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About this blog

thisgirlabroad is an expat living, working, and eating her way through Hong Kong, and traveling throughout South East Asia without any plans to slow down. 

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thisgirlabroad
figaro

Figaro is another one of Central’s hidden gems: a quaint French wine bar. If you love good wine, Figaro boasts an extensive wine collection, all stored in an impressive wine cellar on the second floor. Aside from good drinks, Figaro recently launched an incredibly good-value food menu, thanks to Chef Jon Irwin, where the majority of dishes are all under HK$150. Figaro is a breath of fresh air in Hong Kong’s dining scene and makes for an enjoyable fuss-free evening of food and drink.

Vibe At Figaro

figaro - interior

If you’ve wandered around Sheung Wan (technically Google Maps says it’s in Central, but I’d say it’s Sheung Wan), it’s likely you’ve walked right past Figaro and didn’t even know it. From the outside, Figaro appears to be a tiny bar with only a few small tables, but upon walking in, the inviting atmosphere, charming decor, and friendly staff manage to open the whole restaurant up. The ground floor is a great spot to enjoy a drink while people-watching, or if food is what you’re after, the second floor offers an intimate dining area.

Mains

figaro - Langoustine TartareLangoustine Tartare & Cucumber Consomme (HK$115)figaro - pollockPollock, Asparagus, Oyster & Gin Emulsion, Salmon & Herring Roe (HK$140)figaro - Sweet & Sour LambSweet & Sour Lamb Two Ways (HK$145)

We began with the stunning Langoustine Tartare & Cucumber Consomme (HK$115), of which our server came around to pour the cucumber consomme into the dish. Though it was difficult to actually taste the langoustine given the strong cucumber flavour, the dish was light and refreshing. The consomme almost tasted like Genie Juicery’s Sawadekah (which brought back memories of my juice cleanse [AKA three days of torture]). The Pollock, Asparagus, Oyster & Gin Emulsion, Salmon & Herring Roe (HK$140) was my favourite dish of the evening. The fish was cooked perfectly, and the flavours and textures complimented each other incredibly well. Our final main was the Sweet & Sour Lamb Two Ways (HK$145) with apple, shiso, and gherkin. Though not necessarily the most photogenic dish, the lamb “meatball” had a variety of textures and the lamb slice hiding underneath added a bit of variety to the dish.

Dessert

figaro - Deconstructed Tarte TatinDeconstructed Tarte Tatin (HK$85)figaro - Poached White Peach, Lemongrass SorbetPoached White Peach, Lemongrass Sorbet (HK$85)

Despite the beautiful presentation, I unfortunately wasn’t a huge fan of the desserts at Figaro. The Deconstructed Tarte Tatin (HK$85) had black garlic tones that were a bit overwhelming. The Poached White Peach, Lemongrass Sorbet (HK$85) with cardamom mousse and smoked cream was full of subtle flavours and smooth textures that balanced the dish out well.

Verdict

If you’re looking for a restaurant with a little more personality to go to for a drink or a bite to eat, Figaro is a great option. The cozy and welcoming environment, and high-quality yet still reasonably priced food make Figaro stand out among the competition.

Figaro 
2 Shin Hing Street
Central
Hong Kong

Tel: 2757 1777


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thisgirlabroad
Mak Mak - Exterior

Thanks to Mak Mak, you can now head to the oh-so fancy Landmark building in Central, Hong Kong to get delicious food at reasonable prices. Executive Chef Mumu, a native from Thailand, has cooked up a variety of authentic Thai dishes with a modern flare that thankfully don’t cost a fortune. Though heading to the Landmark for dinner might not be the first place that comes to mind when choosing a restaurant, the quality of food, and spacious and inviting atmosphere make Mak Mak a strong contender in Hong Kong’s extensive restaurant scene.

Vibe At Mak Mak

Mak Mak - Interior

Despite the deceptively small front entrance that looks more like a Thai mini grocery store/takeaway shop than an actual restaurant, the interior dining area is roomy, comfortable, and full of little surprises. With a seemingly random assortment of art and decor surrounding the tables, there’s lots to catch the eye.

Appetizers

Mak Mak - Hor Muk SalmonHor Muk Salmon (HKD$128)Mak Mak - Poo Nim Phad Phong Ka RiPoo Nim Phad Phong Ka Ri (HKD$198)

We began with the beautifully presented Hor Muk Salmon (HKD$128). The spicy steamed salmon matched perfectly with the coconut dressing. While we did enjoy the souffle, the ratio of salmon to souffle was a little off, meaning much of the souffle was left untouched. Despite the Poo Nim Phad Phong Ka Ri (HKD$198) being listed under the Mains section of the menu, we decided to start with this wok-fried crispy soft shell crab with a bed of yellow curried sauce of egg. The crab was fried to a crispy exterior, leaving the crab inside soft and juicy. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the scrambled egg curry sauce, others at our table really enjoyed it.

Mains

Mak Mak - Phad ThaiPhad Thai (HKD$128)Mak Mak - Massaman LambMassaman Lamb (HKD$208)Mak Mak - Pla Krapong Nueng ManowPla Krapong Nueng Manow (HKD$268)

We had to try the Thailand classic Phad Thai (HKD$128) with grilled prawns and tofu. Although this dish was five times more expensive than the phad Thai you can find in Thailand, it was quickly devoured by all. We liked that this dish came with a tray of four different spices and sauces to add to the noodles, making it easy to share.  While the Massaman Lamb (HKD$208) would be a perfect winter dish to warm you up, we loved it just as much during Hong Kong’s humid summer. The aromatic massaman curry of slow braised lamb shank and roasted baby potatoes was a treat for all senses, especially with the addition of cinnamon sticks. To finish up, we all shared the Pla Krapong Nueng Manow (HKD$268); steamed sea bass with a three-flavoured dressing. The sea bass was both fresh and refreshing, thanks to the lime and coriander, and was the perfect ‘light’ option to balance out excessive amount of carbs we’d already had.

