A new wok

A pair of pork belly sliders come with braised pork, onions, carrots and herbs served on deep-fried lotus buns.

A pair of pork belly sliders come with braised pork, onions, carrots and herbs served on deep-fried lotus buns.

PHOTO/ALLISON YOUNG

Kwok’s Bistro is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight. Visit kwoksbistro.com.

Some have mourned the demise of downtown’s China Diner, though I’ve not been one of them. So, out with the old, only-when-you’re-drunk fare, and in with Kwok’s Bistro, a surprising new restaurant in the old China Diner location.

I started with a cup of wonton soup ($4), loaded with chopped scallion and hand-wrapped dumplings of pork, shrimp and water chestnut. This was followed by some big pork and cabbage potstickers ($6 for three). These were served with an excellent dipping sauce, but the dumplings were juicy and good with or without it.

A pair of pork belly sliders ($7) were essentially a deep-fried variant of steamed gua bao lotus buns taken to a new level. The crispy yet fluffy texture of the bun was gobsmackingly good, delivering its complement of perfectly braised pork, onion and herbs with distinction. You could open a food cart, sell nothing but these, and become famous overnight. They were spectacular.

A quarter order of roast duck with steamed lotus buns ($13) held its own, with crispy bites of succulence, a rich sauce, and buns that one friend said were, “like eating a cloud.” We also sampled the day’s special—suckling pig ($10)—yet another example of crispy, fatty goodness.

Sweet and sour pork ($11) tossed with pineapple, onion and bell pepper was nothing like the bright red stuff I’ve come to expect. It had light, fruity, zesty flavors, big chunks of al dente veggies and tender, tasty pig.

Next was some excellent Mongolian beef ($12)—stir-fried meat, mushroom, scallion, onion and spicy plum sauce—and an order of tender, stir-fried honey glazed prawns ($13) in a honey-citrus aioli. It may be the first sweet seafood dish I’ve truly loved.

Completing the course was a big plate of five spice pork ($11) with large, thin cuts of meat crusted with cinnamon, clove, fennel, anise, pepper and salt, and tossed with jalapeño, garlic and scallion. It was just a tad dry until we added its side of sauce, but was easily cut with a fork and disappeared quickly.

I really wanted to try something from the chef’s special menu of dishes with ingredients like pig stomach, blood curd and intestines. I opted for something that sounded relatively familiar, a clay pot dish of halibut collar, roast pork belly and fried tofu cake ($13). Served hot and bubbling, the pot’s contents were something else indeed. The bean curd rectangles were very smooth inside, with a wrinkly not-quite crisped exterior, and the pork was wonderful. The fish was buttery and light, though it was a bit daunting getting around all the bony bits. The seasoned, fried skin added a lot of flavor. It’s no wonder fish collar is so prized.

The last dish I ordered was congee—a type of rice porridge—with pork and century egg—a type of preserved egg ($10). The rice porridge itself didn’t have a lot of flavor other than salt and rice starch, and the pork bites were similar to what you’d find in stir-fry. But that preserved egg—wow. Yes, it was gelatinous, and, yes, it did have a bit of a cheesy funk to it. But the deep, richly flavored yolk was amazingly smooth and pleasing, completely elevating the dish in ways I hadn’t expected. I can see why this quicklime-cured item is treasured, though it’s pretty bizarre at first glance.