Chôm Chôm reborn: The much-loved Vietnamese private kitchen has re-opened with a new concept, presenting a dining experience inspired by bia hoi (meaning “fresh beer” in English and referring to the numerous cheap and cheerful street-side beer watering holes in Vietnam). Chef Peter Cuong Franklin has teamed up with the folks at Black Sheep Restaurants – who brought us Motorino and Boqueria – and together they’ve created this “new niche in Vietnamese dining”, or “Vietnamese tapas”.
The trendy bia hoi look:
It’s sleek and tiny, with 35–40 seats, an open kitchen/bar counter and booming music. With a French-inspired minimalist interior design, we particularly noted the large antique-ish ceiling fans and bold black frames that create the impression of peering into a secret kitchen garden.
Our peel-side experience:
It kicked off with golden crunchy VFC ($88) – fried chicken wings with garlic, coriander and mint – and spicy piquant bites of grilled beef in betel leaves ($88) flavoured with a heady mix of curry and peanut. Former diners at Chôm Chôm will miss his renowned steaming bowls of pho, but Chef Peter assured us that he’ll find a way to put them back on the menu. In the meantime, we’ll have to be satisfied with cold pho rolls ($78) of grilled beef, rice noodle and pickle. From the charcoal grill, the white sole fillet with dill, turmeric and vermicelli ($138) was reminiscent of a blend between meunière and tartar sauces, whilst the beef tenderloin with watercress, rocket and tasty, sweet lashings of whole-roasted baby garlic was divinely tender and delectable ($158). What we didn’t enjoy as much was the soft baby-food texture of the grilled aubergine dish with crab meat and steamed egg ($98), despite the accompanying cracker.
Don’t miss out on the salt and pepper squid with black beans and Sriracha mayo ($78). One of our faves of the night, these crispy, spicy and salty squid bites are the perfect bia hoi accompaniment.
Much to shout about bia hoi:
Are we getting old or is it harder hearing and having a conversation in restaurants these days (read: Chachawan, Fatty Crab)? At times it’s difficult to converse without leaning full-body-length over the table. Noise issues aside, while we miss our bowls of Chef Peter’s pho, we have a feeling Chôm Chôm is going to be the talk of town for months to come with its simple array of delish Vietnamese tapas. We also have a sneaking suspicion we’ll see a few more similar Vietnamese beer watering holes popping up both locally and internationally.
Chôm Chôm, G/F, Block A, 58–60 Peel Street, SoHo, Central, 2810 0850