Thursday, December 17, 2015

Family Style Issan Dinner

Chachawan may no longer be the newest Thai restaurant in the hippiest neighorhood in town these days, having open more than a year ago right on Hollywood Road, but it's still buzzing as ever, even on a random Monday evening that I managed to pop by for dinner with some friends who wanted to say goodbye to Chef Adam Clift on his last day there before he moves on for the next gig.

With the seven of us going as a group, we went for quite a number of different dishes, all served in family style - just came up a little short of "sweeping" the whole menu. The portion of the dishes was decent, good enough for going around with everyone getting a fair share of food. Most of the dishes were spicy but not unbearably so, and I do love the bold flavors - a good kick of spiciness and acidity which brightened up the dishes served. Chachawan was known to serve the authentic Thai dishes from the northern region, known as Issan cuisine, best known for the liberal use of spices, especially chili.

My favorite item of the evening was Kai Jiaw, the Thai crab omelet. It looked simple enough with just crabmeat and spring onions wrapped inside a slightly overcooked egg omelette, as compared to the usually runny type, but it's delicious with complex flavors. We ended up ordering this twice - partly because I had almost half of the first dish.

Almost half of the menu were dedicated to cold dishes, and quite rightly so as the few we tried were excellent, including the Yum Kai Dow, a simple salad with fried egg, Chinese sausages, asian celery, spring onions and tomatoes in a mild chili dressing. I think it pretty much has to do with the great dressings that they prepared for the different dishes, giving all of them an unique flavor.

I was told that the seafood dishes were the must-have, but we almost got "duped" into ordering two salt-grilled seabass to share, since we were told one might be too small for our big group - but turned out one was more than enough, with the gigantic fish stuffed with lemongrass, pandan and lime leaves, wrapped completely in salt and grilled in open fire. The meat worked well with the tangy chili-citrus sauce.

We had a pair of chicken dishes, the Gai Tort, which is the fried-chicken, and Gai Yong, with the chicken thigh marinated with garlic, pepper and coriander root then grilled on a wooden stick til slightly crispy. I personally liked the Gai Yong more but we finished both in no time - an indication of how delicious we thought they were. We finished with a small plate of morning glory vegetables sauteed in chili and garlic and then Khao Pad, the fried rice with crab meat, egg and spring onions.

We were quite full by the time we finished up with all the food on the table, but we still ordered three desserts to share. The one I loved most were the Coconut Icecream Guti, served in a halved baby coconut shell and topped with toasted coconuts, sweet corns and peanuts. There was a good mixture of textures and flavors.

I don't know why it took me so long to try this place but I think it won't take be too long to return. The food's casual but well-prepared and the setting was laid-back and comfortable, the type of place we can come back again and again for an easy meal.

When? December 7 2015
Where? Chachawan, 206 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Kai Jiaw - Thai Omelet of Crab, Spring Onions and Sriracha Sauce

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