Chachawan – The hip Isaan Thai joint in Sheung wan
When I go to a restaurant, I look at the whole experience of dining out – the mood bestowed on me by its milieu, the sensibility and behavior the place evokes in its guests. Is the whole experience welcoming and warm or is it a plush, restrained and perhaps a tad bit cold?
ChaChaWan, the Isaan Thai food restaurant, which popped up at Hollywood Road in July last year took me to the laid back, relaxed world of my college canteen, several notches higher in design inspiration and uber cool in overall appeal.
Wooden stools, walls painted with Chinese graffiti, quickly but tastefully put together interiors, there is a non fussy and easy going vibe in the place which loosens you up and lets you be.
We dropped in on a week day for lunch. Ground floor being fully occupied by diners, we were ushered to the first floor by Junior, the personable and well informed restaurant manager. Chachawan (translated to English means slow slow love ) offers set menu options for lunch. One can choose any 2 dishes from the main/ sweet section. A beverage and a bowl of rice are included in the set.
Notice that there is no appetizer section in the lunch menu and this is true also for the complete menu. So we got down to the business straight away by ordering Som Dtum (pounded green papaya salad) and Gai Yung (chicken thigh marinated in Thai garlic, pepper and coriander).
Grilled to its crispy and juiciest perfection, Gai Yung was completely devourable and very easy to eat as thigh is tucked snugly in between the wooden tongs.
The chef did the shrimp-less version of Som Dtum for Kannan as she is a vegetarian. She completely loved the fresh tasting ingredients and enjoyed the explosion of sweet and tangy flavours simultaneously in the mouth.
For drinks, I ordered the Golden Triangle, a sweet and sour fruity cocktail comprising Mitcher’s rye, pink grapefruit, honey and bitters, a poison well earned after a hot yoga session in morning. Kannan enjoyed sipping on her Pomelo and pomegranate cooler.
Next dishes we ordered were Kai Jaw Moo – crisp omlet of pork, lots of spring onions served with sriracha sauce.
and Pak Poong Fai Mai Dang, stir fried morning glory with thai garlic, chilli and yellow beans.
Both the dishes tasted light, fresh and non greasy – the food that lets you jump back into work after lunch (if you want) rather than feel inundated with it.
From recipes to food presentation, the laid back appeal is brought alive by each facet of the restaurant, reflecting CCW’s commitment to the holistic approach. We finished the lunch with a bowl of Kanom Dtom, warm coconut rice dumplings floating in salted coconut cream. Kanom Dtom’s description threw me off with the word ‘salted ’ as I am not a fan of the salted twist in my dessert but have to hand it over to the chef for this delectable dessert. The taste is soft, gooey and a lingering one that gets you day dreaming of stopping by at CCW and popping one of those into dainty dumplings into your mouth.
Like most places in Hong Kong, it is much lighter on the pocket to go Chachawan for lunch rather than dinner owing to the set lunch menu priced at $118pp and an option to add on any dish at $59, much lower than the actual prices of the dishes. Average spend on lunch per person would be about 180-200 dollars if you top up the set menu with another dish. But the place is definitely worth multiple visits for its unpretentious and inspired milieu, intense, flavorful thai food served in a ‘on the go’ style and a friendly vibe and a lightness of being.
For the next casual eat out with my amigos, I may end up at Chachawan very soon.
Chachawan 206 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. Ph – 2549 0020. LIKE Chachawan on Facebook.