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One-of-a-kind: Tassis Group’s Longwang turns laneway into pan-Asian hub

One of Brisbane’s busiest hospitality groups has kicked off a big week with the opening of Longwang, a one-of-a-kind pan-Asian restaurant located in the heart of The City. This custom-built, split-level venue – constructed in a super-slender laneway off Edward Street – has a big-name chef at the helm, who is pumping out a host of flavour-packed dishes like lamb-shoulder massaman curry, stir-fried bug-tail meat ‘kung pao’ and seared scallops with strange flavour sauce and macadamia. Take a peek inside …
May 10, 2024, updated May 10, 2024

Michael Tassis isn’t afraid of a challenge, which is good, because this week has presented plenty of them. After a couple of pesky delays, Michael finally pulled back the curtain on anticipated pan-Asian restaurant Longwang on Tuesday May 7. The following day, he cut the ribbon on Fatcow’s fresh new digs on James Street.

Orchestrating two venue openings in one week is no easy feat, especially when one of them is a custom-designed, multi-level venue built from scratch inside a laneway void (measuring 3.5-m wide and 25m deep) between two commercial high rises.

Yep, true story. Longwang’s slender abode was previously a fire escape. It’s not the kind of vacancy you’d typically see on real estate websites, so it was no doubt a surprise when Precision Group approached Michael with the opportunity. As you’ve probably already guessed, Michael was game enough to have a crack at doing something most operators would consider a bit crazy.

“I knew just by looking at the space that it would be a challenge,” recalls Michael. “They have these sorts of spaces down in Melbourne or Sydney, but we don’t have this in Brisbane – and that’s kind of what drew me in. I just wanted to do something a little bit different.”

Enter long-time collaborator Callum Lui of Clui Design, who helped Michael figure out just how in the world they could build a functional restaurant under such incredibly tight space restrictions.

“When I first looked at it, I thought how am I going to pull this off?” admits Michael. “I actually said to Callum, if you don’t think it’s going to work, then tell me. He went, ‘Mate, we’ll make it work’. So we decided to go for it.”

And pull it off they have – Longwang is an ingeniously designed restaurant that makes the most of every inch of the narrow laneway’s available space. With limited room to play with on the horizontal axis, the team has decided to lean into verticality, opting for a clever split-level layout that manages to incorporate all the necessary elements of a fully equipped restaurant.

A trip to Hong Kong (including visits to venues like Grand Majestic Sichuan and Ho Lee Fook) helped the crew gather inspiration for the restaurant’s contemporary, slightly industrial aesthetic, which features black steel structural elements, jade-coloured marble accents and elegant brass embellishments.

Walk past a small alfresco area at the front into the venue proper and you’ll be greeted by the first of Longwang’s two bars. Move further in and you’ll enter the central ground-floor dining room, bracketed on either side by textured concrete walls and furnished with low-set banquettes and marble-topped tables. There are two sets of stairs at either end of the room, but if you press further ahead you’ll come across the kitchen, which boasts its own chef’s table-style counter with a strip of stools.

Double back and ascend up to the second level and you’ll come across Longwang’s private-dining space at one end (which also doubles as extra a la carte seating on busy nights) and the venue’s second bar (with its own balcony overlooking Edward Street) at the other. Finally, the third level is another dining space – this time featuring a strip of curved booths.

A red-hued retractable roof (inspired by the sails of Hong Kong’s iconic junk boats) keeps diners shielded from inclement weather. All told, Longwang comfortably cater to 90 guests, but can push to 120 seats if utilising every available perch.

Michael, who is well versed in executing modern Australian and European-inspired concepts with the likes of Rich & Rare, Fosh, Massimo Restaurant & Bar and Opa Bar + Mezze, is entering uncharted waters with Asian-inspired Longwang. Thankfully, he’s got a skilled navigator at the helm in the form of Jason Margaritis, who joins Longwang as executive chef and partner after heralded stints as executive chef at sAme sAme and head chef of Donna Chang and Melbourne’s Spice Temple.

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“I always wanted to get into Asian cuisine – it just made sense for me and where I’m at, right now,” says Michael. “When I met with Jason, he wanted to take the next step and I wanted to get into that type of cuisine. I believe he’s one of the best modern-Asian chefs around, so it was pretty much like love at first sight.”

Though broadly pan-Asian in scope, Longwang (which takes its name from the Dragon King, a Chinese water and weather god) draws a considerable amount of inspiration from Cantonese and East Asian cuisines. That said, you’ll also find Thai and Korean influences across Jason’s menu, which uses modern techniques to showcase traditional flavours in an Asian-style banquet setting.

As one expects from any Michael Tassis restaurant, seafood plays a huge role in Longwang’s offering (there are live seafood tanks with local mud crabs and Tasmanian rock lobsters in the kitchen). Snacks like tuna with cherry tomato nahm jim, seared scallops with strange flavour sauce and macadamia, and prawn-and-chive pancakes with XO sauce and katsuobushi are available alongside chicken baos with green-chilli jam and herb slaw, and pan-fried wagyu dumplings.

On the mains front, charcoal-grilled Skull Island prawns with salted duck-egg butter, tea-smoked and fried half duck, hiramasa kingfish curry, stir-fried bug-tail meat ‘kung pao’ with cashews and facing-heaven chillies, and Westholme wagyu bistro fillets make for sensational centrepieces.

Ask Michael for his favourite dish of the menu and he’ll single out the pandan kaya toast – a French toast-inspired dessert boasting fried milk bread with pandan filling, peanut crumble, condensed milk and pandan ice-cream.

Ron Almera, Tassis Group’s beverage director and sommelier, has fashioned a drinks menu that encompasses new- and old-world wines (with varieties that pair well with Asian-style flavours) and a colourful range of signature cocktails. Heading Longwang’s front of house is Daniel De Gabrielle, who brings a wealth of experience from his time working at the likes of Stanley, Longrain Melbourne and Sokyo in Sydney.

With even more openings to come, 2024 is shaping up to be a huge year for the Tassis Group. Michael is clearly unafraid to take big swings and firmly believes that Brisbane’s dining scene needs a few more ambitious ideas thrown into the mix.

“I just wanted to do something different and something unique – challenge myself a bit,” says Michael. “We need more spaces like this. We need underground restaurants and we need more quirky stuff. If we do all the right things, I think [Longwang] is a restaurant that people will say, ‘You’ve got to go there’. That’s what we’re trying to aim for.”

Longwang is now open to the public. Soon, the venue will add new lunchtime and Sunday banquet options and DJs to its offering. For now, you can get all the essential details over in the Stumble Guide.

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