It's little secret that the QT Museum Wellington is one of the city's favourite addresses.
This fine-art-meets-fine-food marvel boasts everything you could possibly crave during an impromptu trip to the windy city. Case in point – Hot Sauce.
Here, Dish editor Vanessa Marshall meets head chef Mark Hsiong, to discover how this delicious endeavour came about, what makes Hot Sauce one of the city's tastiest offerings and why he'll always have an affinity for his grandmother's hot pot.
When did the bar open and what was the idea behind it?
"The initial plan was to create a space, formally a carpark, with a street-edge. We’ve created a well-constructed, cocooned environment that's ideal for an Asian eating house and bar.
The finishes are hard-wearing, honest and beautiful — metal, concrete, bamboo, timber, and tiles with rich coloured rugs, fabrics, leather and unmissable red highlights. Red lighting creates an ultra-sexy mood. Wellington is a wonderful city and it’s unexpected in regard to its richness and cultural interest. You can turn a corner and find a quirky lane, an overhead lighting installation, an art mural, a hole in the wall bar – there’s an appreciation for the most bizarre and for the home-grown."
What do you draw from when you're planning your menu?
"I draw from my memories as a child, growing up in Singapore, from my travels to different countries and most importantly – my experiences as a chef. I also draw from the strengths of my team."
How did you get your start in the food industry?
"I was never good in school, at least in Singapore. I knew early on that wasn’t the path I wanted to take. My Mother was my biggest influence, on the weekends I would accompany her to the markets, exploring fresh produce and in my spare time, watch cooking shows and spend time in the kitchen with her learning Chinese cuisine.
I was always in the kitchen at home whether it was helping Mum or taking charge myself. After my national service in Singapore, I studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa, Canada. This was the beginning of my professional career."
What’s the Hot Sauce cocktail we all should be ordering?
"Hot Sauce melds classic cocktails with lesser-known Asian ingredients such as sudachi (Japanese citrus fruit), gyokuro (shaded green tea), yuzu bitters (citrus), shiso leaf (Japanese style mint), matcha (ground green tea), sake and Japanese whiskey. Our most popular cocktails are the South East Asian Mojito and Utsumi Sour (a delicious pairing of peach and gin)."
What advice would you offer a young Kiwi chef looking to make a start in the industry?
"The stronger your foundation, the taller a structure you can build."
What do you think is the most exciting new trend in Wellington hospo at the moment?
"Casual dining combined with traditional cuisine made contemporary. It’s great to see chefs from fine dining backgrounds opening or running kitchens in casual establishments, drawing inspiration from their classical training and heritage."
What’s your favourite dish to cook and why?
"I don’t have just one favourite dish to cook... However, any braised meat with a good amount of sinew that can be cooked to become soft, gelatinous and eaten with rice, tastes like nostalgia to me. It reminds me of my childhood, I love to mix steamed rice with a hearty soup, broth or stew. Also, I love hot pot; I grew up with my mother, father, grandmother and three older brothers at home, so a meal that can be shared while spending time with family is always nice."
Who is your favourite person to cook for?
"I love to cook for anyone of my friends and family. With friends and family comes honesty. I can experiment new ideas on them and they’ll give me their honest opinion – they don’t ever hold back."
What do you love about the boutique hotel experience?
"Each QT Hotel has its own sense of identity, it’s unique. I’ve found that most chain hotels I’ve come across are pretty much a carbon-copy of one another. In regards to what I love about this particular experience? I work with a small team, but a small, tight-knit team that are fiery, passionate and collaborative."
Describe the style of food at Hot Sauce in three words?
"Inventive. Playful. Nostalgic."
90 Cable Street,
Open 7 days
Monday – Saturday: 4pm until Late
Sunday: 12pm until 8pm