Dessert

Mak Mak - Khao Neaw Ma MuangKhao Neaw Ma Muang (HKD$98)Mak Mak -Coconut Ice CreamCoconut Ice Cream (HKD$88)Mak Mak - I-tim Khanom PangI-tim Khanom Pang (HKD$88)

As a self-confessed mango sticky rice fanatic, I had to try the Khao Neaw Ma Muang (HKD$98). The mango chunks were fresh and juicy, and I liked that they kept a small bowl of coconut cream on the side, so you could add more depending on how sweet you wanted the dish. Very similar to Chachawan’s Ice Cream Guti was Mak Mak’s very own Coconut Ice Cream (HKD$88) with sticky rice and roasted peanuts. I loved this dessert just as much as the one from Chachawan, though I especially liked the addition of sticky rice, as it made the dish’s texture more complex. The I-tim Khanom Pang (HKD$88) was an intriguing mix of Thai milk tea ice cream (that tasted exactly like the Thai milk tea drink I had) between a raisin bun. Because we were all sharing the desserts (and because we were absolutely stuffed by this point), we ate the ice cream, but left most of the bun. Be sure to leave a bit more room at the end of your meal to fully enjoy and devour the range of desserts at Mak Mak.

Verdict

Mak Mak’s authentic dishes bring the flavours of Central Thailand [with a modern twist] to your plate, making this a great dinner option for your taste buds and your wallet. The extensive menu leaves little to be desired and the helpful staff can offer you a handful of suggestions based on your preferences if you find the menu slightly overwhelming (’cause everything sounds so damn good!). Aside from the food, the general atmosphere of the restaurant is cool, spacious, and inviting. I don’t often feel compelled to revisit many restaurants I try in Hong Kong, but I can certainly say that it won’t be long before I find myself returning to Mak Mak.

Mak Mak
Shop 217A
2/F, Landmark Atrium 
Central
Hong Kong 

Tel: 2983 1003


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giando

Giando is likely familiar to most of us living in Hong Kong from their former location in Wan Chai in Fenwick Pier. Relocating to the increasingly popular Star Street location, the modern Italian restaurant remains devoted to sourcing and serving only the finest ingredients. While their a la carte options are drool-worthy, what you should really come to Giando for is the weekend brunch. This is one of the few semi-buffet brunches in Hong Kong where the quality, freshness, and taste of the dishes at the buffet (and, of course, the mains) were flawless. For only HKD$338 (includes buffet + main + dessert), heading to Giando for brunch is a must-try.

Vibe At Giando

White table cloths and minimal decor mark the interior of Giando. While nothing strikes the eye as particularly intriguing or unique, the food more than made up for the restaurant’s simplicity. There is a large floor-to-ceiling window that spreads across the front of the restaurant, allowing for plenty of natural light to seep into the dining area, and private tables sectioned off in the back of the restaurant, perfect for larger parties.

Buffet Spread

giando brunch giando brunch 2 giando brunch 3

The buffet spread during brunch at Giando is one of the more impressive ones I’ve seen in Hong Kong (and trust me, I’ve been to my fair share of buffet brunches here). There was an ample selection of dishes and you could clearly tell the focus was on quality ingredients. My favourites from the buffet were the variety of tomatoes (there were six!), the ricotta and stracciatella cheese, and eggplant parmesan, though I really did thoroughly enjoy everything I tried.

Mains

giando lasagnaHomemade Spinach Lasagnagiando gnocchiGnocchi with Octopus Ragout

Unlike many other semi-buffet brunches that only have a handful of mains to choose from, Giando offers an impressive list of main courses ranging from “light” choices, “primi” pastas, and “secondo” meat and seafood. Besides having over 15 choices of mains, we were also impressed with how large the portion sizes were (especially the pasta dishes), how beautifully presented each dish was, and how good the food was.

Dessert

giando panna cottaPanna Cottagiando tiramisuTiramisu

Choosing a dessert was just as difficult as choosing a main course; with seven dessert options I literally wanted to try them all. After some serious deliberation, we settled on two Italian traditional desserts: the panna cotta and tiramisu. The panna cotta was creamy and had just the right amount of mixed berry sauce without overpowering the dish. The homemade tiramisu was authentic and spot-on both in flavour and texture.

Verdict

If it wasn’t obvious enough from the above, I’ll put it simply: if you love brunch (let’s get real, who doesn’t love a good weekend food-fest?!) and Italian food, then Giando is a no-brainer. We were all thoroughly impressed by the quality of food at the buffet and the general care and consideration that goes into sourcing their ingredients from boutique farms and shops throughout Italy thanks to founder Gianni Caprioli. Moreover, most of their main course a la carte dishes are between HKD$200 – 300, so you really are getting great value when coming to Giando for brunch.

The Deal

Set Brunch: HKD$388 (buffet counter + main course + dessert)
Buffet Only: HKD$288
Free Flow Add-on: HKD$158 for Bianco Vigna (Prosecco) or HKD$208 for Conntadi Castaldi (sparkling wine) 

Giando
G/F, Tower 1 Starcrest
9 Star Street
Wan Chai 
Hong Kong 

Tel: 2511 8912


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bohol dumaloan

Having done a fair bit of travelling throughout South East Asia in the last four years, I’ve realized that there should be an order in which you visit countries. For example, Thailand should be first on the list: it’s cheap, easy to navigate, incredibly tourist friendly, and there’s a wide range of things to do and see. Somewhere like the Philippines could easily be second. I had previously traveled to El Nido, Palawan and Boracay, where I went on some of the most incredible island hopping tours and woke up to an immaculate white sand beach every morning. So, heading to Bohol for my third trip to the Philippines was, to be honest, a bit of a disappointment.

1. Panglao Island doesn’t compare to other Philippine destinations

IMG_0114Island hopping tours in El NidoPanglao Island Hopping - Virgin IslandIsland hopping tours in Panglao Island

Visiting Panglao Island, Bohol for your first Philippines trip is a great idea. Visiting Panglao Island, Bohol on your second or third trip to the Philippines.. Not so much. To put it simply, Panglao Island has a lovely beach (Alona), but it can’t compare to the likes of Boracay. When I was at Alona Beach, it felt like it was trying to be something it wasn’t; namely, Boracay. Unfortunately, it just couldn’t quite get there. The beach doesn’t have immaculate white sand, the nightlife is rather obsolete, and the overall atmosphere is a bit lackluster.

