Dragon Noodles Academy’s adds to celebration of Chinese culture
Dragon Noodles Academy joins Urban Park and Yum Cha in Dining Workshop’s stables of restaurants
Dragon Noodles Academy (DNA)’s opening in November 2016 raised the number of brands in Dining Workshop’s stable of restaurants to three. The year had earlier seen the advent of Urban Park and Yum Cha both opening outlets in Tsim Sha Tsui and Central.
The restaurant group’s founder and director is Shanghai-born Wang Zhongying, who moved to Hong Kong 25 years ago, when she organised cultural education exchanges between the mainland and Hong Kong.
“I used to arrange educational tours to Hong Kong for mainland children,” she says. “So being in the travel industry, I learnt a lot about the restaurant scene here.”
Wang loved the energy and international diversity that the city and its restaurants offered. However, she desired to eat familiar food, dishes that she missed from home, so she did something about it.
“I saw that [mainland restaurant brand] Xiao Nan Guo offered Shanghai food that was much healthier and lighter and more suitable for the local palate than the Chinese food in Hong Kong [at the time], so I decided to bring the brand to the city.” She hasn’t looked back since making that decision 16 years ago. In 2012, Xiao Nan Guo listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange.
Wang also saw the potential in Honeymoon Dessert and she decided to take the brand to China as there was nobody offering such a wide variety of desserts with the range of fruits. There are now more than 300 Honeymoon Dessert branches in China.
Wang, who is passionate about promoting Chinese culture, decided to start a new food and beverage group in 2015, so she assembled people she had worked with previously. This was the start of Dining Workshop. For their first concept, they wanted to leverage the power of young people and social media which they felt was important and could influence older generations to try new things, so they came up with the concept of Yum Cha, which offers innovative dim sum and Instagram-worthy dishes.
Urban Park opened soon afterwards, offering modern cuisine from various parts of Europe using modern techniques such as molecular and sous vide. They also wanted the concept to be unpretentious. The spacious surrounds at its Tsim Sha Tsui eatery offer a relaxed rooftop setting perfect for open-air events whereas its more indulgent Central location is adorned in black and gold with a more party feel.
Dragon Noodles Academy has attracted more attention from the media and diners due to its themed approach. Riding on the global wave of conceptual restaurants where dining is about the entire experience rather than just the food, the theme follows Wang’s passion to promote Chinese culture, with its décor a mix of kung fu academy meets Chinese medicine shop.
Diners have a lot to see while waiting for their dishes - a five-metre long golden dragon installation near the entrance and 12 lion heads reminiscent of the lion dances hang from the ceiling, and local kung fu objects stand next to a handmade copper wulu, which stores tea and craft beer. Then, there are the noodle pullers who are making fresh noodles to order, while the chefs busy themselves behind the counter of the open kitchen.
The food has met with approval too, with modern takes on traditional Cantonese and Chinese dishes such as lobster tail soup noodles, 12-hour sous-vide US bone-in short ribs or 24-hour sous-vide beef cheek in noodle soup. The char sui and Peking duck are among the best in town. “We worked with our teams from chefs to designers for half a year, from brainstorming and researching to opening the restaurant,” Wang says. “It was a team effort.”
There are plans to open more branches of DNA in Kowloon, mainland China and overseas. As the concept celebrates Chinese culture and cuisine, “we will choose signature items from the concept here in Hong Kong to bring to mainland China and maybe overseas,”, Wang says. “So we will take the noodle concept for instance and integrate that with local elements of the city we are in.” Dining Workshop also plans to open a Yum Cha branch at Langham Place this summer. “We are really just focusing on [the Academy] and Yum Cha at the moment, but we have some new concepts in the works too,” Wang adds.