Life in Hong Kong has felt relatively normal these past few months. Many people are returning to the office, restaurants and bars are open, and the subway seems to be getting back to pre-pandemic crowded levels. Despite the fact that the COVID-19 case count in Hong Kong is enviably low (we're down to the single digits, with many days being 0 local cases), I am still a bit skittish about eating indoors.
My dear husband has been kind and sensitive to my worries, seeking out restaurants with outdoor patios and good food. A few weeks ago, we finally had the chance to enjoy a lovely dinner at Ruam Thai in Wan Chai, a Thai restaurant tucked away on the mezzanine level overlooking Ship Street in Wan Chai.
Al Fresco Dining + Happy Hour
The patio at Ruam Thai seems bigger than the indoor portion of the restaurant. Multiple potted plants and create a feeling of a cozy and private dining space. We didn't realize it, but we had come on a weekday evening around 6:30PM. Apparently Happy Hour doesn't end until 7;00PM. Bryan ordered a cocktail and we ordered a bottle of rose to enjoy with our spicy Thai food. It wasn't until after we ordered that the server told us "Happy Hour is buy-one-get-one free!" Bryan ended up being able to order two cocktails, and then server told us we would be able to get a second bottle of rose . . (!).
There's absolutely no way the two of us could drink two cocktails AND drink two bottles of wine. Thankfully, we were able to take one of the bottles of wine home to drink at another time. Still, it was a pleasant surprise and a nice bonus to take a bottle wine home with us!
The place is popular with both expats and locals, and we saw a mix of both when we went. One of the staff is a die-hard basketball fan, so when he found out Bryan was a lifelong Los Angeles Lakers fan, the two hit it off, spitting out basketball stats and reminiscing historic plays in US basketball.
"Your name is Bryan? Haha, Kobe Bryant! I won't forget your name . . ."
The food is very good, with authentic levels of Thai spiciness (not the typical muted Hong Kong levels of spice). I've been to Thailand multiple times, so I have a reasonable sense of what food is like in Thailand. I found these dishes generally to be pretty reflective of what I had in Thailand.
They have a "Feed Me" option where you can share a bunch of dishes family style for HKD298 a person. We've mostly only tried the a la carte menu, and have enjoyed many dishes.
Som Tum is a classic Thai papaya salad made by pounding together snake beans, dried shrimp, chili, and peanuts together with lime, tamarind, and fish sauce. I thought the version here was quite similar to the one I learned to make in a cooking class in Thailand. It was quite spicy, and I actually needed to take a break after eating it!
The Yum Som O was a lovely refreshing salad, made with perfectly cooked "bouncy" prawns mixed with shredded pomelo, roasted coconut, chili, and herbs.
The first time we dined there I voiced my fear of food that was too spicy, so the server recommended the Gaeng Phed Ped Yang, a duck leg red curry with lychee, banana chilies, and peanut. The flavors were rich and beautiful, with the lychee offering a nice sweetness to balance out the spice. Bryan loves duck, so he was really pleased with this dish as well.
Bryan used to really dislike Thai coconut curries until falling in love with green curry after trying it at one of the world's most famous restaurants, Alinea in Chicago. Since moving to Asia Bryan's palate has changed and he now enjoys curry. So, we were quite curious to try the Gaeng Kiew Wan Gai, a green curry dish with free range chicken thigh, peas, eggplant, long beans, and lots and lots of chili! It was borderline too spicy for me (and we had asked for a mild version!), and I had trouble detecting the other flavors because I was so overwhelmed by the spice. I guess I really can't handle Thai spicy!
Noodles + Bread
For fun and for a non-spicy balancing side dish, we ordered a plate of Roti Paracha, a multi-layered flatbread that you can use to "mop up a curry, or enjoy by itself." We definitely did both!
I often don't order Pad Thai because it is one of those "hit or miss" dishes. Thankfully, the version at Ruam is delicious. It was very authentic, and very similar to the one I learned to make in Thailand. The flavors were really, really good. In fact, it was one of my favorite dishes! On this menu it's called Pad Thai Kung, and consists of the classic rice noodles, prawns, crushed peanuts, dried bean curd, eggs, sprouts, and chili! I would totally order this again, I enjoyed it so much.
Multiple servers recommended to us the Pla Yang Smun Prai, a grilled whole seabass covered with a sweet, herbaceous, and flavorful paste of lemongrass, palm sugar, and chili. It was big (we took half home), but definitely was flavorful and healthy.
For dessert we had their Khao Neeo Mamuang, or Mango Sticky Rice. The mango was ripe, and this version included two types of rice, sticky rice and black wild rice. I would have preferred a saltier coconut cream, but overall it was a solid version of the dish, though I slightly prefer the more traditional one from Samsen.
Ruam Thai in Wan Chai has quickly become one we regularly frequent for a number of reasons. We love the general vibe of the outdoor patio (and still feel a bit safer eating outdoors right now). We have been enjoying the food, and still want to try many things on the menu. We've loved the happy hour discount, carting home an extra bottle of wine every time we go. We also make sure we book a 6:30PM dinner so that we can order all our drinks before happy hour ends at 7:00PM.
Most importantly, we know this has been a tough year for restaurants, so we're happy to go out more now to support these businesses, especially now that things have stabilized in Hong Kong.
This place is actually quite popular, so it's best to book ahead!
Ruam Thai Wan Chai
60 Johnston Rd, Wan Chai
(Entrance on Ship Street)
+852 3160 8535