I fell in love with the fresh, fragrant flavors of Thai food when I visited Thailand for the first time back in 2013. I took numerous cooking classes, tasted the world's best drunken noodle, sampled their glorious street food, and experienced the famous upscale Thai restaurant Nahm.
Just as I was experiencing Thailand for the first time in 2013, Nahm.-alum Adam Cliff was helping to open up Chachawan in Hong Kong.
Chachawan brought a different type of Thai food to Hong Kong, namely food from the northern part of Thailand, called Issan cuisine. Issan food is is spicy, sour, and salty. It relies on grilled meats a lot more, and uses plenty of heat and herbs but less sauces and curries. It's not as sweet as Thai food from other regions. It doesn't really use coconut milk much (which makes Bryan really happy).
Chef Adam Cliff left in 2016 to open his own place, Samsen in Wan Chai. However, Chachawan is still going strong. Run by the same folks who opened Duddell's and 22 Ships, Chachawan does not take reservations and has no service charge.
I came here one day for lunch on a weekday. The atmosphere was buzzing, and you could tell this was a very popular place.
For $138 HKD you can choose two items from a list of about 15 items, which includes mostly savory dishes but also a few desserts. My friend and I each chose two things, and then we shared all four. It was a fun way to try multiple items.
Gai Yunq is chicken thigh that has been marinated in Thai garlic, pepper, and coriander, for 24 hours and then grilled until crispy. The bold flavors of the chicken was really nice, though the meat was a bit dry.
Yum Makuar Yaw was a salad of smoky grilled eggplant, shallots, coriander, and mint tossed in fish sauce, lime juice, and a chili dressing. Final touches included a sprinkling of prawn floss on top and a beautifully cooked soft boiled egg.
The smoky grilled eggplant was super smoky, almost like overburnt food. The flavors were not exactly pleasant, and we weren't sure whether this was an intentional effect of the dish. Aside from that, the execution of the rest of the dish was quite good. The dish had quick a spicy kick, and the egg was perfect.
I am a huge fan of "larp or larb", a cold dish consisting of minced meat tossed with herbs, toasted rice, and a chili dressing. The version at Chachawan, Larp Moo, is made with ground pork and pork skin, tons of herbs (shallots, scallions, mint), toasted rice, and a spicy and tart chili dressing.
The dish definitely had a good kick; unlike many Hong Kong restaurants, this dish did bit hold back on the spice. Overall, the larp was pretty boldly flavored, tart, and quite salty. In fact, I needed the lettuce wraps and rice to tone it down. It was OK, but I personally actually liked my own version better (the one I learned how to make in Thailand), which has more herbs, fresher flavor, and is less salty and sour.
The Pak Poong Fai Mai Dang, stir-fried morning glory with Thai garlic, chili, and yellow beans, was fantastic. The vegetables were fresh, and the flavors were nicely balanced. It was my friend's favorite dish, and I really enjoyed it too.
Chachawan Hong Kong - General Thoughts
I have barely scratched the surface of this restaurant. The dinner menu is much more extensive. They offer a huge som tum (green papaya salad) section. They have salt crusted sea bass, many types of rice dishes, lots of different grilled meats, and several fun cocktails.
For us, lunch was a bit hit or miss, but there were some great flavors. I think I should definitely go back, at least during dinner, to give this place another try.
Chachawan Hong Kong
206 Hollywood Rd
This is the twenty-fifth post in the updated #50Postsin50Days – Take 2 Challenge. Other posts in this series will be added to the bottom of the original post.