Opened by Thai chef Walaiphan Hanyut and her right-hand woman, Renee Dancel, who exceeds at front-of-house service – both formerly of Foodie fave Thai restaurant Chachawan – Krua Walaiphan is the new kid on Sai Ying Pun’s High Street, an area that is already home to an assortment of Thai grocers and restaurants.
This simple, cosy eatery hasn’t changed much in decor since its former days as a Japanese ramen shop (think bar counter, open kitchen and wooden slats), but the homey, minimalist design plays second fiddle to the scrumptious Thai food on offer.
One rainy Sunday, we paid a visit to Krua Walaiphan, and despite it being open for only a month, it was packed with (repeat) customers feasting on the chef’s authentic dishes. We highly rate everything we tried – the spices were spot on, not dumbed down and sweetened to cater to local palates, as is often the case in Hong Kong.
The starter selection is not currently on the menu, but you can order everything separately: tod man goong/prawn cakes ($98), tod man pla/fish cakes ($78), moo ping/grilled pork skewers ($128) and gai yang/BBQ chicken thighs ($158). Whether deep-fried or grilled, each dish was cooked to perfection: the prawn and fish cakes were fragrant and bouncy, the pork was smoky and savoury, the chicken thighs were juicy and tender, with that blistered, crispy skin we can’t get enough of.
The yum som o/pomelo salad ($118) was fresh and fiery, with a myriad of textures, from dried coconut to cashews, that had us going back for more. The larger pomelo chunks were a great addition to this classic Thai salad, which usually sees the pomelo shredded into tiny bits.
A Chachawan must-order, the kai jiaw/crabmeat omelette ($148) also makes an appearance at Krua Walaiphan. Asian comfort food at its best, the omelette was fried to a golden brown (we fought over the crispy edges). Our only complaint? More crab, please!
The salt-crusted whole barramundi ($188) is difficult to find in Hong Kong. Skewered with lemongrass, the flesh was soft, flaky and aromatic. We made DIY wraps using the accompanying lettuce, cucumber, fresh herbs and rice noodles. The sour-spicy sauce on the side was the cherry on top of this healthy, tasty dish.
For us, it’s not a Thai meal without a curry, and the gaeng ped gai/red chicken curry ($108) was a light and delicate version of this popular dish. The coconut flavour was particularly prevalent but not overly saccharine.
It’s hard to resist mango sticky rice for dessert, but we tried something different this time around: ice cream ga-ti sod/coconut ice cream ($78). We’d come back to Krua Walaiphan just for this dish. Served in a young coconut shell, the ice cream was a coconut lover’s dream, and we loved the toppings: big, juicy palm seeds, crunchy roasted peanuts and thinly sliced coconut flesh. Think of this as a Thai ice cream sundae.
Though humble in appearance, Krua Walaiphan has jumped to the top of our Thai restaurants list for its big flavours from a team that epitomise gracious service. Admittedly the prices are on the high side when compared to its Thai neighbours in the ‘hood, but the ingredients are of high quality and the portions are on the generous side (most dishes can be shared between 2–3 people). There are also reasonably priced weekday and weekend multi-course set lunch menus ($88–158) if you’re on a budget.
29 High Street, Sai Ying Pun, 2804 1555
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation.