When I lived in Singapore, I’d make annual trips to Hong Kong for work. Even though my meetings were largely spread out around Kowloon and New Territories, I wanted to stay in Sheung Wan because it was generating buzz as the hottest neighbourhood in town. Literally, I’d seen an article in The Wall Street Journal about a year before (2012) entitled “Sheung Wan, Where Hong Kong’s Hipsters Hang Out”. One night, after getting back from my meetings, I wandered the neighbourhood and came across Chachawan. It had a cool vibe and the price was right. I got a table and had one of the tastiest (and spiciest!) meals of my life.
Chachawan opened in 2013 and is still going strong. At the weekend, it’s not unusual to see queues down the block, with people willing to line up for for the Isaan-style Thai food (from the north-east of Thailand) by Head Chef Narisara Somboon and her husband, Chef Chang Somboon, who have over 40 years of experience in the kitchen.
Recently, I visited on a Monday evening (no queue!) to try some new dishes, including Chef Narisara’s special Isaan dish of the month.
New four-course sharing menu
Chachawan has a new four-course sharing menu ($478/person) designed for groups of four and up. It’s only available for dinner and at weekend lunch and features crowd favourites in addition to a monthly rotating special Isaan dish.
While the menu will change, here are some of the crowd-pleasers that we tried on our last visit (à-la-carte prices below):
I wanted to keep the phla thale ($148) all to myself. This spicy seafood salad is a perfect blend of sweet, sour and spicy, and the seafood itself was plump and portioned generously.
The pla mauk yung ($128) with flash-grilled squid, coriander and green chilli and lime dressing is light and fresh.
Sai krok Isan ($98) isn’t seen on every Thai menu in town. These are moreish little sausage morsels, like meat candy.
The gai yang ($158), or grilled chicken thigh, is always a winner.
I think I only managed one bite of the grilled pork skewers known as moo ping ($148) – the rest of the table ate them all up!
While the massaman gai (monthly special) was simply presented, it was stunning in flavour – very rich and deep. It came with slow-braised chicken leg, roasted potatoes, peanuts and shallots, with flaky roti for dipping. Perhaps our favourite dish of the night.
If you love khao pad ($158), or Thai-style fried rice, Chachawan’s version is great, and again the portion of crab is generous.
I prefer my phad thai ($148) on the sweeter side. This hit the spot with its sweet tamarind sauce. It comes with a basket of garnishes (garlic, chilli, sugar) for those who want to adjust the flavours to their taste.
No complaints about the delicious mango sticky rice, or khao niaw mamuang ($78). The roti gluay ($78), or crispy banana pancake, took me back to the street pancakes I used to get on trips to Thailand. It’s been too long!
New group booking policy
Perhaps the only reason I ever hesitate to visit Chachawan is the eatery’s no-reservations policy. If you’re in the same boat, grab a group and go – there’s a new booking option for groups of six and up, available to book during four time slots (6–7:45pm, 6:30–8pm, 8–10pm, 8:15–10pm).
Chachawan remains one of the most popular Thai restaurants in town for good reason. The flavours are excellent, the quality is great and the prices are extremely fair. I’m already looking forward to my next visit, when I hope to try the latest monthly special!
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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