- Hannah Palmer Egan
- Lawrence Fong at Mandarin
Another week, another new restaurant for Winooski. When Mandarin opens at 22 Main Street early next week, it'll join newbies dessert-and-cocktail bar Sweet Babu and Drafts N Crafts, which took over part of the former oak45/Mister Sister spot in April.
Co-owners Lawrence and Joyce Fong — the son-mother duo behind Joyce's Noodle House in Essex Junction — have spent more than a year gutting and renovating the old Donny's New York Pizza & Sports Bar storefront into a sleek Chinese lounge.
The 70-seat spot takes its name from Joyce Fong's original Burlington restaurant. Its menu will offer dishes familiar to Joyce's regulars, including dumplings, crab Rangoon, salt-and-pepper pork, and beef chow fun. Fusion specials will allow the chef — who cooked at Winooski's long-loved Peking Duck House and goes simply by Hong, Lawrence Fong said — to flex his creative muscle.
To drink, barman Woody Wright-Moore is helping Fong craft a modern cocktail list. Juicy tiki drinks such as a mai tai and a scorpion bowl will appear alongside specialty martinis made with infused liquors, Wright-Moore said, since Vermont's Division of Liquor Control recently lifted a ban on inoculating spirits with flavorings such as fruit and herbs. Eight draft beers will please the hop heads. "There's no reason why a Chinese place can't have good draft beer," Fong said. "It's Vermont, so you have to know your customers."
Fong hopes his customers will also be down to hang until late in the evening. "We want to create a scene on the weekends for people to come and eat dinner," he said, "and then stay for a few drinks after dinner."
DJs will spin low-key lounge music — replaced by disco as the night wears on, if folks are feeling frisky — until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Once it welcomes its first guests next Monday or Tuesday, August 20 or 21, Mandarin will be open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner.