Food & Culture

Dan Hong is off to the races again

The Merivale chef returns to The Birdcage for Melbourne Cup Carnival, and he’s bringing a French-Asian menu to Mumm Champagne’s marquee.

By Lee Tran Lam
Dan Hong.
Merivale executive chef Dan Hong returns to The Birdcage for Melbourne Cup Carnival, and he's bringing a French-Asian menu to Mumm Champagne's marquee. "I'm excited," he says. In 2015, he produced as many as 1000 cheeseburger spring rolls a day for the Lexus pavilion; this year, his new menu includes duck rillettes banh mi, truffled stracciatella tartlets and Sichuan mac and cheese.
And he's making the most of the available bubbles. "Three of the canapés will be paired with three different Mumm Champagnes," he says. His lobster choux puff should be toasted with sparkling
Brut, the scallop sashimi goes with Blanc de Blancs, and the coconut mousse with meringue is a sweet match for Mumm rosé. It's just one way to enjoy The Birdcage this year, which has also been revamped with additions such as the Bird Bath Bar. "It's huge," he says. "A whole other world."
It's certainly a world away from Lotus, the tiny restaurant in Sydney's Potts Point that Hong will reopen this month as a pop-up. Lotus is where Hong made his name a decade ago, thanks in part to his cheeseburger, and he's keen to return to a small kitchen.
Unlike Mr Wong, where he serves up to 1000 guests a day with 50 chefs, Lotus will have a team of four who will cook for around 70 diners a night. "So many people have so many memories of the place," the chef says. "Someone told me Lotus saved their marriage!" Expect three signatures to return to the menu: the burger, hot fudge sundae and tuna sashimi (which he served at his first Melbourne Cup).
There may also be a steady stream of Netflix viewers dining at Lotus. Since his show The Chefs' Line launched on the service in July, he's gained followers from Canada to the Middle East. With new fans and a new restaurant, Hong has plenty of reasons to break out the bubbles at The Birdcage.
Melbourne Cup Carnival, 2-9 November, Flemington Racecourse, flemington.com.au
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