Central, Hong Kong Restaurant

Chôm Chôm

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Since I wasn’t too wowed by their private kitchen, I wasn’t exactly in a rush to check it out when they opened their new branch in soho. Yes, I’m typically skeptical about the floor to ceiling windowed pretty hangouts; there had been too many of those popping up in the past year and mostly with little substance. Not to mention the kinda crowd they typically draw. But Cel, Lisa and I just wanted a place that’s chill, fun and convenient so we decided to check Chôm Chôm out.

All the tables were taken by the time we got to the restaurant at 7pm; Cel was waiting for us at the bar and since I was really keen on sitting at the bar to enjoy the full view of the open kitchen we gladly took the bar table. One of the pros of sitting at the bar is that you get to see what comes out of the kitchen, and you can just point and order. The sous chef explained that the lights are designed in such a way that you can take pretty pictures of the food at the bar, as well as taking pictures of the food being prepared behind the bar! How thoughtful! =)
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Given a choice, I’d always stick to room temperature or hot drinks so when I saw that there were practically no hot drinks on the menu, I ordered an “Ice tea without Ice”. Cel couldn’t stop laughing but there IS a difference between “just tea” and “Ice tea without ice”!! Tea is just plain tea but Ice tea without ice is basically ice tea with all that mint leaf and whatever herb and sugar and spice that go in minus the ice served at room temperature!

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Chôm Chôm’s menu consisted of interpretation of classic dishes and street food as well as craft beer and Vietnamese inspired cocktails. Chef Peter Cuong Franklin, who’s also the owner of Chôm Chôm private kitchen, was born and raised in Vietnam. The love of food brought this Yale graduate to Cordon Bleu and he had trained and worked at top restaurants in Chicago, Bangkok and Hanoi since then. Wanting to introduce the Bia Hoi culture (sipping freshly brewed beer on street corners while munching on street food) to HK, he turned his private kitchen into this chic neighborhood hangout.

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Salmon Tartar served with fried prawn crackers. The salmon tartar mixed with lime, salmon roe, red onion was refreshing and packed with flavors. The salmon roe added bursts of salty deliciousness to the sour and spicy dish. I loved using the crackers to spoon out the salmon tartar, adding texture to the dish

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Shaking Beef -Beef Tenderloin, Watercress & Rocket Salad. I know this dish was supposed to be eaten with rice, but the tenderloin was a tad too salty and I would prefer it to be bit more tender

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Bun Cha Pork Skewers Pork Belly, Pork Shoulder, Vermicelli, Nuoc Cham. Pork was tender and juicy on the inside, slightly charred with subtle smokiness on the outside, I usually dread having pork belly just coz I hate the texture of chunky fats. This dish was actually pretty well balanced with the nuoc cham (fish sauce mixed with lime, garlic and sugar)

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Pho Rolls Grilled Beef, Fresh Rice Noodle, Pickles, Purple Basil
The pho rolls reminds me of the Chinese rice noodle rolls (usually with char siew or shrimps inside), I din quite like the texture of this pho roll, it felt a little too thick and the texture was bit flat. The flavor wasn’t very memorable either

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We saw the chef preparing this dish and we just couldn’t stop staring so we ended up getting one for ourselves too Cha Ca Hanoi White Sole Fillet, Turmeric, Dill, Vermicelli. BEST dish of the day! The sides of the fillet were slightly crispy and added an interestingly slight chewy, caramelized texture to the tenderness of the tofu-like softness inside. I could have another order on my own

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chef: this is on the house, would you gals like to try it?
us: since you insist, we’ll take it :p
Kaffir Lime Chicken Cabbage Salad Red Onion, Jicama, Rau Ram- The fried chicken was surprisingly light, I really don’t usually eat fried stuff but this had a good balance with the cabbage salad removing any hint of greasiness in the chicken

We REALLY, like really really really, wanted to have the Viet Coffee Affogato Saigon Cinnamon Ice Cream, Caramelized Condensed Milk, Rice Krispies! Just the sound of it made me drool! But the tragedy of life is that they aren’t serving that dish that night 😥
us: WHAT?! How can you tease us with this tempting dessert on your menu and not serve it?
chef: can I at least explain why we aren’t serving it us ** covering our ears** Lalalalalalalalala
us: NO! we demand to have it! really really!!!
Chef: (-_-“) the weather is too hot and our freezer isn’t ready so we can’t serve this dish… I can give you fruit platter on the house!
us: NO!**stamp feet** we want the other one!!!!

Cel almost had to drag L and I out of Chom Chom before we throw a tandrum.. ok fine… I was exaggerating, we were very well behaved and resigned to fate after we stamped our feet. But note to self, I’m coming back for drinks and this drool inducing dessert! I heard they have really good cocktails, L had a call after and Cel wasn’t feeling very well so we opted for non alcoholic drinks instead.

