Chef Logan Hester told me not to worry about the music and focus on the food, but my ears indeed perked up. I am tuning into a playlist of Jay-Z, A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, Gang Starr, and Brockhampton and getting lost in the sauce.
Sauce, most importantly fish sauce, is why Logan joined Chôm Chôm two-and-a-half years ago as head chef to drive a new direction for the Black Sheep restaurant. You might ask, why is a white chef from a small town in Oklahoma manning the Vietnamese kitchen? Well, he’s got a story to tell.
Logan’s early career was spent working alongside Vietnamese and Guatemalan immigrants on the pass in the American South, becoming “familiar with chilli and fish sauce”. Hooked on exploring flavours in far-flung locales, he became enamoured with Vietnam after watching Anthony Bourdain A Cook’s Tour, hearing that “a bowl of pho in the Old Quarter of Hanoi can heal a broken man’s soul” (he too had a broken soul).
A one-way flight ticket was booked for a three-month excursion into the depths of Vietnam, but that turned into five years, with Logan crafting a career in assisting restaurants and hotels with their Western food programmes. He later joined the esteemed Peter Cuong Franklin in developing his test kitchen and becoming head chef of Anan Saigon.
New challenges came calling in Hong Kong, and Logan arrived here in late 2021 to tell his story of Hanoi at Chôm Chôm.
The vibe is still funky and radical at Chôm Chôm, having undergone an extensive interior renovation and reopening in November 2023. The new menu is one to marvel at.
To begin, we huddled together around the Southern-inspired ca ri fried chicken (HKD138), infusing three-yellow chicken thighs with lime leaf and curried herbs. Glistening underneath the soft light, the curried chicken bites introduce a mellow earthy tone with the yellow curry powder and lemongrass, an ingredient Logan adores. This starter is bouncy and tinged with spice, enough to prepare us for the more salty and sour plates later on.
Up next is a star from Chôm Chôm’s roll section. The pho roll (HKD118) ushers back familiar notes to Hong Kong diners familiar with Vietnamese cuisine: umami-powered beef, good peanut crunch, nuoc cham for a sour infusion, and a scallion garnish.
Logan promised a sour and salty bite, and the roll delivers. The house-made nuoc cham is colourful, with a great balance of fish sauce and white sugar, complementing the salty beef tenderloin.
Beyond the gooey goodness that is the pho roll, we moved over to the thicker summer roll of crispy duck (HKD138), a Hanoi-style roll that packs duck mince, scallion, and sprouts into a hard shell. Wrap each roll in lettuce, pickled daikon, and carrot, and then swipe it through a salty dipping sauce. What you get is a delicate, earthy flavour with each bite – delicious!
A favourite of my dinner at Chôm Chôm was the chicken and cabbage salad (HKD128), featuring a messy mix of poached chicken, crispy shallot, kaffir lime, and a sweet, sesame-rich dressing. Each bite is balanced with the salty and gelatinous texture of the chicken, with sweetness coming from the dressing and tartness from the kaffir lime. This dish is a great example of chef Logan’s approach to Vietnamese cooking: controlled chaos with a varied levels of umami and acid.
The cha ca grouper (HKD278) brought us into the main presentation of our meal, and my God, was it good. Logan pairs galangal, turmeric, and ginger baked grouper with a refreshing green mix of dill and shallot. Just this dish alone exhibits Logan’s strength in cooking Vietnamese fare. Hidden underneath each fish is a honey-sweet onion relish that matches the salty body of the grouper and its herby coating. The dish is messy but fuses a special bond of sweet-sour-spicy that’s emblematic of the fundamentals of Vietnamese cuisine.
Our verdict of Chôm Chôm
This is Logan Hester’s Vietnamese playground, and you’re entering his space for fun. What he has created at Chôm Chôm is a package of Hanoi’s localised cuisine perfected for a Soho, Hong Kong, restaurant. The chef’s warmth emanates through the dishes that sizzle and dance in front of you at the table. Head to Chôm Chôm because you’re a sucker for old-school tunes, because you love a boozy dinner, and because you hanker for the salty, sour, and spicy flavours of Vietnam.
|Order this: la lot tartare, ca ri fried chicken, chicken and cabbage salad, cha ca grouper, crispy duck roll
Menu: Chôm Chôm menu
Price for two: HKD550–700
|Atmosphere: funky and vibing, perfectly encapsulating the Black Sheep Restaurants spirit and what a cool venue should strive to do
Perfect for: boozy explorations through the streets of Hanoi with the convenience and comfort of Soho
This review is intended to offer an individual perspective on the dining experience and should not be considered as a definitive judgement of the restaurant’s overall quality or reputation. The views expressed in this review are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions of Foodie.