That's What We're Tong 'Bout
Chinese fusion restaurant capturing national attention sets Austin debut
A new fusion restaurant in Barton Springs is hoping to warm up Austinites’ hearts this fall. Zoé Tong opens November 8, bringing modern Chinese cuisine and Texan fare to the table.
A married pair of former New York chefs now living in Austin are behind this debut: Simone Tong of Little Tong Noodle Shop and Silver Apricot, and Matt Hyland of Pizza Loves Emily and Emmy Squared. This new concept digs deep into their roots; Not only is the restaurant adorably named after Tong and Hyland’s children, but it also pays homage to Tong’s Asian background and Austin itself.
The New York Times even mentioned Tong in 2023 as "the city’s most compelling modern interpreter of Chinese cuisine," via her work at Silver Apricot. The upcoming Austin eatery is also gathering buzz in the culinary world as the restaurant has been included in lists of America’s most anticipated restaurant openings this fall by both Bon Appétit and Robb Report.
"Zoé Tong is inspired by the city we now call home and our love for Chinese food," writes Tong in an email to CultureMap. "I was born in Sichuan and grew up eating Sichuanese, Cantonese, and Singaporean food, and Matt grew up in NYC, frequently eating Cantonese and Shanghainese food in Chinatown. At Zoé Tong, we draw from classics and reinvent them, offering our own personal takes using local produce."
This multicultural approach appears in dishes such as smoked ribs with char siu sauce, a whole quail stuffed with sticky rice and Chinese sausage, and flaky scallion tortillas, among many others. The menu will also feature noodle dishes, and it focuses on using seasonal and local ingredients. Along with the above menu items, which are meant to be shared, the restaurant gets comfy with creative cocktails.
"We serve modern, creative take on classics, using techniques learnt from both Asian and American cooking," writes Tong. "For example, using locally grown peppers to make chili oil and using confit for duck leg while curing it in classic spices found in Cantonese and Peking roast duck. We also did our version of General Tsao, Orange and Sesame Chicken using Blood orange juice and bone broth for the sauce with Guajillo peppers and fresh cherries."
The upcoming restaurant had a successful pop-up during the Austin City Limits Music Festival, where festival-goers had a preview of the menu featuring chilled sesame noodles, Cantonese barbecue ribs, sweet-and-spicy grilled corn, black sesame soft serve, and a boozy sake slushy.
"We had fun getting to know locals and visitors for ACL," Tong writes. "It was hectic and quite an experience, and we look forward to offering those dishes on our opening menu."
Zoé Tong opens to the public on Wednesday, November 8. Reservations can be now made via Resy. Hours of operation are Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday, and Monday from 5-10 pm, and Friday and Saturday from 5-10:30 pm.