Justin Wong cut his teeth at Pata Negra and Propeller before stints as sous chef at Gordon Street Garage and Shadow Wine Bar. He’s cooked in Italian-, Spanish- and Middle Eastern-inspired kitchens – and he’s combining all of these influences, while drawing on his own heritage, in his new role at Tiny’s.
“This is the first time I’ve been able to delve into my Malaysian heritage,” says Wong, who takes over from former head chef Josh Gray. “I’ve had fun having the creative licence to take a look at Tiny’s through a different lens.”
Take Tiny’s famous roast chook. The rotisserie chicken – previously served with ’nduja and bread sauce – now comes with kapitan sauce, a rich coconut-based curry synonymous with Nyonya cuisine (a blend Chinese and Malay ingredients and techniques), and spinach rice alongside salt-baked potatoes.
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As well as the all-important rotisserie, Wong’s arsenal includes a woodfired grill and kitchen garden, informing flame-licked comfort dishes such as chicken-fat flatbread, wood-grilled clams with nam jim and jamon crumb; scallop congee with XO; grilled eggplant with braised lentils and tahini; and market fish with burnt leek and dashi.
He takes five with Broadsheet to discuss his plans for the new role, his cuisine-crossing menu, and a dessert inspired by a childhood craving.
What’s your new job title?
Feuerbändinger – roughly translates to “fire tamer” in German. I guess I'd also take head chef.
Why did you decide to join Tiny's?
I always wanted to move abroad to cook. A decade later, I've only ever done this in Perth. I think I was just itching to take on something where the buck stops with me. So I took the leap; Tiny’s is my first role as head chef. Also, I like fire, and love playing with the woodfire grill and rotisserie.
Do you have any big plans or ideas for the new role?
I cringe whenever I hear the word “fusion”. I just think it's developed some bad connotations over the years. That being said, I'm always looking for a crossover somewhere. Ostensibly, what's the difference between a gyoza in Japan, a momo in Nepal, or a pierogi in Poland? Or say, meat on a stick – ubiquitous wherever you are in the world. I'm not much of a green thumb but I have friends who are so I’m hoping to enlist them to grow me some cool new things up in the garden. This may be a controversial statement but I'm a little over saltbush.
Are you bringing along any other ideas or dishes you’re known for?
During lockdown I was playing around with something. In the vault currently but maybe if I say it out loud, it'll force me to just get it up: prawn-toast ravioli.
What are some cool new dishes/ideas on the menu?
I used to crave Milo Dinosaurs as a kid. I've got a dessert on the menu that's pretty much an ode to that childhood nostalgia, and early onset diabetes.