My husband can eat really, really spicy. Like so spicy that his body can't actually tolerate it that well (he sweats up a storm), yet his mouth is happy and continues to want more.
In 2018 David Thompson announced he was leaving Nahm to explore other projects. Chef Pim Techamuanvivit (food-blogger turned Michelin-starred chef who was incidentally also happened to be a judge for the Project Food Blog competition I won a decade ago) took over that restaurant as executive chef.
Half a year later, David Thompson popped up in Hong Kong with the opening of Aaharn in Tai Kwun.
In many ways, Aaharn reminds us a lot of Nahm in Bangkok. His signature starter Ma Hor or "Galloping Horses" consists of pineapple triangles topped with caramelized shredded meat, palm sugar, fish sauce, garlic paste, and cilantro, and appears essentially unchanged from the version we had at Nahm years ago.
At Nahm Chef David Thompson had dug into ancient Thai cookbooks and resurrected old Thai dishes that had gotten lost. He's not afraid to add real Thai spicy to foods, and he uses liberal amounts of herbs.
This Miang of lobster with ginger, toasted coconut, and lime on betel leaves was wonderfully fragrant and refreshing.
It's hard to choose which dishes to try, so a fun way to sample a variety is to get the tasting menu (which is what you see in this post). For HKD 688 per person, you get to try a starter (Ma hor in our case), three canapes, five main dishes (including rice), and two desserts. The dishes are served family style, and it's great fun.
Add on a 3-glass wine pairing for HKD388 or 4-glasses for HKD488.
I have a soft spot for Northern Thai food, like this flavorful spicy Isaan sausage. Boy was it spicy, though!
We each got to choose our own soup. They warned us that the regular soup in the tasting menu was very spicy, so sensitive people could consider an alternative.
Bryan got the spicy one (of course!), and I went with the non-spicy one (pictured above), a lovely clear soup with mushrooms, tomatoes, and herbs.
The rest of the dishes all came out at once, scattered around the table for us to enjoy family style. Pictured above: stir fried Thai greens (morning glory) + mushrooms topped with deep fried dried shrimp.
Jungle curry of beef with tart Thai leaves and green peppercorns was flavorful but oh-so-spicy! I must confess, I couldn't really handle the heat. The food at Aaharn is most certainly MUCH spicier than spicy food at most restaurants in Hong Kong. Hong Kong chefs typically tone down spice to cater to the local palate. Although this level spice did not "destroy" Bryan the way Nahm in Thailand did, it was still very, very spicy. For me, my tongue was quite spiced out near the end of the meal and I was having trouble really tasting things, haha.
Chicken and green banana curry from Chanthaburi.
It was one of many birthday meals for me that week! I had to celebrate sequentially with very small groups due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Here they are, singing Happy Birthday while I take a photo of them!
One things I do love about Hong Kong is that chefs from all over the world love coming here to try opening a restaurant. Some stay for a long time, while others stay a few years and then leave if their concepts don't stick. There's always a new restaurant opening somewhere by someone famous. In some ways, Hong Kongers don't really have to travel the world (even though they still love doing so). The world comes to them.
It's hard to know how long David Thompson will stick around in Hong Kong. When we went to Aaharn it was "packed" (within Covid restrictions, of course!). The place certainly seemed quite popular. After all, it's in an excellent location, the food is very good, and overall it's a fun night out.
These days Aaharn is operating at 50% capacity, and they are very good about complying with all the various required steps to keep everyone safe. They also have a lovely outdoor terrace where you can dine if you don't feel comfortable dining indoors. We sat right at the edge of the large open windows, which was quite nice.
Tai Kwun is also a really cool place to visit. If you've never been there, it's a former prison and police station that's been converted into a cultural heritage center and museum together with shopping, restaurants, and bars. It's worth visiting this area and combining it with a lunch or dinner out at Aaharn.
All in all, I would certainly go back to Aaharn again, though I personally need to be more cautious about the spice levels! The food is bold, flavorful, and definitely not quite like anything else in Hong Kong.