Masterchef alumni Khanh Ong joins the team at The George on Collins with a reimagined Asian-inspired menu.
Creating a brand new menu for an already established restaurant is a daunting task, and even more so when the new menu will feature a completely different style of cuisine. But, if anyone can do it, it’s energetic Dj-turned-Masterchef Khanh Ong. Tasked with curating a menu from scratch for The George on Collins, Ong turned to the person he trusts the most: his mum.
Having found success as an international DJ, spinning tunes all over the world for celebs like Justin Bieber, and then trying his hand in the world of fashion, it’s obvious that creativity runs through Ong’s veins. It was that flair for the creative, and impressive technical prowess, that brought Ong into Australia’s living rooms and hearts as a crowd-favourite contestant on MasterChef.
Bringing this creativity and boldness to The George, Ong has worked alongside head chef Quim Hernandez, Ong to create a menu that embraces his Vietnamese heritage and showcase the fresh and aromatic flavours of the region, with plenty of comfort food his mum makes thrown in for good measure. And what better place for the former DJ turned chef to collab than one of Melbourne’s most popular club venues?
At the recent menu launch, we were treated to some of Ong’s favourite dishes on the menu, as well as The George’s new cocktails. In keeping with the vibe of creative extra-ness, guests were treated to food and dining themed tattoos by in-demand tattoo artist Cholo, or Richmond’s uber hip Fine Line Tattoos. Ong himself took the plunge, adding to his extensive ink collection.
The Asian inspired menu starts with a series of small dishes, giving diners a taste of hawker-style street food that is perfect for dining between dances. Featuring Vietnamese favourites, like Bo La Lop – aromatically spiced beef wrapped in herbally betel leaves, and served with a deliciously salty and tangy mam nem sauce – as well as classic chicken skewers served with a sweet and sticky tamarind jam.
Moving on to a selection of medium sized dishes, that are ideal for a grazing selection that will fill you up a little more robustly than the small dishes, this is where the classic Vietnamese flavours come out to play. Heavy with coriander, lemongrass, and chilli, these dishes are richly flavoursome and refreshing demonstrating that complexity of flavour really can come from simplicity of ingredients. My favourite of the mediums is, without a doubt, the wombok spring rolls densely packed with wood ear mushrooms and vermicelli. The clean flavours of the wombok and vermicelli are the perfect canvas for the full bodied earthy umami flavour of the wood ear mushrooms.
The large dishes section is at the heart of what Ong wanted to create at The George: dishes for sharing together with the people you love. The stand out for me was the pepper caramel rockling with sliced pork belly and pork crackling. I can never go past pork crackling, and the addition of deliciously sweet and firm rockling elevated this to a surf n’ turf of the Gods. The shaking beef was another favourite, with perfectly tender beef chunks cooked in a salty and sweet marinade, served with vinegared onions and a tangy lemon pepper dipping sauce that I may have resorted to dipping my finger into once all the beef had been devoured.
The dessert menu offers up a mix of Asian and Western flavour profiles, with a classic “drunken” sticky date pudding, with a delicious whisky caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice-cream giving diners a comforting treat. The toasted coconut ice-cream served with coconut tapioca pudding, fresh mango and salted tuile calls back to the Vietnamese flavour profiles for a dessert that is indulgent and refreshing.
If dining and dancing is your perfect night out, then head to The George on Collins to try Khanh Ong’s new menu for yourself!