Thai Street Food Chic at Chachawan
Sheung Wan’s Chachawan specialises in Isaan cuisine from Northeastern Thailand. The street food inspired menu is packed full of sweet, sour and spicy dishes, but without the rich and thick sauces that we typically associate with Thai restaurant staples like Tom Yum soup or green curry.
The interior of Chachawan is relaxed, with retro-funky decor and a definite hipster vibe. The interior is very much east meets west with walls adorned with antique Chinese posters and a striking pink and gold mural alongside rough walls, industrial-style furniture, hanging miners lamps and an open kitchen. The service was warm, welcoming and unfussy when we visited on a cold Hong Kong Saturday night, and we managed to head straight to a table. We would recommend heading over early though as the place gets packed later in the evening, and they don’t take reservations.
Chachawan is part of the Yenn Wong stable of restaurants that includes neighbouring 208 Duecento Otto, 22 Ships, Ham and Sherry and Duddell’s and head chef, Adam Cliff is a protégé of the Bangkok Michelin Star restaurant Nahm.
The best way to eat at Chachawan is to dive in and order a few dishes to share. In typical Thai style, the plates arrived to our table at a regular basis, giving us time to sample and enjoy each one before moving on to the next.
Top tip when ordering – don’t forget to order a bowl of sticky rice to help soak up some of the spice – all the dishes we selected really packed a punch and the rice helped to quell the burn.
The menu we chose was pretty meat heavy, but for fish lovers or veggies amongst you, there are plenty of options, and the kitchen are happy to make adjustments for non meat eaters. Although we didn’t try it, the whole salted sea bass looked like a very popular choice at the tables surrounding us.
The Nahm Dtok Nuer, or spicy wagyu beef salad with shallots, coriander, mint and lime epitomises Isaan cuisine on a plate. Hot, spicy and sour and utterly moreish, every mouth full was packed with flavour and although the spice packed a punch, it didn’t dominate or overwhelm the other flavours.
To balance the meaty dishes, we added in a portion of Pak Poong Fai – stir fried morning glory with garlic, chilli and yellow beans. The vegetables were cooked perfectly with a good crunch, and acted as the perfect complement to the rest of our meal.
Although the majority of the dishes that we selected were dry, we did try the Khao Hom Maliee, a hot and spicy broth packed with chilli and tender pork rib. A real winter warmer, if you don’t like eye-watering spice, then make sure you watch out for the whole dried chillies floating in the broth!
Another stand-out dish was the Moo Yung – chargrilled Iberico pork, marinated in thai garlic, coriander and pepper and tossed with chilli, garlic and lime. The dish managed to combine all the strong flavours, along with a hefty kick of spice but as with the wagyu, the pork’s flavour was not lost.
Continuing on our meat feast journey, next to arrive was the Gai Yung; chicken thigh marinated for 24 hours in garlic, pepper and coriander, then grilled till crispy and served on a stick, and served with jhim jeaw for dipping. The sauce was so good, I could have eaten it with a spoon, but as my dinner companion considered that the height of rudeness, I made do with saturating the tender chicken in this addictive sweet, salty and sour sauce.
Despite the appeal of the dessert menu that includes sticky rice with mango and home made ice creams, we were just too full to manage another mouthful, but that’s a great excuse to go back again soon. This is by far one of the best Thai meals I’ve ever eaten anywhere, and the combination of great food, relaxed vibe and welcoming service makes Chachawan one of my favourite restaurants in Hong Kong.
Verdict: 5 stars
Dinner for two including gin and tonics and beers came to $965. Service wasn’t included but we didn’t hesitate to leave a tip – after all, good service is worth acknowledging.
Address: Chachawan, 206 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan
We were not paid for this review. All views are 100% our own.