The bill came up to under $300 per person which is really very reasonable for the location and the quality of food served. Thou with TBLS‘s awesome Vietnamese menu still fresh in my mind, it is a tough one to compete with. I really liked the buzzing vibe at Chom Chom, it was everything we thought we wanted, fun, casual and not overly crowded. The chefs and crew were friendly, I would highly recommend the bar table if you have just a group of 2 or 3s. It really added to the whole dining experience here, the only downside was that we kinda smelled like food after the dinner.

G/F Block A
No. 58-60 Peel Street
Central, Hong Kong
Open Monday to Sunday
6PM till late
No reservations

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Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Restaurant

Under Bridge Spicy Crab

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Having crappy crab at fatty crab really left me craving for some real seafood for days! While talking about it over brunch on Sunday, K suggested going to Under Bridge Chili Crab, “TONIGHT”!

Even though it doesn’t come close to how awesome Singaporean black pepper crab is, it is a decent substitute (there’s “No signboard HK branch” but it’s really nowhere near the real deal). I know it sounds ridiculous but quite a number of groups of friends that I hang out with actually require the use of doodle to set a date to “book” each other weeks in advance so this impromptu dinner is like a miracle on its own :p

Our group of 6 quickly expanded to a group of 11 as the day progress. All we could think of was our seafood dinner so we got a table at the earliest possible time. Surprisingly the restaurant was far from being empty at 6pm. Under bridge spicy crab started from being a dai pai dong literally under the “bridge” i.e. Jaffe road bypass, to now having three branches within a block from each other and attracting both locals and tourists to try its famous “typhoon shelter cooking style”.

We ordered their signature dish- two huge chili crab (one mildly spicy and one medium spicy), clams, some veggies, under the bridge style ribs, rice and noodles and MA PO TOFU + SWEET AND SOUR PORK (-_-“) blame the Koreans in our midst :p apparently us Chinese ordering japchae at a Korean restaurant is just as bad :p LOL
T (Korean #1): I want ma po tofu!
J (Korean #2): I want sweet and sour pork!
K: NO ONE orders ma po tofu and sweet and sour pork at a chili crab joint except for you Koreans!
T +J (T_T”): NO ONE orders japchae at Korean restaurants except for you Chinese!!
K: FINE…
I actually din bother taking pictures nor wasting space in my stomach for those two dishes.

Since most of the dishes we ordered were on the heaty side of the scale, we ordered watermelon juice to combat the heatiness, I know a lot of people don’t believe in that and dismiss it as midwives’ tales but I do whatever I can to avoid getting sore throat and pimples the next day. The restaurant was very attentive in giving us green bean soup as dessert at the end of the meal as green bean is known for its ability to “cool down” heatiness” =)

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The “crab oil” noodle was surprisingly good and light, even though there was literally nothing but noodles fried in crab oil, it was not overly greasy but full of crab flavor and the noodle was of a good bite.

The broccoli was good too, fresh and firm and each branch was lightly covered in sauce. Seriously we ate so fast, I forgot to even snap pictures of most of the food :p

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The under the bridge fried rice was flavorful with diced prawns, scallop, carrot and kailan; the texture of the rice was perfect, each grain of rice was firm yet not overly chewy. “wok hei” ** 鑊氣 is very important in Chinese dishes which require high heat to ensure shortest cooking time and retaining the freshness of the ingredients. And this fried rice definitely gets high score on the “wok hei” department!

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Sauteed Clams with Chili and Black Bean Sauce. The black beans sauce was tasty and mildly spicy without overshadowing the subtle sweetness of fresh clams.

Dishes arrived swiftly and were emptied with equal efficiency; we finished most of the dishes within less than an hour after we ordered!

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Finally, the star of the night had arrived. Unlike the saucy Singaporean chili crab, the Typhoon Shelter style chili crab was deep fried with garlic and chili and then stir fried with fresh onions and spring onions. It was then served buried under a heap of intensely flavorful garlic chili flakes and spring onion.

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{pictures from cnn}

The claw was as big as my palm and we wiped out TWO crabs in probably just 15 minutes! True story, you snooze, you lose. I asked if anyone wanted to share one crab with me if I order one more but there were no takers, sadly…. Everyone were too full. Even though the garlic flakes were packed with flavor, they did not overshadow the juicy and firm crab meat but brought out the mild sweetness of the fresh crab. The flakes were so good, we couldn’t stop picking at them. Some of us were eating it with plain rice while M and T took a lunchbox full of garlic flake home to fry rice with. Brilliant idea!