2. Lack of options in terms of things to do (sightseeing, nightlife)

There are a handful of thing to do in Panglao Island, Bohol like a Countryside tour where you can see the beautiful chocolate hills or jet off on an unfortunately forgettable island hopping tour. Aside from this, there’s not that much to do on the island. Sure, there’s other beaches you can visit or you can spend the day diving, but at the end of the day, nothing really stands out. When the sun sets, after you’ve had dinner, there are one or two bars you can go to, but they aren’t very good and they attract a “particular” crowd. If you enjoy a fun night out (and not necessarily a wild one), you’ll likely be disappointed.

3. Alona Beach is quiet. Almost too quiet

If you’re wanting a very quiet vacation where you can head to the beach and be practically undisturbed, then Alona Beach is your answer. While I did enjoy this for the first day or so, it became boring real fast. During the day there’s not many people on the beach, which is likely appealing to those who like peace and quiet while traveling. I would normally feel the same, but after a day or two, the vibe just felt off, and I thought to myself, “there has to be a reason why this beach isn’t busier..”.

At the end of the day, I would recommend Alona Beach, Panglao Island, Bohol to individuals who have yet to travel to the Philippines. That being said, if you’ve traveled extensively throughout South East Asia, you likely won’t be impressed. 

 


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thisgirlabroad
bohol sunset

Panglao Island, Bohol is a good destination for those who are looking for an easy to get to short beach holiday. Panglao Island is a less developed version of Boracay, which for some might be great as it’s not as crowded (though it certainly looks like it’s becoming that way) or Westernized. However, that also means there’s not quite as much to do. In an attempt to fit as much as possible into a vacation, here are 10 things to do in Panglao Island, Bohol; from lounging on the beach and eating fresh seafood, to exploring Bohol during the day and watching a fire show at night.

Here are my personal picks of the top 10 things to do in Panglao Island, Bohol:

1. Soak up the sun on Alona Beach

bohol alona beach

Since you are on an island, heading to the beach is a given. Most people who stay on Panglao Island find accommodation on or close to Alona Beach, the most popular beach on the island. You can rent beach chairs for the day, grab a fresh fruit smoothie at one of the numerous cafes and restaurants along the beach, and, of course, take a dip in the water to cool down.

2. Trip around Bohol on the Countryside Tour

bohol countryside tour

Wanting to get out of Panglao Island for the day to explore the highlights of Bohol? Then spend a day on the Bohol Countryside Tour where you’ll see the Chocolate Hills, Tarsier Sanctuary, and much more. Though you can book a group tour, I highly recommend renting a driver for the day to take you around to the sights you’d like to see. This way, you’ll have complete control over how long you want to stay at each destination, and whether you want to skip an attraction or make a separate stop somewhere else on the island.

3. Cool off with organic ice cream from The Buzzz Cafe

bohol buzz cafe bohol ice cream

This Bee Farm turned organic cafe has two small locations on Alona Beach (as well as two others in Bohol). You’ll find the first stall on your way down the narrow road to Alona Beach (right beside the car park), serving only ice cream. The other shop, which is also a cafe with seating upstairs, is at the end of Alona Beach and serves ice cream as well as organic food throughout the day. Expect traditional flavours such as coconut, mango, and salted honey, as well as unique flavours such as ube (purple sweet potato), peanut kisses (a local chocolate/peanut candy), pandan, and durian. One scoop is 50 PHP (about HKD$8).

4. Enjoy a fresh grilled seafood dinner on the beach

bohol dinner

When the sun begins to set, you’ll see all of the restaurants along Alona set up for dinner service by putting tables and chairs out on the beach. By 6:00 pm or so, large displays of freshly caught seafood from that day will be laid out in front of the restaurants along the main strip of the beach. All you have to do is pick your catch of the day and they will grill and serve it to you while you dine with your toes in the sand.

5. Take a tuk tuk to Dumaloan Beach

bohol dumaloan bohol dumaloan beach

If Alona Beach is a bit too crowded for you, or if you just want to check out a different beach on Panglao Island, Dumaloan is a popular option.. But not with tourists. You’ll mainly find locals who come to this beach to relax and set up a picnic under one of the many shaded tables. The beach itself is quite long and worth a walk up and down in search of starfish and seashells. Depending on where the tuk tuk drops you off, you might have to pay an entrance fee of 30 PHP (HKD$5) to get onto the beach.

6. Go on an island hopping tour

Panglao Island Hopping - Virgin Island

Another popular tourist activity is the island hopping tour that forces you out of bed at sunrise to (hopefully) catch a glimpse of some dolphins. Then you’re off to snorkel on Balicasag Island, ending with a walk around The Virgin Island. While this wasn’t a tour I would personally recommend given my unpleasant experience, I have read many other blogs and reviews about it that were quite positive. Just be sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into before going on the tour.

7. Head to the beach for a midday massage

bohol massage

What’s better than an hour-long massage? An hour-long massage on the beach. There are a few beach massage locations as you walk down the beach. Be sure to haggle a bit with them for a good price; a 45-minute foot and leg massage will set you back between 200 – 300 PHP, depending on your negotiating skills and the time of day. If getting a rather public massage on the beach isn’t your thing, then you can book a massage at one of two massage shops along the road down to Alona (just be sure to make a reservation ahead of time, as they do fill up at night).

8. Listen to live music while watching a fire show

bohol fire show

After you’ve devoured your seafood feast on the beach, stick around to watch a live fire show performance to the beat of some local instrumental music. If you’ve ever seen a fire show in Thailand, it’s pretty much the same thing.. Guy with two swinging pieces of fire carrying out some impressive tricks.

