Since its opening in 2016, Samsen Wanchai has consistently remained one of our go-to restaurants owing to its flavourful and authentic Thai food. Founded by Adam Cliff, formerly the chef at Chachawan, and his partner, Bella Kong, Samsen has become well known for its boat noodles and vibrant atmosphere. The hole-in-the-wall spot doesn’t take reservations, and it’s not uncommon to queue round the block. Certainly, this immense popularity has led to Samsen opening a second restaurant in Sheung Wan.
Taking over what once was a florist, Samsen Sheung Wan is noticeably larger than its Wanchai sibling and boasts high ceilings and a cool, colourful interior. Reservations are also accepted for parties of 10 or more. But the most notable difference between the two restaurants is the absence of the signature boat noodles.
While Samsen Wanchai has become synonymous with boat noodles, Samsen Sheung Wan aims to shine a light on its curry selection, namely the khao soi. A beloved dish in northern Thailand, khao soi is made with a creamy coconut milk base, crisp egg noodles and boiled egg noodles.
Aside from an exciting curry selection, Samsen Sheung Wan also offers tempting starters, an array of cocktails and fruit slushies, wok-fried dishes, dessert rotis and an entire vegetarian menu. Somehow, they manage to present a diverse range of dishes while still keeping the menu to one page.
We took a good look at what is on offer at Samsen Sheung Wan, mainly to warm up for the khao soi.
The first starter of the evening was the caramelised coconut and prawn betel leaf wraps ($88). These were full of fresh flavours, and the betel leaf along with the peanuts added a satisfying crunch.
The fried pork fritters with Thai herbs ($98) were loaded with fatty goodness, crisped to perfection and packed a bit of a punch owing to the spicy lime and toasted rice dressing.
The grilled coconut and chilli prawn skewers ($118) were well cooked, and the slightly spicy sauce was certainly moreish. However, the menu is rather prawn heavy, so we might skip these in favour of the chicken satay ($78) next time.
Now, for the moment of truth – is the khao soi ($148) worth all the fuss? We’re pleased to say that, yes, it absolutely is. Even if Samsen Wanchai is your neighbourhood haunt, it’s worth the trip to Sheung Wan just for a taste of these fantastic noodles. Served with either curried chicken (on the bone) or curried beef, Chef Cliff’s khao soi is rich, creamy and positively addictive. We loved the added crunch of the crisp egg noodles on top in comparison to the delectable chew of the egg noodles within, which are flown in from Thailand.
The aromatic curry of chicken and potatoes ($148) was tasty but a little underwhelming after the magic that was the khao soi. Ordering a side (or two) of freshly made roti ($38) is highly recommended though – these little fried sauce buckets are so beautifully buttery.
The last of the curries on offer is the spicy Southern curry of tiger prawns and betel leaf ($158). Like it says on the tin, this red-based curry with meaty prawns is by far the spiciest of the lot. However, the spice level is not overpowering, and the sauce has a lovely, creamy texture.
Pad thai is often a marker of a good Thai joint, so we simply had to try the pad thai with tiger prawns ($138). It sure is a mighty fine pad thai that doesn't‘t skimp on the prawns, tofu or peanuts. We particularly loved the crisp tofu cubes.
Moving on to dessert, the pandan and coconut dumplings ($78) are an import from Samsen Wanchai, brought over from Chachawan by Chef Cliff. They were just as delicious as we remembered, with a chewy, mochi-like casing and a dry, sweet filling.
Unique to Sheung Wan for dessert is the Thai red tea ice cream ($68), topped with coconut shavings and roasted peanuts. We knew this would be good, but we underestimated just how amazing it would actually be. Due to the ice cream’s strong tea flavour, it isn’t too, too sweet, but it is incredibly creamy.
After the savoury rotis, we were super excited to try out the dessert rotis. We opted for the young coconut and sesame roti ($88), which is drizzled with a generous amount of condensed milk. This decadent dish is on the larger side, and its combination of fried and sugary goodness makes it a rich, heavy treat, so it is definitely best shared.
With the same vibrant atmosphere as its Wanchai counterpart, fresh ingredients and flavourful dishes, we have no doubt that Samsen Sheung Wan will be just as popular. While all the dishes were tasty, the khao soi was the most memorable and promises to be the spot’s staple signature. We’ll certainly be back for these noodles and to try the soon-to-be-launched lunch menu!
23 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan, 2234 0080
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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