If you were to ask a handful of people who live in Sheung Wan for their favourite neighbourhood restaurant, you can bet that at least half would say Chachawan. This well-established eatery serves up authentic Isaan Thai food in a small yet lively environment. The dishes at Chachawan are unique to Hong Kong, have an interesting complexity of flavours, and are just straight-up delicious.
Despite its small size and relatively cramped space, Chachawan's atmosphere is so vibrant that it doesn't feel squished or uncomfortable. After you've experienced a meal here, you can see why this funky restaurant is busy almost all the time. Whether you want a drink from the bar at the front, or you're hunkering down for a full meal, you're sure to feel welcomed by the waitstaff and all-around good vibes from the other diners.
Starting with the Mango Chia mocktail ($50) is a good bet, if fact, it's just as good, if not better, than most cocktails we've had. The Thai iced milk tea ($45) was another favourite, though it is quite sweet, so it's best to enjoy this drink after your meal (with dessert, of course).
We started with the goong golae ($198): whole tiger prawns smothered in dry red coconut curry and grilled with pickled ginger and lime. The prawns were massive and deliciously juicy, with a good hit of spice.
Our favourite main of the evening was the khor moo yung ($158): pork collar marinated in garlic, coriander root and pepper, then grilled, sliced and served with jhim jeaw sauce. There was a large portion of succulent pork collar, and the sauce (something I had never heard of, despite my multiple trips to Thailand) was unreal. The nahm dtok nuer ($148) – spicy grilled Wagyu beef salad with shallot, coriander, mint and lime in a fish sauce and toasted rice dressing – had a bit of a lingering sour taste, though the initial flavour was pleasant. Lastly, we tried the yum makuar yaw ($178): a salad of grilled river prawns and smoky eggplant with shallot, mint and coriander in a fish sauce and toasted rice dressing. The eggplant had a very distinct smoky taste that slightly overpowered the other ingredients, though the prawns did stand out on their own.
It was love at first sight when the ice cream guti ($75) arrived at our table. Made with fresh young coconut ice cream and served with toasted peanuts and sweetcorn, this seemingly odd combination of ingredients worked perfectly. Since you can't end a Thai meal without mango sticky rice (and because it's one of my favourite Asian desserts), we also had to order the khao niaw mamuang ($75). This was just as good as the mango sticky rice we've had in Thailand, however, knowing we can get this traditional dessert in Hong Kong rather than a flight away might not be so good for our waistline or our wallet...
If you're looking for a funky, upbeat and unpretentious place to eat some authentic Thai food, look no further than Chachawan. In a city where there are far too many cookie-cutter restaurants, Chachawan stands out in a class of its own.
206 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, 2549 0020