MG Road got punked last Monday night. Monster movie posters were slapped on the walls, the lights were covered in red filters, two round red Chinese lanterns were hung above the tables near the front windows and the soundtrack was decidedly more raucous than relaxing.
The mastermind behind this diabolical transformation? Chef Elliot Moss of Admiral fame. He partnered with owner Meherwan Irani to create Punk Wok, a pop-up takeover restaurant concept that’s going to be inhabiting the MG Road space on Monday nights from “6 p.m. until the food runs out,” as the Godzilla-themed paper menu says.
If this Monday was any indication of the quality eats that are going to be coming out of the kitchen, that food will be running out pretty fast each week. The triple-fried Brussels sprouts gave the veggie a glam status it’s never seen before. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside they were bathed in a General Tso sauce that was the real deal — not the gloppy, syrupy stuff you get at fast-food Chinese joints, but a complex blend of sour, tang, fire and spice.
Braised endive sounds like a pretty highfalutin dish, but it too was punked — taken into new territory thanks to a dressing made from black vinegar, fish sauce and Thai chilis. Oh yeah, and then there was the tender candy pork shredded throughout and the crispy fried shallots presiding over the whole dish. I’ll never think of endive the same way again.
The standout dish of the night was the stir-fried sticky rice studded with kimchee, pineapple and cured smoked tofu. It was like a trip around Asia on a plate, vibrating with influences from Vietnam, Singapore and China but with the subtle smoke from the tofu landing you right here in our Southern mountains.
The drink list also got the punk treatment with offerings like the Shogun Warrior (scotch, wasabi, ginger beer, calamansi lemons, soy and lime), the Wolf Berry Punch (bourbon, honey, Wolf Berry green tea and lime) and, of course, a Zombie (lime, lemon, pineapple, passion fruit, light rum, dark rum, 151 rum, grenadine and Angostura).
According to Chai Pani/MG Road co-owner Molly Irani, her husband (Meherwan) and Moss were having as much fun in the kitchen as the largely industry-oriented crowd were having out front. “It’s just fun for them to get to blow away the boundaries of a specific Asian cuisine, not to have to stick to a straight formula and play every week,” she says.
She also mentioned that the timing for working with Moss was ideal as he’s currently waiting for things to move forward with his barbecue concept in South Slope and she and her husband were looking to create a pop-up restaurant concept on Monday nights when MG Road is typically closed. Speaking about the benefits of the pop-up concept she says: “You don’t have to raise a million dollars to have a restaurant, you can just take over a space for a night and have fun with the soul and the heart of the food and not have to take on the full commitment of a restaurant.”
Irani also revealed the biggest punk of all: You won’t be able count on the same dish every week as Moss plans to continually shake things up. There will always be a similar architecture —soup, dumplings, bahn mi, etc. — but the rest of the structure will be built from different elements every week. That is, of course, unless something proves to be such a big hit that the villagers riot and take Moss down like a giant flying insect a la Godzilla vs. Mothra (or maybe just ask him nicely). So get there soon and put in a vote for your favorites!
MG Road is at 19 Wall St. Punk Wok happens 6 p.m. until the food runs out on Mondays.