Food review: Chôm Chôm's in SoHo
A change of scenery has enlivened the output at this bustling Vietnamese, writes Susan Jung
The move from tiny premises on Wellington Street to a bigger space on Peel Street has brought much more than just better visibility to Chôm Chôm - it seems to have brought new life to the food.
In its previous incarnation, the dinner menu was set, and the food seemed austere. While I enjoyed my meal there, I never went back because it wasn't anything I craved.
The small menu at the Peel Street incarnation is à la carte, and after my guests and I tasted a range of dishes, I could see myself making return visits - if only it weren't so difficult to get in. Chôm Chôm is open only for dinner, and they don't take bookings. We arrived at 6.30pm and were seated immediately, but by the time we left people were waiting for tables.
With almost everything we tasted, the food had bright, vivid, appealing flavours, and herbs - for the most part - are used in abundance. The grilled eggplant was topped with crab meat, egg, spring onions, mint, fresh coriander and a tart dressing (HK$98). The kaffir lime chicken and cabbage salad (HK$78) was notable for its crisp, shredded vegetables and refreshing dressing.
The pho rolls - fresh rice noodle sheets wrapped around beef (HK$78) - were tender, flavourful little mouthfuls. The VFC (Vietnamese fried chicken) wings with garlic, coriander and mint (HK$88) were crunchy and addictive.
Cha ca Hanoi, a sole fillet with turmeric, dill and vermicelli (HK$138), was a slightly toned down and far less oily version of the famous Hanoi dish.
The crisp spring rolls (HK$68) weren't bad, but each piece came with only a paltry sprig of coriander, which was surprising considering how they had been quite generous with the herbs for the other dishes. A special of chargrilled sirloin (HK$118) had quality beef that was cooked to a perfect medium rare, but it lacked seasoning.
The service was friendly, but it's not a place you can linger because you're aware that others are waiting for your table. The food is served whenever it's ready which means that dishes may pile up on the table.
Chôm Chôm, 58 Peel Street, SoHo. Tel: 2810 0850. Open: 6pm-1am (Saturday and Sunday from 4pm). About HK$260 without drinks or the service charge.