9. Head out for a day of scuba diving

Many people head to Panglao Island for the diving, as it’s said to be really good. Though I never personally went diving while I was there, you’ll find plenty of diving schools located on Alona Beach where you can sign up for a fun day dive or complete a diving course if you have the time.

10. Drink all the San Miguel’s

bohol beer

A staple of just about any holiday (or at least my holidays) is drinking, and when you’re visiting a country where a bottle of beer is almost as cheap as a bottle of water, there’s not real choice between the two. San Miguel is the Philippines’ drink of choice, so be sure to have one, a few, or a whole lot of these refreshing and delicious brews while you’re visiting whether on the beach, in a bar, or in your hotel room.


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maison eight - champagne

Hong Kong’s food and beverage industry is saturated with a variety of bars, restaurants, and clubs; upscale and casual. Maison Eight’s concept attempts to roll all three, and then some, into one sky-high location in Tsim Sha Tsui. Calling themselves an “all day, all night” destination, Maison Eight has four different areas designed to suit all needs: a French restaurant, “Esmé”, a ballroom, a cocktail bar opened by Salvatore Calabrese, and a private room, “Le Club 1829”, on the top floor. The following review of Maison Eight is based solely on my experience dining at the French restaurant, Esmé.

Vibe At Maison Eight

maison eight - interior

The dining area was unexpectedly formal in a stuffy and outdated sort of way, as opposed to a modern and stylish way. Basically, not at all how I had envisioned the atmosphere. Despite the lackluster vibe, the views of the city are top-notch (that is, if you can get a table by the window) and our waitstaff were informative and attentive (though it did take quite awhile for our drinks to come).

Drinks

maison eight - champagneChampagne by the glassmaison eight - swan cocktailThe Sharing Swan (HK$728)

Nothing starts a night off better than a glass of champagne and a killer view of some of Hong Kong’s iconic harbourfront. Aside from the champagne, the drink menu at Maison Eight is incredibly extensive, which we loved because of the variety of options, but that also meant we had trouble deciding what to order (everything sounded so good!). Every cocktail we ordered was pretty much flawless, but the icing on the cake was when we “accidentally” ordered a beyond-massive sharing cocktail: The Sharing Swan (HK$728). Yes, yes, I know. It says “sharing” in the name, so we probably should have realized that it wasn’t meant for one person, but we were solely focused on all the delicious ingredients and based our cocktail ordering off of that alone. Thankfully, we had no regrets, because this sharing cocktail, filled with Absolut Elyx Vodka, lychee liqueur, cassis liqueur, fresh lemon and apple juice, peach bitter, and Jacques Picard Champagne, was worth every penny.

Appetizers

maison eight - scallop

We began with the beautifully presented King Scallops (HK$178). The scallops paired well with the anis sauce, however, the large crispy bacon pieces didn’t match with the texture of the other ingredients. Despite this, the overall flavour of this dish was good.

Mains

maison eight - veal

As soon as we read about the Grilled Veal Cutlet (HK$468) stuffed with mozzarella, basil, and semi-dried tomato, we had to order it (’cause anything with cheese stuffed inside of it is a winner in my books). The only issue we had was that there wasn’t enough cheese in the middle nor a prominent cheese taste to the dish. In a similar fashion to our starter, we expected a lot more from this dish given its price.

Dessert

maison eight - brownie dessert

The Warm Bitter Chocolate Tart (HK$88) came as a bit of a surprise, as it looked more like a brownie than a tart. Unfortunately, we weren’t really moved by this dish, mainly due to the chocolate tart being quite dry and crumbly. We did, however, like the pistachio ice cream which also helped to moisten the chocolate tart.

Verdict

Overall, I’m a bit on the fence with Esme at Maison Eight. The service was good (though it did take awhile to receive our drinks from the bar), the presentation of the dishes was highly commendable, the cocktails were great and were good value, and the views were a big bonus. On the other side, though the dishes were good, they just didn’t stand out, and if you’re going to be dropping some serious bills on dinner, you’d expect to be eating a blow-your-mind meal. I would, however, highly recommend going to Maison Eight to grab a few cocktails in either their lounge area or on their outdoor terrace while listening to some live jazz music.

 

Maison Eight
21/F, 8 Observatory Road
Tsim Sha Tsui
Hong Kong

Tel: 2388 8160

 


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butchers club steak

With private dining being an evermore popular option for diners in Hong Kong, one of the older and more well-known establishments is The Butchers Club Private Kitchen. Though slightly out of the way, tucked in the south of the island in Tin Wan, this dining experience is well-worth the trip (and the price tag). This is a meal you want to ensure you arrive hungry for, as you’ll be feasting on an array of some of the best seafood and meat you’re likely to find in the city.

Vibe At The Butchers Club Private Kitchen

butchers club private kitchen 2 butchers club private kitchen

You’ll likely think you’re lost as you approach the industrial building that The Butchers Club Private Kitchen is located in, but fret not. When you enter through the large white door, you will find yourself surrounded by simple, almost rustic decor on one side of the room and a large open-space kitchen on the other. You’ll be introduced to the chefs who explain the dishes you’ll be having and the server ensures your glass is never empty. The feeling is intimate and homey.

Hors d’oeurvres

butchers club amuse boucheHouse made Wagyu Pastrami on a rye bagel / Caviar and cured coral trout on a potato blini

We began with an amuse bouche that was presented in a hollowed-out old book. The house made wagyu pastrami on a rye bagel with house made butter and onion jam looked simple enough, yet the fine flavour of the pastrami and onion jam combined together to make this a bagel I could eat everyday for lunch. Alongside the bagel was the caviar and cured coral trout on a potato blini with sour cream and dill. The ingredients were slightly more complex and equally as satisfying.

The Butchers Club’s Famous Seafood Trough

butchers club seafood

After getting a tour into The Butchers Club Private Kitchen’s dry age room, we came back to find this edible masterpiece gracing our table. Taking things to the next level, this seafood trough was filled with freshly shucked Coffin Bay Oysters, Nova Scotia lobster ceviche, smoked Alaskan King Crab and avocado salad, farmed Australian Blue Fin Tuna poke, and finally cured Coffin Bay Oyster shooters. This was one of the most impressive things we’ve ever been presented with at a dinner and we slurped up every last piece of seafood there was.

