Chom Chom Pho Bar + Private Kitchen
2/F, 12 Wellington Street, Central
Tel: 2868 3302
Open: Monday-Saturday 11am-2pm, Friday and Saturday 7.30pm-9.30pm
Price: HK$480 for a set dinner, while the set lunch is HK$82 for starter and main course, or HK$91 if you want a drink. There is no service charge.
Ambience: it's a hike up the stairs to the second floor, but once you reach the small restaurant, the servers give a warm welcome. Most of the seating is at the high counter around the open kitchen, although there's a tiny table for two. The place seats some 23 people.
Pros: the intimacy of the space and the passion of chef/owner Peter Cuong Franklin really makes you want to like the food. Although I wasn't that impressed by lunch, mostly because the soup for the pho was tepid (it was being kept warm in what looked like a coffee urn), dinner was much better.
Cons: don't come here if you want a fast meal. My guest had only an hour for dinner, and although the kitchen tried to rush, he was only able to eat two courses before leaving. He was charged only half price.
Recommended dishes: of the five-course meal (as well as a Parisian mojito and cucumber-lime intermezzo sorbet), there wasn't anything I disliked. Highlights were the appetiser sampler, especially the fresh rice paper rolls, which had a slice of mango to balance the salty, savoury flavours, and the razor clam with spring onion and peanuts, which had sweet, tender meat. I also liked the shaking beef, although the crunchy egg noodles that accompanied the soft, juicy meat were awkward to eat because they were stiff and stuck out at odd angles. The other courses were a light lemon grass seafood pho and dessert of home-made ice cream.
What else? Dinner is served only on Friday and Saturday by reservation only, although for the rest of the week, the restaurant can be booked for groups of 10 or more.