A Win Son Alum opens Bonnie’s, a Cantonese-American restaurant
Bonnie’s Stuffed Fish.
Photo: MÃ©lissa Hom
âI went to cooking school and worked in some places, but everything I know about Chinese cooking comes from my mom,â says Calvin Eng, a Bay Ridge native whose grandparents are. originally from Taishan, a city in southern China’s Guangdong Province. That’s why the 26-year-old chef names his first business, Bonnie’s, after his mother, and is inspired by the Cantonese dishes she cooked while growing up. Translating them into a restaurant setting took some effort: for a steamed egg custard that he’ll accessorize with pickled Sun Gold tomatoes and sherry, Eng says, âshe taught me the exact ratio of water and egg, but she measured with eggshells. “
Since leaving his post as Head Chef at Win Son, Eng has been testing Bonnie’s menu at pop-ups around the city, working on scaling and standardizing recipes for dishes like chicken. cold poached, a riff of Hong Kong-style macaroni soup in which crispy mortadella and chickpeas replace the usual Spam and frozen peas, and an ice cream sundae made with malted fried milk and hot fudge Ovaltine. Besides mom’s cooking, Eng’s biggest influences come from Hong Kong cha chaan teng, east-west diners from British colonialism, and Cantonese banquet dishes. The most elaborate dish on his menu comes in the form of whole boneless rainbow trout; he removes the meat and the chop with shrimp, water chestnuts and herbs before putting it back inside and searing the fish on all sides. âIt’s like a giant fish sausage,â says Eng, who plans to serve it with a pickled mustard condiment and lettuce leaves for wrapping.
Eng converted a former Williamsburg office space into a 46-seat dining room with a backyard, and if the menu has a whiff of nostalgia, so does the restaurant’s decor. The chef searched for specific tile shades reminiscent of those found in classic Hong Kong restaurants and set up a single large round ‘lazy Susan’s table’ at the front of the entrance. âI needed to have one,â he says. “This is what I like to eat.”
Bonnie’s, 398 Manhattan Ave., in Frost St., Williamsburg; 914-875-3709; September.