Baked South Australian Mussels with Chorizo / Roasted Bone Marrow

butchers club mussels butchers club bone marrow

We obsessed over the baked South Australian Mussels with chorizo and fennel broth; a perfect match in texture and flavour. Along with the mussels came a plate of roasted bone marrow with parsley and lemon salad and caramelized shallots and Nick’s famous bread with dry aged beef fat and dark ale, both of which were an absolute delight for our taste-buds. As one of us so eloquently put it, the bone marrow was literally like eating “meat-butter” and the bread made for the perfect dipping tool.

The Big Beef Experience

butchers club chefbutchers club steak

Before our massive meat feast came, executive chef Tom Brimble came to our table, with massive slab of meat in hand (the actual piece that he would be cooking for us!), to talk about the the beef we’d be dining on. We had ordered a custom dry aged 300 day grain fed Rangers Valley “Black Onyx” Rib that was cooked to a medium rare, as recommended. This was some of the most tender and rich meat we have ever tried – we could have used a butter knife to cut through each piece. Accompanying the meat was their triple cooked duck fat fries (a delicious heart attack waiting to happen) and a butter lettuce and heirloom tomato salad with ranch dressing, along with an array of sauces. Let the drooling begin.

Dessert

butchers club dessert

To finish off our 5-star dining experience, we each had half a classic key lime pie and NY style cheesecake with blueberries, though it kind of tasted like they were both lime cheesecake. Regardless, they were delicious and we managed to scarf down our dessert despite having little room left in our stomachs.

Verdict

Real talk: this is hands-down an incredible experience that you should take advantage of if you’re living in Hong Kong. Albeit pretty pricey at HK$1000/person + HK$450/kg of beef for a minimum of 10 people, the high quality and quantity of food, and unique private dining atmosphere make The Butchers Club Private Kitchen an indulgence that should not be missed.

The Butchers Club Private Kitchen 
13C Sun Ying Industrial Center 
9 Tin Wan Close
Aberdeen
Hong Kong 

For inquiries, email: events@butchersclub.com.hk 


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la paloma - paella

La Paloma, a spacious Spanish tapas restaurant in Sai Ying Pun, welcomes you with a splash of color the moment you set foot inside. Aside from the warm and inviting interior design, the food is sure to please. Having just launched a new menu, La Paloma offers diners a range of affordable and downright delicious Spanish dishes that are perfect for sharing. If you haven’t been yet, now’s the perfect time to make a trip to La Paloma to try their “sexy” new tapas!

Vibe At La Paloma

la paloma - interior

Right away you can sense that this Spanish tapas restaurant has perfected the balance between a fun and casual atmosphere, while serving up high quality dishes and maintaining efficient service. The interior design is inspired by “Chiringuitos” – Spanish beach bars, giving off an outdoor feel to their dining area. There is also a small outdoor terrace, perfect for when the weather cooperates.

Drinks

la paloma - rose sangriaRose Sangria (HK$348)

Be sure to come to La Paloma thirsty, as their cocktails are seriously addicting. The sangria goes down a little too smoothly (for a weekday night, at least) and is an absolute must. La Paloma also has a great cocktail list – try the Aperol Spritz, which uses Cava to add a bit of Spanish flare to the refreshing drink.

Starters

la paloma - sharing tapasTapeo Variado (HK$368)la paloma - scallopScallops (HK$88)

We started with the Tapeo Variado (HK$368) – A Taste Of Spain – with six different bites to share: bruschetta, cheese, fois gras, croquettes, smoked salmon and cream bombs, sandwich with ham and truffle, and cured meat. This is a perfect platter to share between four people and a great way to sample a handful of La Paloma’s tasty tapas. We also tucked into a plate of Scallops (HK$88) with honey vinaigrette, onions, and spinach. This dish was a textural delight – the soft, smooth textures of the spinach and scallop paired perfectly with the crispy bits on top.

Mains

la paloma - paellaArroz Negro (HK$348)la paloma - seabassLubina a la Espalda (HK$245)

When at a Spanish restaurant, ordering paella is a given, so we tried the Arroz Negro (HK$348) – squid ink and prawn paella, which was just as good as it looked. After we took some photos of the dish, one of the staff members came around to mix the paella together and serve it. The Lubina a la Espalda (HK$245) was also a highlight and we quickly devoured this whole roast sea bass. The garlic, chili, and paprika sauce on top gave the fish an extra burst of flavour.

Dessert

la paloma -churrosChurros (HK$58)

Naturally, we ordered a Spanish traditional dessert: Churros (HK$58) to finish off our meal. Dip these crispy dough sticks into the chocolate sauce or vanilla ice cream and get ready for a mouthful of indulgence. I would also recommend ordering the Sorbete de Sangria (HK$58), which was an unexpected delight – the strawberry gazpacho with sangria sorbet is a perfect summer treat.

Verdict

La Paloma is a breath of fresh air in Hong Kong, offering diners an unpretentious spot to dine on high quality Spanish food in a fun environment. What’s more, La Paloma won’t break the bank.

La Paloma
189 Queen’s Road West (entrance on Wilmer Street)
Sai Ying Pun
Hong Kong 

Tel: 2291 6161


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Panglao Island Hopping - Balicasag 2

Aside from the Bohol Countryside Tour, another popular trip is the Panglao Island Hopping Tour which takes you out onto the water for a day of dolphin watching, snorkeling on Balicasag Island, and finally to The Virgin Island. You can easily book this tour through your hotel or find someone selling these tours along Alona Beach. Be sure to negotiate a price beforehand; expect to pay 1,200 – 1,800 PHP depending on how many people are in your group, time of year, and how good your haggling skills are. If you’ve gone on other island hopping tours in South East Asia before (like the surreal island hopping in El Nido), this tour will likely be incomparable, and, at least for us, was not at all what we had expected.

