Hong Kong: Chachawan and The Cupping Room

Hong Kong's Chachawan

Hong Kong’s Chachawan

I actually first heard of Chachawan (206 Hollywood Rd., Sheung Wan) because there was a buzz in Shanghai when “Chachawan” opened. Lo and behold, Shanghai’s Chachawan was a complete fraud and copycat of the Hong Kong establishment. They literally even copied the logo. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), they couldn’t copy the food and since then, the fake Chachawan has been renamed StreeThai.

I guess the positive side to all of this drama was that Chachawan came on my radar. While I was in Hong Kong, I happened to be staying close by and absolutely fell in love with the place. Chachawan doesn’t serve your “typical” Thai food and you won’t be finding your normal curry dishes or pad thai on the menu. Instead, they serve dishes from the northeastern region of Thailand, Isaan. Having never visited Thailand, I can’t vouch for the authenticity, but I can certainly vouch for its deliciousness!

My friend and I started our meal with the highly recommended Gai Yung, grilled chicken thigh. This chicken has been marinated for 24 hours in garlic, pepper and coriander and then grilled inside wooden chopsticks. The outside skin is crispy and the chicken is moist and tender. I really loved the side sauce and recommend keeping it to douse your other dishes in it. We also ordered the Yum Makuar Yaw, which was an eggplant salad topped by a giant prawn and a soft-boiled egg. The eggplant had a wonderfully smoky flavor, but still had a level of freshness with the mint and coriander. The prawn was HUGE and grilled to perfection with the meat having that hint of natural sweetness.

We were both obsessed with Khao Pad, crab fried rice with egg and spring onions. Even though it’s a simple dish, it was chockfull of crab meat and reminded me of comfort food. My favorite combination was actually taking the sauce from the Gai Yung and pouring it over the rice. I didn’t really like the sauce that comes with the fried rice. Make sure you save room in your stomach for Roti Gluay aka Thai banana pancake. This crispy roti has a beautiful glaze of condensed milk on the outside and is filled with thinly sliced bananas. I’m not even the biggest fan of bananas, but I will happily order this roti every time I go to Chachawan.

Chachawan does not take reservations and also does not let you order food for takeout. So expect a wait. On the plus side, you can grab a drink at the restaurant/bar next door (same owners) and can chill out while you wait for your table. Honestly, I really enjoyed the food and would happily wait again for a table.

Cupping Room

Hong Kong’s: The Cupping Room

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Hong Kong: Dim Sum at The Boss and the Social Place

The Boss Dim Sum

The Boss Dim Sum

I love dim sum and when my friend recommended The Boss (58-62 Queen’s Road, Central) for their truffle noodles, I knew that I had to try it for myself. Located in the basement in a building across the street from Topshop, The Boss is actually a 1-Michelin star restaurant. Based on the photos online and their website, dinner looks to be spectacular, albeit at bit expensive. Dim sum, which is only offered at lunch on the weekends, seems like a good compromise.

Not knowing what to expect, The Boss’s decor was fancier than I anticipated and also smaller. I definitely recommend making reservations because the entire place did end up filling up. The dim sum was quite good. I really liked the har gau (shrimp dumplings), the outside skin was delicate and thin, but the inside was bursting with fresh pieces of shrimp. The siu mai was also nicely executed and I like their crispy spring rolls. The real star was the truffle noodles. I know it may sound weird to have truffle in Asian food, but this dish was so simple and so tasty. It’s just noodles, bean sprouts and truffles that have been stir-fried, but there is so much flavor in each bite. The Boss’s liu sha bao (salted egg yolk custard bun) was also amazing. My only mistake was eating it last when it had cooled down and so the filling wasn’t runny like it should have been.

Hong Kong: The Social Place

Hong Kong: Social Place

Another restaurant that is more well-known for their contemporary dim sum is the Social Place (139 Queen’s Road Central, Central). The Social Place’s decor was quite modern and their big center table was actually a bright blue ping pong table. They served some really creative and pretty dim sum, including mushroom buns and rose buns. It’s amazing how realistic they make the mushroom buns look like a shitake mushroom and the filling has truffle oil inside.

