New restaurants in Hong Kong: Nahm chef David Thompson’s Aaharn – tasty yet mild Thai
- Australian chef behind celebrated Bangkok restaurant seems to have dialled down the heat at his first Hong Kong outlet
- The dishes at the Tai Kwun restaurant were full of flavour, although one was overseasoned
I’m not sure if David Thompson, the Australian chef who until recently had the Michelin-starred Nahm, in Bangkok, created a menu of Thai dishes for Aaharn that were not spicy, thinking that Hong Kong diners couldn’t take the heat, or if we just happened to choose four dishes that were very mild (two had no hint of chilli at all). There’s no indication on the menu which dishes are spicy and which are not.
Aaharn, which opened in October in the Tai Kwun complex in Central, is Thompson’s first foray into the Hong Kong market, and the restaurant was hotly anticipated.
The waitress suggested that my guest and I choose one dish from each section of the short menu. That would have been six savoury dishes – which would have been far too much for two (and it also would have been an even more expensive meal); in the end, we had four dishes plus dessert, which was plenty.
We loved the amuse bouche of ma hor – an intense, sweet-savoury mixture of chunks of pineapple and tangerine segments. The waitress said the mixture was made up of pork, prawns and peanuts, but it was so much more than that; we could taste lots of shallots, palm sugar and fish sauce.
Our favourite dishes came at the beginning and the end. First up was a nam prik (the menu described it as a “relish”), which is a whole variety of thick or thin sauces that are served with vegetables and other ingredients for dipping or eating as a condiment. This version (HK$218) was made of smoked fish with chillis, prawns and tamarind, and as with the ma hor, it had the balanced flavours of hot-sour-salty-sweet that Thai food is famous for.
The thick, rough paste came with slices of wild ginger, green mango (which we would have preferred less ripe, because the tartness would have been more refreshing) and a thin fritter of what the waitress said was “stink herb” greens.
We somehow missed the word “steamed” in the dish of steamed red curry of lobster with young coconut and Thai basil (HK$358), so it wasn’t saucy as we expected, but instead had a seafood custard known as hor mok (or hor mok pla). The custard part of the dish was mild and fragrant, although slightly dull after a few bites. We liked the thick strips of tender young coconut, but the lobster pieces on top were overcooked and tough.
Cured kingfish salad with mint and lemongrass (HK$218) was just as described. The fish was fresh, but we were hoping for more vivid, complex and spicy flavours.
We took only a few bites of the stir-fried wild mushrooms with water bamboo and ginger (HK$258) before giving up – it was far too salty.
Dessert of glacé kaffir limes and pineapple (HK$138) was almost the same as a dish I’d eaten at Nahm several years ago. It was fantastic – cool, refreshing and palate cleansing.
Aaharn, 1/F Armoury Building 02, Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Road, Central, tel: 2703 9111.
About HK$600 per person without drinks or the service charge.
While you’re in the area