What to expect on the Panglao Island Hopping tour

Be prepared for an early 6:00 am start in order to catch a glimpse of some dolphins, though this isn’t guaranteed. I would highly recommend wearing water shoes, as the tide is extremely low and while walking to the boat through the murky sand, there are lots of shells and sea urchins (I was able to manage in just my flip flops, though they got sucked into the sand every step or two, as the company wanted to charge 200 PHP for water shoes).

With regards to the two islands you visit: Balicasag and The Virgin Island weren’t very impressive (we didn’t even stop at Balicasag Island, as there was an additional 400 PHP/person charge, but I’ll explain more later on). Essentially, don’t set your standards/get your hopes up too high before going on the Panglao Island Hopping tour.

Dolphin Watching

Panglao Island Hopping - Dolphins

Though we were warned that there was a chance that we wouldn’t see any dolphins, we considered ourselves lucky, as we ended up seeing quite a few dolphins (if you look closely in the middle of the photo, you’ll be able to see two dolphins surfacing). After about 20 or so minutes out on the water and a few more dolphin-sightings, we made our way to Balicasag Island, as our guide told us after sunrise the dolphins swim further down in the water where it’s cooler so there’s no chance of seeing them.

Balicasag Island – Snorkeling

Panglao Island Hopping - Balicasag Panglao Island Hopping - Snorkel

Prior to arriving for our tour that morning, we were not told that we would have to pay an extra 250 PHP/person for snorkel gear or that it cost 400 PHP/person for us to “enter” Balicasag Island. Needless to say, we were very frustrated and argued with the owner of the boat and the owner of our hotel who booked the tour (we stayed at Coco Mango’s Place), who didn’t budge and were extremely rude. Long story short, we saw the island from a distance, but decided not to stop there partly due to the fact that we were annoyed about the additional last-minute cost and because we would only be able to spend 30 – 40 minutes snorkeling on the island due to the large tide that comes in at noon. Instead, our tour guide offered to take us to a little spot in the middle of the sea for some snorkeling.

Note: After coming home and reading a few other blogs about Balicasag Island, it seems to be a money-grab: one family talked about how their tour guide took them to their friends’ boat once on the island, which took them out into the water to snorkel at an additional cost, and then afterwards took them to his family-run restaurant for an expensive lunch. 

The Virgin Island

Panglao Island Hopping - Virgin Island Panglao Island Hopping - Virgin Island 3 Panglao Island Hopping - Virgin Island 4 Panglao Island Hopping - Virgin Island 5

The final stop on our tour was The Virgin Island, though it’s technically named Isola Di Francesco after it was purchased from the government by a wealthy religious individual. From a distance, the island looked deserted and picturesque, however, as we got closer we noticed a few odd things.. like a massive gold monument of Jesus and a statue in the water of a boat with people reaching out to a statue of Jesus who was “walking” on the water.

Things became more bizarre as we began to explore the island; a mini-museum of something religious-oriented (clearly we didn’t bother looking around), lots of religious statues (including Jesus on the cross), and religious signs (like the one in the last picture above stating, “Enjoy HIS Beach”). Considering we aren’t religious and weren’t expecting this at all, we were really thrown off, and the experience felt fake and uncomfortable. When we heard about The Virgin Island, we were expecting it to be just that – untouched and serene. Instead, we basically found ourselves on Jesus’ Island..

Words of warning about the Panglao Island Hopping Tour

If you haven’t already picked up on how disappointed we were about the Panglao Island Hopping tour from the above, let me reiterate.. Right from the start when we were told that the price of snorkel gear and the entrance fee into Balicasag Island were not included (and were not cheap either), until the end of the tour when we were walking around The Virgin Island and coming across all of the religious paraphernalia. Overall, we felt this tour was unimpressive when compared to other island hopping excursions throughout South East Asia. At the end of the day, whether you choose to go on this tour or not, just be sure to go over all of the details before paying so there are no surprises and disappointments on the day of.


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bohol countryside tour

Bohol is a small island in the Philippines, just south of Cebu, that is well-known for diving, its Chocolate Hills, and Tarsiers. One of the most popular tours offered is the Bohol Countryside Tour; a day-long tour consisting of seven different sightseeing spots throughout the island. We had wanted to do this tour to get a glimpse of Bohol, but didn’t want to go to a few of the sightseeing stops, so we ended up hiring a private car for roughly the same price as a group tour and had a much better experience.

What to expect on the Bohol Countryside Tour

If you go on the Bohol Countryside Tour as a group with 8 or so other tourists it cost around around 500 PHP, however, we weren’t interested in seeing the Blood Compact monument, butterfly conservatory, and the floating restaurant for lunch, as it was an additional 400 PHP per person. Because of this, we decided to book a private tour, which only worked out to being a hundred or so more pesos per person than the group tour. I highly recommend doing the Countryside Tour via private car, as it’ll save you a lot of time and frustration, unless of course you’re actually interesting in seeing the other stops. Note that entrance fees into most of the sights were not included in the tour price.

Baclayon Church

bohol countryside tour - church bohol countryside tour - church 2

Our first stop was the Baclayon Church, which was founded in 1596 and was later declared a National Cultural Treasure. Unfortunately, the church was under construction because of the extensive damage done during the 2013 earthquake. This also meant that much of the church was inaccessible. We just couldn’t be bothered to go inside as our tour guide said there wasn’t much to see because a lot had been damaged and/or sectioned off.
Entrance fee: 50 PHP

Tarsier Sanctuary

bohol countryside tour - tarsier sanctuary bohol countryside tour - tarsier bohol countryside tour - tarsier 2

We had heard lots about the cute little Tarsiers in Bohol and were excited to get the chance to see them up close. We had read a bit online about the sanctuaries in Bohol (they are becoming endangered so a few sanctuaries have been set up to protect them) and knew there was one sanctuary that kept the Tarsiers in their natural habitat, while the other sanctuary kept them in cages. We had expressed our concern to our tour guide and he ensured us that we would be going to the “good” sanctuary.

