors. On the Wednesday night we visited, the lower floor of the restaurant quickly filled with both large groups (tables seating 12) and smaller groups of 4 by 7pm.
Madame Kwong’s is owned by a family friend, Vivian and her husband John. Kwong is a merger of their surnames, and the name finds its inspiration in a famous chain of restaurants in Malaysia, Madame Kwan’s. The Chinese name is Mei Shi Chien (Fine Foods at Chien’s) After some teething problems and finally getting their liquor licence, Madame Kwong’s has settled into a relaxed and efficient atmosphere. The staff are still green and struggled to make recommendations. However, Vivian is present most evenings, and is a wonderful host, making sure we had enough to eat, and suggesting some treats.
Harking to the owners’ Foochow heritage, there is a range of traditional Foochow and Cantonese pastries on offer. It’s a real nostalgic offering; I have fond memories of eating the ‘wife’ cake (lou poh piang, a flaky pastry with candied winter melon paste and sesame seeds) and ‘husband’ cake (lou gong piang, flaky pastry filled with red bean paste). The wife cake is topped with white sesame seeds, in contrast to the husband cake which is topped with black sesame seeds. These were as flaky as I remembered. Yum. There was also durian puffs, which were flaky pastry encasing a generous serving of durian, only for the aficionados.
Madame Kwong’s has an extensive menu focusing on Cantonese cuisine. Its specialty is peking duck, and the other roast meats. The array of glistening, honeyed meats are displayed tantalisingly in the window. The speciality at the Madame Kwong’s is their roast duck. The skin was fragrant and crispy, the tender meat with only a small amount of fat. This was served with a traditional plum sauce. A half portion is $20 and plenty to share for the three of us.
We started with the braised tofu on hotplate ($16). I have versions of this dish whenever I can. The crispy skin just complements the custard insides perfectly, and the savoury braise. The version at Madame Kwong’s has the softest bean curd custard; I’m amazed how the chef keeps it together in the deep-frier.
We ordered the eggplant with salted fish in claypot ($18). While the dish was tasty, I think the western eggplant with its thicker skin doesn’t lend itself to the dish as well. The eggplant pieces were also too large to be well coated with the sauce.
I’m hoping that Foochow dishes makes it to the menu. Until then, I will just have to make do with the fine foods that Madame Kwong’s serves up.
Madame Kwong’s Chinese Restaurant
155 Blenheim Road, Christchurch
Open 7 days for lunch and dinner