As Donald Trump astonishingly gets closer to the White House, the tower in his name in Vancouver is nearing completion. Mott 32, the “luxury Chinese” restaurant that the Trump International Hotel and Tower Vancouver will house, is set to open in mid to late fall.
The protests that have taken place at some Trump towers worldwide—including in Vancouver and New York—don’t concern Malcolm Wood, the managing director of Hong Kong's Maximal Concepts, the company behind Mott 32.
“We have already seen great excitement and anticipation from the local community here for the opening of Mott 32 Vancouver,” says Wood, who was in town recently to monitor the restaurant’s progress. “We truly believe Mott 32 is going to elevate the already reputable fine dining scene here in Vancouver by providing amazing dishes and a unique dining experience that guests have not seen in the city before.”
Maximal Concepts, which Wood runs with Xuan Mu and Matt Reid, operates several restaurants throughout Asia, with Mott 32 having started in Hong Kong. It takes its name from the first location of New York City’s first Chinese convenience store. Aside from Vancouver, Mott 32 now exists in Dubai and Bangkok as well. Specializing in Cantonese, Sichuan, and Beijing-style dishes, it has won a slew of awards, including CNN’s Best Luxury Dim Sum and Top 20 Restaurants Hong Kong by HK Tatler. Among its signature items are Peking duck and dim sum.
So what exactly does “luxury Chinese” mean when it comes to food?
“With Mott 32 what we did was try to challenge the status quo with how luxury Chinese food going was going, which was banquet cuisine in five-star hotels,” says Wood, who is half Chinese and half British. “It was very artistic and flamboyant; it was visually appealing but maybe not something you’d like to eat on a regular basis. We decided if you can’t eat it twice in a day it shouldn’t go on the menu.
“My partners and I love eating Chinese food,” he adds. “We didn’t want to create a fusion or mess with traditional recipes but wanted to honour the recipes while updating the technique. We source the best ingredients and we’re using best techniques available to execute food where the ingredient is the star of the dish. We’re not overdecorating our dishes we’re not doing as intricate plating as you would find in Michelin star restaurant. It’s honest food done at a very high level with high-level ingredients that we like to eat ourselves often done in family-sharing setting.”
Some of those techniques employed by executive chef Lee Man Sing—who has a Michelin background and used to work at the prestigious Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group-- include sous-vide and dehydrator machines. Ingredients, meanwhile, include Iberico pork and, for Peking duck, birds from a small supplier in the Fraser Valley. “I tried 58 ducks in North America to try to get right ducks for Vancouver,” Wood says. “This supplier is willing to work us with and has specifically designed the feed the duck will be eating and the amount of time it’s being raised.”
Dim sum is a menu highlight, even at dinner. “I often miss lunch because I’m working, and I’ll often get to a restaurant in the evening and think ‘I wish I had some dim sum,” Wood says.
This area of cuisine is one where Mott 32 differs from most Chinese restaurants.
“Dim sum is put in steamers and left waiting there for customers to come,” he says. “It’s given as fast food often using cheap meats. It’s a cheap dish for street food in Hong Kong. We time the exact amount of time dim sum is exposed to the steam and is made to order.”
Take a dish with quail’s egg, for example. It’s served with black truffle pork, and during preparation, it’s timed in such a way that once the meat is cooked, the egg remains soft-boiled in the middle. That’s because the egg keeps cooking during the time it takes for the plate to make it to the customer’s table. Once the lid is removed, it hardens. “We’ve worked out specific details of cooking dim sum down to the second,” Wood says. “That’s just not done with Chinese cuisines that often.”
Vancouverites can also expect dramatic décor, with design being done by Joyce Wang. The Mott 32 in Hong Kong takes diners through a fantastical tale of an immigrant’s journey, with family heirlooms, graffiti and propaganda script, antique chandeliers and one made of heavy-metal chain, hand-painted silk backdrops, mah-jong-style tables, and a room filled with more than 1,000 calligraphy brushes. It even has original Thomas Crapper toilets and vintage-style urinals.
So will luxury Chinese food come with luxury prices? Wood says there will be a range of prices, with the average cheque for lunch at Mott 32 being comparable to that at Nightingale. Items at David Hawksworth’s new place run from $8 to $45.
Wood—whose family lived in Vancouver for 17 years and who has several relatives here—says he’s excited to bring Mott 32 to one of the world’s most beautiful and beloved cities.
“I love this city; I love fishing here, I love the produce… The produce is fantastic here,” Wood says. “We’re going out now and meeting all the local suppliers, finding different produce we can use.
“Demand for Mott 32 has been quite significant—it’s an indication of how the trend is going,” he adds. “For us we’re honoured to be coming to Vancouver. We’re in a beautiful building in an iconic location.”