Inside the sanctuary, there were guides positioned at a few spots where a Tarsier was hanging out on a branch. The big issue I had was that the majority of the other tourists (who all seemed to be Filipino) were crowding around them and pushing others out of the way, putting their phones so close to them to get a photo, speaking too loudly, and trying to get selfies with them. If you read about Tarsiers online, you’ll find that they are very sensitive and become suicidal when scared. Though this did detract from the overall experience, I am glad I was able to see these Tarsiers in a more natural setting.
Entrance fee: 50 PHP

Man-Made Forest

bohol countryside tour - manmade forest

The Man-Made Forest is literally just a few kilometers of constructed forest along a road – you do not stop to get out and take photos on the tour, you just drive through it. While the tall trees were impressive, it seemed like a bit of an odd thing to be listed specifically on a tour itinerary.

Chocolate Hills

bohol countryside tour - chocolate hills entrance bohol countryside tour - chocolate hills bohol countryside tour - chocolate hills area

The highlight of the tour (aside from the cute Tarsiers) were the Chocolate Hills. After a short climb up some stairs, you found yourself on a relatively large viewing deck with quite a few other tourists. Although they weren’t the color of chocolate, as they only look brown in the summer, they were quite impressive.
Entrance fee: 100 PHP

Bamboo Hanging Bridge

bohol countryside tour - bridge

At the end of our tour, our guide asked us if we would like to make a quick stop at the Hanging Bridge. Since it was only early in the afternoon, we figured why not. Originally, this bridge was made of only rope and bamboo, but now metal cables support the bridge, though it still doesn’t feel 100% secure and in some areas the bamboo is broken. After you cross one of the bridges, there are a few stalls selling souvenirs, and a lady selling fried bananas (which were so good!) and fresh coconut milk. When we made our way back to the other side, there was a large group of Korean tourists in front of us who were messing around and running and jumping all down the bridge, making the walk back a bit more of a struggle than it should have been.
Entrance fee: 20 PHP

 


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juhu beach club interior

The original Juhu Beach Club opened in California after the success of Chef Preeti Mistry on the hit TV series Top Chef, and given Hong Kong’s well-regarded claim as a foodie-haven, it’s understandable Preeti had her eyes set on this city for her next restaurant. The food served at Juhu Beach Club uses a mix of Indian spices with a Californian flare, both of which balance the dishes out well.

Vibe At Juhu Beach Club

juhu beach club exterior

Despite the interior’s small size, the restaurant has utilized eye-catching decor throughout in the form of mirrors and funky hand-painted cutting board displays, giving the restaurant a more spacious feel and a touch of warmth. The staff were very friendly and helpful, offering menu suggestions and a general welcoming demeanour. The background music had me slightly confused, as there was a mix of rap and pop that didn’t seem to fit with the overall vibe. In saying that, I did go to the washroom where there was some banging Indian music being played, so perhaps finding a balance between the two would create a more authentic experience.

Drinks

juhu beach club bloody maryBloody Meera (HK$88)

Despite being warned about the spiciness of the Bloody Meera (HK$88) thanks to the addition of scorpion powder (what that actually entails, I couldn’t say), I opted to give it a try since I’m kind of obsessed with Bloody Mary’s. The flavours balanced themselves well and, though it was spicy, I heartily welcomed the kick. Another great cocktail for those who like tequila is Elephant’s Fury (HK$88) with homemade turmeric syrup, lime, and ghost pepper. The drinks at Juhu Beach Club all have some form of Indian spice/flare to them and are quite reasonably priced.

Starters

juhu beach club cauliflowerManchurain Cauliflower (HK$98)juhu beach club brussel sproutsBrussel Sprouts Nest (HK$98)juhu beach club paneerChili Paneer (HK$98)

Before arriving for dinner, we had heard rave reviews about the Manchurain Cauliflower (HK$98) – fried cauliflower in a sweet, sour, and sticky sauce, so that was at the top of our list. The reviews were right; this dish was unbelievably tasty (we just wish it wasn’t so unhealthy!). In hopes of balancing out the deep-fried goodness we just ate, we tried the Brussel Sprouts Nest (HK$98) with ginger curry-leaf butter on a bed of fenugreek chutney. We felt this dish really embodied Juhu Beach Club’s quest to fuse ingredients and spices together to create well-balanced, yet distinct dishes. Though we certainly didn’t need another starter, we were persuaded by our server to try the Chili Paneer (HK$98) after he talked it up. Unfortunately, this was our least favourite dish as we felt the textures struggled to compliment each other and we thought it should have been served on a bed of rice to soak up the semi-watery tomato chutney.

Mains

juhu beach club pav comboTrio of Pavs (HK$138) From the left: Beefy Baller, Chowpatty Chicken, Pork Vindalatedjuhu beach club short rib curryHoly Cow Short Rib Curry (HK$258)

By this point, we were both quite full, not realizing how large the “small plates” would actually be (though we can’t complain – we love food that’s both delicious and great value!). Since the Pav’s (essentially sliders) are Juhu Beach Club’s specialty’s, we’d be amiss not to try a few of the options, so we decided on the Trio of Pavs (HK$138). Our least favourite was the Chowpatty Chicken, where the chicken slightly resembled a pile of mush instead of an actual patty like we were expecting. The Beefy Baller and Pork Vindalated pav were both good, but nothing to rave about, as we felt they could have used more Indian spices.  If that wasn’t enough to push us over the edge, then the Holy Cow Short Rib Curry (HK$258) did the trick. The smokey black cardamom braised Canadian short rib was so tender and wasn’t over-powered by the curry sauce.

Dessert

juhu beach club dessertCrispy Tikki Puri (HK$68)

We had absolutely no plan to order dessert after shoveling enough food for at least four people into our mouths, however, our waiter – yet again – managed to convince us to try the Crispy Tikki Puri (HK$68). Boy, were we thankful he did. The saffron shrikhand (made from strained yogurt), pistachios, and pomegranate, on top of a lightly fried puri was a heavenly combination, and despite our stomachs expanding at least five-inches from the previous dishes, there was nothing left on our plate.

