As you hit the doorbell outside, an inconspicuous blue door that reminds one of Hobbiton, you can’t help but wonder what will be behind. The door swings open & you’re greeted with a flight of stairs down through a Hugger Mugger. Such is the entrance to Chaiwala. The new Indian restaurant in Hong Kong that has been the talk of the town amongst Indians & non-Indians alike.
Chaiwala’s ambiance is retro with posters from ages past & table decorations of old cigarette packs stylishly laid. The long centre table is crowned with <can you remember what this was> a chandelier of cloth instantly transporting you to the heights of Lhasa.
I started my meal with The Magic Lamp, an aptly named fruit and rum punch. No sooner had the drink arrived at our table, than a series of flashes went off. Its presentation is definitely an eye catcher because of the life-size, gem studded Aladdin’s genie lamp that it is served in. I enjoyed it so much that I ordered it twice. Its not often that a cocktail has a banana flavour –and this one was an absolute joy.
We were served the tasting menu starting with a twist on the classic bhelpuri. This was topped off with beetroot yoghurt which gave it a nice tangy flavour to round out the otherwise sweet & spicy chaat. This was followed by a jal-jeera pani puri – a signature dish. The presentation of this dish set it apart from the rest & I have to say that this was one of my favourites.
This was followed by seafood specialties, Bala’s Fish Pakora’s and Lobster Nerulli. Though the actual masala coating on the fish was a bit on the milder side, the lobster was cooked to perfection in southern Indian spices and coconut milk. You can expect top quality of seafood from the restaurant.
For the vegetarian mains, we were served chargrilled malai broccoli. Personally I would’ve preferred something with paneer, but many of the other patrons I was with enjoyed this dish. For me, it diverged from the Indian momentum & it isn’t British enough for the dish to be a modern take on an age old Indian dish. However, this dish was accompanied with a generous portion of truffle naan which was a sensation for the eyes and the palette. The truffle shavings went surprisingly well with the baked bread and it was delicious on its own & with many of the other dishes.
When it came to Chaiwala’s kebabs, the Wagyu Seekh Kebab were one of the best kebabs I’ve had in Hong Kong. Succulent, soft and retaining the taste of the meat – not overpowered by all the spices. Perfect! Make sure you order one of these and tell us how good the kebabs are! The Chicken Tikka was a highlight too, but kinda paled in front of the kebabs. But, if you like chicken tikka – you won’t be disappointed.
Last but by no means least, my favourite of the night was – Paneer done 3 ways. I am a huge fan of paneer in general & the various ways in which this was marinated, grilled and served with the accompanying chutneys & raitas was fantastic. I couldn’t get enough of this dish & definitely remember having multiple portions. This is an absolute must-order.
In short, we at HKYantoYan highly recommend Chaiwala. It’s convenient location – above the rowdy streets of LKF – makes it somewhat of an escape from the daily hum drum of HK. The modern take on India cuisine surprises the palate & the casual warm ambiance immediately makes you feel comfortable. Bhojan shuru kijiyai!