The Social Place- Food

Social Place Chinese Fusion Dishes

Another signature dish is the quail, which has crispy skin on the inside and succulent meat on the inside. We ordered a few more dishes like the scallops with tea leaves and stir-fried Chinese broccoli, which was cut to look like beautiful vines. One dish that I didn’t like was the diced beef with wasabi peas and cucumbers. I didn’t really think wasabi and beef made a good combination and having uncooked cucumbers mixed in was just strange.

The Social Place is a good option if you want to take guests to have a non-traditional Chinese meal. I also like the fact that you can order dim sum at dinner too, not just lunch. Perhaps the best part is that the restaurant is in the same building at Ten Feet Tall, a great place to get foot or full body massage. So you can treat yourself to a massage and then head down a few floors to enjoy dim sum at the Social Place.

Hong Kong: Via Tokyo and BAKE CHEESE TART

Via Tokyo: Green Tea Froyo and Green Tea Latte

Via Tokyo: Matcha Green Tea Soft Serve and Green Tea Latte

One trend that I’ve noticed about desserts in Hong Kong is the recent surge of places offering Hokkaido milk. Lately, any produce coming from Hokkaido, Japan seems to be of the highest quality (like the equivalent of eating Kobe beef). Apparently the cows in Hokkaido produce a richer and smoother tasting milk thanks to the local climate and bountiful grass zones.

Via Tokyo (106-126 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay) offers matcha green tea desserts and soft serve. This tiny shop only has a few seats inside so definitely expect a short wait if you want to eat on the premises. What makes Via Tokyo so special? Their matcha green tea powder comes from Kyoto and the milk comes from Hokkaido. I had read that they offer Royal Milk Tea flavored soft serve, but unfortunately, it wasn’t available when I went. On our visit, I ordered the green tea matcha soft serve with mochi pieces and my friend ordered a green tea latte. My soft serve was creamy without being too sweet and had a distinct tea aftertaste. I really loved the latte. It was easier to appreciate the Hokkaido milk in the latte because it was smooth, creamy and rich. We were too full to order any of the other additional pastries, but the éclair and mille-feuille looked delicious.

Bake Hokkaido Cheese Tarts

Bake Hokkaido Cheese Tarts

If you don’t believe that Hokkaido dairy is taking Hong Kong by storm, then you have to check out the line for BAKE CHEESE TART in the basement of the Sogo mall (B2/F, Sogo, 555 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay). My friend and I just happened to come across BAKE CHEESE TART because we were wandering the food supermarket in the basement of Sogo. We saw a huge queue for cheese tarts and were told that the line should only take 20-30 minutes. As it turns out, our wait was 45 minutes. But, it was totally worth it.

These cheese tarts are made with three types of cheeses (2 from Hokkaido and 1 from France) and the consistency is a mix between a mousse and cheesecake. The crust was also amazing and reminded me of a cross between shortbread and a fortune cookie. It was crispy, but not flaky, with a nice crunch when you bite into it. When my friend and I ate ours, it was still slightly warm from being so freshly baked. The filling actually started to ooze out a bit. We still had a couple left and refrigerated it overnight. The next morning, we had them for breakfast and the consistency was quite different. I think that I prefer them warm, and would highly recommend reheating them in a toaster oven. So if you’re in Causeway Bay, I do recommend making a pit stop at Sogo and getting yourself from cheese tarts.

Hong Kong: Pololi and Sunday’s Grocery

Pololi Poke Bowl

Poke and Spam Musubi at Hong Kong’s Pololi

I really miss Hong Kong sometimes because I just feel that the food scene is far more exciting compared to Shanghai. I think it’s the fact that Hong Kong has more options for reasonably priced food compared to Shanghai.

