I recently cracked an invite to dine Chez Fong.
Fong, aka Su-yen Thornhill, is part South African, part Chinese (via Hong Kong), part chef, part comedian, part yoga guru, and part Energizer Bunny. She runs a restaurant that’s not a restaurant (don’t you dare call it a pop-up), in a dining room attached to her sprawling Houghton home, where she whips up eight courses (maybe ten, if the mood strikes her) of pan-Asian taste bud excitement every Wednesday evening.
Some dishes re-occur; others surface once and are never seen again.
Dinner Chez Fong is like a lucky packet of flavors, or a Forest Gump box of (savory) chocolates in which you never know whatchyer gonna get. It’s guaranteed to be delicious though. And you’re firmly guaranteed to laugh a lot.
Su-yen messaged me on a Tuesday, inviting me to attend her dinner the next night. There wasn’t a seat for me, she said, but I was welcome to come hang out in the kitchen and sample the food as it came out.
I accepted without hesitation. People have been raving to me about Chez Fong for months. Her dinners are quite expensive and booked far in advance.
I didn’t realize I would be forced to wear a bright yellow apron and peel a dozen quail eggs. (Have you ever peeled a soft-boiled quail egg? Trust me, it’s no picnic.) I also didn’t realize Chez Fong’s kitchen is more like a stage and I would spend the whole evening as Su-yen’s supporting actor. And believe you me, she’s hard to keep up with.
An Evening Chez Fong
In between taking pictures and peeling eggs and stuffing my face and handing out vodka shooters, I managed to incoherently write down most of the dishes. Here are my iPhone notes, verbatim:
Sushi rice with tuna in a box
Deconstructed tuna tartar
Dumplings with shiitake and pork
Deep fried green beans
Crispy duck with hoisin and lettuce leaves with steamed bun
Prawns with fennel
Salmon with snow peas and mayo with wasabi and seaweed
Sliced beef wrapped in veggies
Seaweed cooked in garlic soy
Oreo cookie dolce de leche ice cream
There’s a question mark next to quail eggs because although I went to great lengths to peel them, the eggs never made it into any of the courses. That’s how Chez Fong rolls.
Chez Fong was bedlam in the best possible way.
My feet were killing me by the end of the night but it was 100% worth it. Going forward I would definitely shell out the R500 (about $37) required to secure a seat Chez Fong. (This price may increase in 2018.) Clearly I’m not alone, as Su-yen told me she’s already booked through March and that was a few weeks ago.
I hope to see you again soon, Ms. Fong. Let me know the next time you need an egg-peeler.
Tips for Dining Chez Fong:
- As I said, Chez Fong books up well in advance. Follow her Facebook page for updates and message her there with questions and booking requests.
- Chez Fong is BYOB. Champagne corks were flying on the night I went. Come prepared and definitely Uber.
- If you want a front-row seat for the Chez Fong show, book a place at the counter. If you prefer to stay in the background, there are three or four big round tables to choose from.
- Leave your political correctness at the door. Su-yen loves bawdy humor and she refers to food allergies as “eating disorders”. That said, she will do her best to accommodate various dietary requirements if you alert her in advance.
- Go. Just go.
My dinner Chez Fong was complimentary. Opinions expressed are mine.