Cover Tam Jai Sam Gor has opened its flagship store in Central (Photo: Tam Jai Sam Gor)

Replacing the long-standing Tsui Wah location that closed last year, this noodle chain's flagship restaurant has big shoes to fill—along with the stomachs of many late-night partygoers

There aren't many chain restaurant outlets that deserve the moniker of "iconic", but the four-storey Central branch of Tsui Wah was certainly one of them. In its 22 years of operation, the 24-hour cha chaan teng adjacent to the Lan Kwai Fong party district was the site of millions of post-clubbing meals scarfed down unceremoniously in the wee hours of the morning—inspiring the ritual of the 'Tsui Wah check' where revellers could more clearly rate their date without the influence of beer goggles, thanks to the restaurant's unrelentingly bright lights.

When this institution closed in March 2020 due to the double whammy of civil unrest and the pandemic, it marked the passing of an age of late-night eating into lore—although the closure would soon be followed by months of restrictions on the city's nightlife.

Now, as Hong Kong slowly reacquaints itself with the pleasures of nocturnal entertainment, popular noodle chain Tam Jai Sam Gor has taken over the mantle of the Wellington Street venue with its own flagship store just in time to welcome a new breed of post-pandemic partygoer. With over 70 locations across the city, the chain announced its intention to take over the lease more than a year after Tsui Wah's closure—to the tune of $450,000 paid in rent each month.

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As Sam Gor's first location in Central, the venue certainly presents a bold face: coloured in the brand's signature shades of black and maroon, the tiled facade features an eye-catching 3D lightbox sign and illuminated store window to beckon to the masses in the night.

Tam Jai Sam Gor's ever-popular selection of spicy, Yunnan-style mixian noodles will be available, although its alcohol and skewer offerings will be unique to the Central flagship. The former was developed in partnership with Young Master Brewery, which is introducing two new spicy craft beers modelled on Sam Gor's soup bases. The Wula Stout is a dark beer with notes of charred pepper, chilies, umami and chocolate, with a spice level equivalent to the '5 Mild' soup base; while the Mala Gose combines the tartness of the fermented gose style of beer with the numbing spice of green peppercorns. Now available at Circle-K stores across Hong Kong, these bespoke brews will be served at the Central restaurant from August onwards.

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Meanwhile, the grilled skewer selection includes the likes of spicy bacon rolls, spicy sliced beef rolls, portobello mushrooms, and zucchini with spicy garlic. Other Central exclusives include the Malaysian laksa-inspired 'Sasa' soup base, as well as three new toppings: sliced beef, lobster balls and cuttlefish.

While the Central branch is only open between the hours of 7.45am and 10pm as per current government regulations, there's certainly the potential for it to become an all-night destination much like its predecessor. Perhaps then, the 'Tam Jai test' will become the new gold standard to ensure a regret-free night out on the town.

Tam Jai Sam Gor, G/F, Hong Kong House, 15-19 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong

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