I’m extremely wary about eating raw fish in Shanghai, but I’m a lot more trusting in Hong Kong. When I saw a friend post photos of the Hawaiian-style poke at Pololi (213 Queen’s Road Central; Sheung Wan), I knew that I had to go.

Pololi

Pololi Storefront

Pololi is a small take-out place nestled in Sheung Wan, just past a wet market. For your poke bowl, you can pick white or brown rice, salad or a combo of both rice and salad. You can pick up to two flavors of fresh fish too. I chose the Thai tuna and salmon combo. I really liked the lemongrass and slightly spicy flavors in the tuna and the salmon had some nice fat to round out my poke bowl. Everything was so fresh, flavorful and filling. I was pretty darn excited when I saw they also served spam musubi. If you’ve never had spam musubi before, it’s basically pan-fried spam sushi with teriyaki sauce. You can’t go wrong by ordering it.

Sundays Grocery Food

Sunday’s Grocery: Scotch Egg Sandwich, Fried Chicken and Chickpea Salad

Another exciting discovery in Hong Kong was Sunday’s Grocery (66-68 Catchick Street; Kennedy Town). I never had the chance to eat at Yardbird, but I was really excited to hear that founders opened a casual storefront in Kennedy Town. Sunday’s Grocery is part liquor store, part take-out sandwich shop. It’s a small storefront and actually could easily be missed among the hustle and bustle.

Sundays Grocery

If you can, I’d highly recommend that you visit Sunday’s Grocery on a Saturday. It’s the only time they serve their fried chicken and I think also the only time you can get the Scotch Egg sandwich. For the fried chicken, you can order original or Korean-style or half/half. My friend and I decided to get the combination of both. In Hong Kong, you can find a special breed of chicken that is extremely high quality. The chicken fat is actually yellow and not white. I was very pleasantly surprised to bite into my fried chicken and discover that it was this special breed! It was extra tasty and also tender. I actually preferred the original flavor over the Korean-style because the Korean chicken was too sweet for my liking.

I love scotch eggs and could not resist ordering the scotch egg sandwich. This was probably one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten in my life. My soft-boiled egg was deep-fried in a coating of minced meat (I want to guess it was chicken or pork). I was so impressed by everything. The egg was fried perfectly. The meat coating was seasoned and actually juicy and not dry. By having the soft-boiled egg, you had a beautiful oozing egg yolk coating each bite. The sandwich is small so I definitely recommend ordering a side of the chickpea salad. I literally do not know what they put in the chickpea salad that made it so tasty, but there were small pieces of roasted cauliflower and deep-fried falafel croutons sprinkled on top. I think I could have eaten a half-gallon of this chickpea salad.

I will admit that the prices are not cheap at Sunday’s Grocery as a sandwich is 88 HKD and definitely on the small side (I think I could eat three of them). Also, since this is a take-out place, there’s really no seating. You can either sit outside on small milk crates or stand at a very small counter for two people. It’s a no frills establishment, but definitely a place to try out in Kennedy Town.

Shanghai: YongFoo Elite and Han Mama

YongFoo Elite Garden

YongFoo Elite Garden

My mother was in town and she arranged a lunch with Chinese designer, Han Feng. Han Feng took us to the picturesque restaurant, YongFoo Elite (200 Yongfu Lu; 永福路200号), in the French Concession. YongFoo Elite is housed in an old historical manor, which over the years has served as the UK, Vietnam and Russia consulate. The house is surrounded by a beautiful garden that transports you to a different era.

Yong Foo Elite Food

Yong Foo Elite Food

Since Han Feng is a regular, she was in charge of the ordering. We had spring rolls filled with fish, fish filet pieces with bamboo, hong shao pork belly and stir-fried vegetables. My favorite dish was definitely the fish filet pieces with bamboo. The dish was so delicate with a simple fish sauce, but the fish was tender and practically melted in your mouth. Hong shao pork belly is a classic Shanghainese dish, but I really enjoyed this version. Sometimes hong shao pork belly can be overly sweet, but YongFoo Elite’s isn’t. The meat is braised perfectly and also very tender. While the spring rolls were very crisp and fresh, I wasn’t a fan of the fish-based filling. I prefer the pork/shrimp/vegetable variety instead. YongFoo Elite is a great Shanghainese restaurant to take out of town guests or someone you want to impress.

