The modern Vietnamese restaurant brings about a sense of cool to Soho
Floor-to-ceiling black-framed windows provide the storefront to Chôm Chôm, the newest addition to the Soho restaurant scene. With elements of wood seen in the chairs, tables and large mirrors that adorn every wall, the restaurant also has quite a large bar area and open kitchen off to the right. With such a tight space, the seats can sometimes be uncomfortably spaced, but the ambience is lively, young and thriving. The décor – designed by Sean Dix, also responsible for the look of Yardbird – is fitting for the neighbourhood and the rise of hipster havens around town; fitted with wood panelled walls, white marble countertops, a newly improved logo that is incorporated into the restaurant’s door handles and plates, as well as oversized light bulbs, the space borders on industrial with allusions to its Vietnamese roots.
The meal began with the restaurant’s VFC (Vietnamese fried chicken wings) served with garlic, coriander and mint. Unfortunately, there were no real punches of coriander and mint seen in the dish and the seasoning was too salty for our liking. The texture of the chicken, on the other hand, was delectable and had the salt been toned down, the wings would have been excellent. Next to arrive at our table were the beef pho rolls and the kaffir lime chicken and cabbage salad. The pho rolls were accented well with pickled vegetables and purple basil balancing the heaviness of the rice noodle and beef. The kaffir lime chicken and cabbage salad was well executed aside from the fried chicken that was incorporated in the dish. Again, the bird was quite salty and could have done with a little less seasoning so as not to overwhelm the rest of the dish. The next dish to be served was a chef special for the day, the salmon tartar with prawn chips. Served with five prawn chips, the salmon tartare mixed with dill, red onions, salmon eggs, lime and coriander made for an interesting and palate-pleasing dish. The herbs complemented the salmon exquisitely, without overwhelming the taste and texture of the tartar. The prawn chips were the perfect vehicle for the mix and the dish proved itself as a chef’s special. The last dish we were served were the bun cha pork skewers from the grill. Featuring pork belly and pork shoulder atop vermicelli, sliced carrots, cabbage and a serving of nuóc châm (a Vietnamese sauce commonly comprised of fish sauce, lime, vinegar, garlic and sugar), the pork arrived hot and tender, with a gracious amount of marinade and a generous serving of vermicelli. We attempted to order dessert by opting for the Vietnamese coffee affogato, which features a Saigon cinnamon ice cream, caramelised condensed milk and rice krispies, but unfortunately it was not available on the night.
Poisons of choice for the evening included a pho-jito (play on a traditional mojito), as well as a glass of the house sauvignon blanc and some Saigon bottled beers. The restaurant’s creative flair with cocktails was obvious, as the pho-jito was pleasantly peppery, the alternative take on the bar classic was refreshing while gentle hints of lemongrass and mint complemented the chilli very well. The sauvignon blanc, priced at HK$68 a glass, was served chilled and was a good choice to be paired with the starters of the evening. Lastly, the Saigon beers were served cold in their bottles with no glasses, and made the perfect mild and hoppy match to the main dishes of our meal.
The service at Chôm Chôm was exceptional from beginning to end. Despite how crowded and overwhelmed the restaurant was, the staff were able to greet and seat everyone who arrived at the door in a timely and friendly manner. They were able to recommend dishes for our meal and were able to rectify the mistake of a forgotten dish relatively quickly. Throughout the meal, they remained attentive and affable and we were given a warm goodbye upon leaving.
A meal for two including cocktails and wine comes to around HK$800. With a little work on the seasoning of its food, Chôm Chôm’s lively atmosphere and great service prove that it’s worth returning to.