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The “under the bridge” pork rib was prepared using the same garlic flakes, it wasn’t the soft tender fall- off the bone kinda ribs but was kina chewy in a good way and the garlic flakes went really well with the juicy pork ribs. Spicy, salty and finger licking good

The bill came up to be about $300 per person, which we thought was well under our expectation. We ended the meal feeling very satisfied **rubbing tummy all around** and yes we were quite certain our bodies were gonna suffered a little after all that heaty and hearty dishes but it was well worth it =)

Under Bridge Chili Crab
Shop 1-2, G/F, 414 – 424 Jaffe Road, Causeway Bay
2573 7698
** Another good way of explaining “wok hei” was found on chowtimes. Stir frying’s “wok-hei” (breath of the wok) is strictly a Cantonese-origin concept, whereby extreme high temperatures utilized for wokking minimizes cooking times and which literally seals in the moisture and tenderness of meats and their connective tissues while ensuring more delicate ingredients such as vegetables and tofus are cooked to perfection while maintaining their textures.

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Hong Kong Restaurant

Fatty Crab

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It took me a long time to finally say yes to trying fatty crab; I’ve read lots of buzz before its opening but somehow invasion of NY names hasn’t lived up to the hype. Motorino, Boqueria, Lupa just to name a few, it seems like they don’t even try, and people think they sound uber cool just saying “ Oh you know I was just at this new restaurant, it’s really famous in NY! OMG, it’s so awesome!” SERIOUSLY?! (-_-“)

Anyways, it doesn’t help that it’s serving Malaysian cuisine. I grew up in Singapore, spoiled by the authentic no fuss Malaysian cuisine so readily available so I was very skeptical trying a New Yorker take on chili crab.

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It feels like most of the newly opened restaurants look very similar; Fatty Crab felt like a cross between Chomp Chomp, Three Monkeys and Chachawan, with the old Hong Kong style plates and mugs and raw cement walls and the black framed windows. I felt like I was slowly merging all those restaurants in my head :p I’m not so sure about the loud music, nor the virtually ZERO privacy between tables. I get that heart pumping music gives energy and adds a somewhat trendy vibe to a restaurant. But the music was almost as loud if not louder than Yardbird! We had to shout across to carry on a conversation. And the tables were so close to each other, multiple times I had stuff (I suspect it’s crab shells or sauce) landing on my arms from the tables next to me. The good news is, you don’t have to worry about the next table eavesdropping since it’s almost impossible to hear what ur friend sitting across from you is saying half the time!

At least the service was good, we tried consoling ourselves; the chap who showed us to our table was friendly and welcoming and the waitress who served us was bubbling and enthusiastic. She explained that they usually recommend two skinny (lighter dishes) and two fatty (heavier dishes) and a dessert.

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My eyes went straight to the fatty slider since I’m on my burger crave, the spiced beef burgers, sambal aioli, pickled cucumber sounded delightful, the patty was juicy but it was a definite letdown on the “sambal” department, nothing really spicy about this dish really. The burger left me so unsatisfied I ordered the burger from Chinnery at the Mandarin Hotel the very next day

Burger from Chinnery, Mandarin. hands down a much better choice
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The sea scallop was overcooked, and the acute flavor of the papaya salad totally overwhelmed the delicate subtle sweetness of scallop (if they even cooked it right). The salad itself was pretty good, spicy yet light at the same time but they are probably better off sticking to using prawns for this salad

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The watermelon pickle and crispy pork was a much better dish(might have just been by comparison to the first two dishes) the watermelon was refreshing and the crispy pork was nicely charred with the right amount of fats to meat ratio that made it tender and succulent. I was unlucky to have gotten one odd piece that had no fats in it and that felt like just chewing cardboard…

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Finally their signature dish had arrive, Chili Crab with dungeness crab, chili sauce, pullman toast. Remember to give it a good stir before starting on the dish, the fried Dungeness crab sits on the chili sauce. Chili crab or black pepper crab in Singapore is typically first fried and then stir fried in the sauce so the crab is encased in its glorious sauce so you get a taste of it with each bite of crab. Fatty Crab’s version on the other hand, leaves you in a bit of a dilemma, if you dip the chuck of crab meat into the sauce, the sauce would overshadow the crabmeat, do it without, and it becomes bit too bland. The sauce was also more salty then chili and it felt tad heavy.

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The peanut butter sundae our waitress so passionately recommended was the BEST thing we had all dinner. The peanut butter sauce, the heavenly caramel sauce and the toasted almond cookies all went very well with the ice cream. I pulled the jar towards my side slowly as J and I were talking and ended up having most of it to myself =) **Score**

The final bill came up to be about $700 per person, the un-memorable, barely average food, the overly loud music, the sardine packed table arrangement just doesn’t justify what we paid for. We did tip the waitress as her service was possibly the best part of the dinner at Fatty Crab..

Fatty Crab
Address: 11-13 Old Bailey Street
Tel:  +852 2521 2033
http://fattycrew.com

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