Han Mama

Han Mama

For a more casual bite, Han Mama (123 Nanyang Lu; 南阳路123号) offers affordable Taiwanese dishes in a modern and clean setting. When my friend and I went, we ordered the lu rou fan (braised pork over rice), dan dan mian (spicy sesame noodles), chili oil wontons and the beef noodles.

Han Mama Food

Han Mama Food

Lu rou fan is one of my favorite dishes and is total comfort food. There is something soul-warming about having soy-braised pork with ton of sauce over rice and reminds me of a dish my mother would make. Han Mama’s version of lu rou fan definitely did not disappoint. The dan dan mian didn’t leave much of an impression on me and I probably wouldn’t order them again. The chili oil wontons were definitely tasty and had that nice spicy and garlicky sauce to accompany it. For the spicy beef noodles, you can choose to have fat or skinny noodles. I recommend getting the fat noodles, which have a perfect consistency and a heartier texture. I personally thought that the soup base was a little weak and could have packed a little more of a punch. I was happy to see that the beef pieces actually had meat and weren’t just full of fat and tendons. Overall, it was a solid meal, the portion sizes were decent and the prices were good.

Shanghai: Brunch at Table No. 1 by Jason Atherton

Table No 1- Brunch

Table No 1- Brunch

I’m always on the hunt for a good brunch in Shanghai. A few months ago, Table No. 1 (1-3 Maojiayuan Lu; 毛家园路1-3号1楼) unveiled a new brunch menu that looked absolutely delectable.

Salmon Eggs Benedict and Raisin Scones

Salmon Eggs Benedict and Raisin Scones

True to their dinner menu, the brunch menu is also very limited. There was a small selection of egg dishes with different variations of eggs benedict or poached eggs on toast. Since I felt like I could make eggs on toast at home, I opted for the Eggs Royale, two eggs poached eggs on an English muffin with smoked salmon. The eggs were cooked perfectly and I liked that the hollandaise sauce was very light with a hint of lemon.

Table No 1- Scones

Table No 1- Scones

My mother really loves scones and I think that passion has been passed on to me. Whenever I see them on the menu, I always feel the need to order them. I was very pleased with the raisin scones at Table No. 1. Too often with scones, they are way too dense and disappointing. These were lighter and not too sweet. Proper British scones should be served with clotted cream (not butter) and these scones came with a lovely jar of clotted cream and jam. I was a happy camper.

Blueberry Pancakes with Poached Apricots

Blueberry Pancakes with Poached Apricots

I unintentionally ordered a lot of sweet dishes with the blueberry pancakes and homemade yogurt. The blueberry pancakes weren’t your classic American pancakes. It didn’t have that rich buttermilk taste. Instead of coming with maple syrup, these pancakes came with poached apricots and whipped cream. For an extra 30 kuai, you could top the pancakes with pan seared foie gras. I have had the foie gras at dinner before and I think it would have been the perfect complement to these pancakes. The foie would have added some nice extra fat to the pancakes and given it an interesting sweet and savory combination.

Table No 1- Yogurt

Table No 1- Yogurt

I really enjoy homemade yogurt and do like it sour. Table No. 1’s version was just a little too sour for me. While there’s some fruit topped on it, I felt like it needed just a bit more honey to help sweeten it up a bit.

Overall, brunch was pleasant, but it’s not my top recommendation in Shanghai. Table No. 1 is also a little far since it’s out by the Cool Docks. I don’t know if I would make a special trip to go there again. However, if you’re looking for a solid brunch and are in the neighborhood, Table No. 1 is a good option for you.