Q&A with Halliday

In conversation with Dan Hong

By Amelia Ball

24 May, 2021

Celebrated chef Dan Hong of Sydney’s Merivale group drinks incredibly well, but that doesn’t stop him from loving a bargain or two. Here, he shares his favourites.

Chef Dan Hong of Sydney's Merivale group
H. Was there a moment that made you fall in love with wine? 
D. I wasn’t fully into wine until about three years ago. I was in Spain at [celebrated restaurant] Asador Etxebarri with a few Merivale guys, including our group sommelier Franck Moreau. They did the wine ordering, and we had amazing red Burgundies and Spanish wines, but there was a white that we had with their signature barbecued Palamós prawns. I took one sip and said, ‘What’s this?’ It was a white Burgundy, Domaine Roulot Meursault, and one of the best white wines I’ve had. After that, I decided to educate myself more about wine and really got into Burgundy. 

H. How important is wine for you when it comes to food? 
D. It’s super important. These days, I can’t have a meal without wine. That’s why I love casual BYO restaurants in Haymarket [in Sydney’s Chinatown], so I can take really delicious wines. 

H. What’s your all-time favourite food and wine match?  
D. I absolutely love sushi with champagne. It’s one of the world’s greatest pairings. There’s something about the vinegar from the sushi and then the raw fish that just goes so well with the fresh, light, toasty bubbles. I could have that all night.  

H. And an unexpected match? 
D. Cognac and durian. We had some XO Cognac with fresh durian, and I don’t know what it is, but it worked. Apparently it’s dangerous – there’s an Asian myth that you shouldn’t drink alcohol while you eat durian, so when people saw us doing it, they were like, ‘What are you doing?!’ Needless to say, I survived!

H. What are your favourite wine styles? 
D. My love of Burgundy hasn’t faded, so I’m into chardonnay and pinot noir. Recently, I’ve also been getting into chenin blancs from the Loire Valley. I like mineral-driven white wines that have precision and tension.

H. How would you describe your wine collection? 
D. I have a lot of white Burgundy – I love Meursault – and some red Burgundies, but not too many – they’re a lot more expensive. I do have a couple of Grand Crus, but also a lot of Village wines. And a lot of champagne. I love drinking it fresh, but I’ve got some 2008s in there, including Cristal and Dom Perignon, that are sleeping right now. My collection started off small in the house, but I recently had to move it into wine storage. 

H. Which wine region is still on your bucket list to visit one day?  
D. Burgundy! I’ve never been.  

H. What’s your post-shift drink of choice? 
D. It’s usually a negroni or Japanese whisky.  

H. What’s the oldest wine you’ve tried?
I’ve never tried anything super old, but I’ve had a 1982 Chateau Margaux with some A5 Japanese wagyu. And last year I had an ’82 Grange – it’s my birth year. 

H. Do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to wine or drinks? 
D. I love Hennessy with green tea – the sweetened, packaged green tea. It’s a classic drink in Asia at karaoke and weddings.  

H. What are your favourite bargain wines? 
D. During lockdown, when I couldn’t be drinking what I’d normally drink, I found amazing Riojas that were about $25. My go-to lower-priced Aussie wine is a Brokenwood semillon, and I also love Makkoli, Korean rice wine. 

This is an edited extract of an article that first appeared in issue #59 of Halliday magazine.
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