Verdict

With its funky, vibrant decor, solid service, and high quality food at very reasonable prices, I would highly recommend giving Juhu Beach Club a try. Given Elgin Street’s unforgiving turnover of restaurants thanks to high rent and competition, this is one restaurant we hope sticks around for awhile!

Juhu Beach Club 
28 Elgin Street
Soho, Central
Hong Kong 

Tel: 2177 3544


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jan jan kushikatsu dining

Hong Kong has opened its doors to the first renowned authentic kushikatsu restaurant from Osaka, Japan: Jan Jan Kushikatsu. Kushikatsu is basically a fancy way of saying fried skewers, which may sound simple enough to make, but what sets kushikatsu apart from other deep-fried Japanese fare is the special oil, batter, and dipping sauce used. Nestled in an unassuming building in Wan Chai with practically no signage is where you’ll find Jan Jan. Be prepared for a big Japanese “welcome” the moment you walk through the door and into the homey restaurant.

Vibe At Jan Jan Kushikatsu

Normally when you enter a restaurant, you’re not greeted with a loud “welcome” by every one of the staff members. At Jan Jan Kushikatsu, you are (and it’ll certainly put a smile on your face). The interior is quite small, but far from feeling cramped, as space in Jan Jan is utilized well with seats around the kitchen and two larger private-esque dining tables that are slightly closed off. The decor is minimal in a way that reflects the restaurants Japanese roots.

Drinks

jan jan kushikatsu sakeSparkling Sake (HK$153)

Expect a whole lot of sake and beer on Jan Jan Kushikatsu’s drink menu. We tried the Sparkling Sake (HK$153) for the first time and, to put it mildly, it was pure heavenly bliss (so good that we had about five bottles at dinner). Sparkling sake not your thing? There are almost 15 other types of sake available and if you’d rather beer, Jan Jan has ice cold Sapporo on tap to quench your thirst.

Appetizers

jan jan kushikatsu chickenKaraage Chicken (HK$30) Background: Dashimaki Tamago (HK$45)jan jan kushikatsu tomatoJapanese Tomato Salad (HK$44)

If you think fried chicken is an American thing, wait till you’ve tried the Karaage Chicken (HK$30) from Jan Jan. Honestly, some of the best fried chicken I’ve had – there wasn’t an overpowering amount of batter, which meant a whole lot of chicken in each piece. Despite not resembling a traditional salad at all, the Japanese Tomato Salad (HK$44) had quite a sweet taste which could be balanced out by adding a dash of salt to each piece.

Kushiyaki

jan jan kushikatsu chicken meatballChicken Meatball (HK$27)jan jan kushikatsu chicken breastUme & Chicken (HK$29)jan jan kushikatsu chicken wingChicken Wing (HK$22)

We tried three variations of chicken kushiyaki (basically non-deep fried skewers). The first of which was the Chicken Meatball (HK$27). While we liked the taste of the chicken, we found the texture slightly off-putting, as there were gristly pieces of meat throughout. The Ume & Chicken (HK$29) had a good balance of flavours and was likely the healthiest dish we had all evening (aside from the tomato). Lastly, we loved the subtle glaze on the Chicken Wing (HK$22), which added the perfect amount of flavour to the chicken.

Kushikatsu

jan jan kushikatsu varietyKiss Fish (HK$32) / Lotus Root (HK$27) / Octopus (HK$24)jan jan kushikatsu eggHalf Cooked Egg (HK$22)jan jan kushikatsu cheeseCheese (HK$21)

Moving onto the fried skewers (kushikatsu), we were ready to indulge in some deep-fried greasy-goodness. One of the standout items was the Half Cooked Egg (HK$22). Though clearly not on a skewer, this egg had a delicate crispy exterior that complimented the silky texture of the encased egg. I’m not sure if it’s because we waited too long to bite into the Cheese (HK$21) skewer, but it didn’t have that ooey-gooey melting effect we were hoping for. Nevertheless, it was still just as good as you might expect deep fried cheese to be. Another favourite was the Lotus Root (HK$27), which had a good crunch to it. You could really taste the difference between the kushikatsu and regular deep-fried tempura – the skewers here were lighter and weren’t drenched in grease.

Verdict

Jan Jan Kushikatsu is a great addition to the growing Wan Chai food scene, serving up an authentic kushikatsu experience that won’t break the bank. The cozy interior is reminiscent of restaurants in Japan, making for a welcomed escape from your typical food joint in HK. With its friendly service and high quality food, a visit to Jan Jan Kushikatsu is well worth your time.

Jan Jan Kushikatsu 
2/F, 100 Queen’s Road East
Wan Chai 
Hong Kong 

Tel: 2157 1408


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chachawan

If you were to ask a handful of people who live in Sheung Wan what one of their favourite restaurants in the neighborhood is, you can bet that at least half, if not more, would say Chachawan. This well-established restaurant serves up authentic Issan Thai food in a small yet lively environment. The dishes at Chachawan are unique to Hong Kong, have an interesting complexity of flavours, and are just straight up delicious.

Vibe At Chachawan

Despite its small size and relatively cramped space, the vibe in Chachawan is so lively and vibrant that it doesn’t feel squished or uncomfortable. Chachawan is funky and you can really see why it’s busy almost all of the time after you’ve experienced a meal here. Whether you only want a drink from the bar at the front of the restaurant or a full meal, you’re sure to feel welcome from the waitstaff and all-around good vibes from the other diners.

Drinks

chachawan mango chiaMango Chia Mocktail (HK$50)chachawan thai milk teaThai Iced Milk Tea (HK$45)

I started with the Mango Chia Mocktail (HK$50) as I was feeling a bit under the weather, but I’m so glad I did because this mocktail was just as good, if not better than most cocktails I’ve had. The Thai Iced Milk Tea (HK$45) was another one of my favourite drinks at Chachawan, though it is quite sweet, so best to enjoy this drink after your meal (with dessert, of course).

Starters

chachawan goong golaeGoong Golae (HK$198)

The menu at Chachawan is broken into three main sections: Som Dtum + Larp + Salads, Seafood, and Meat + Poultry. There were so many delicious-sounding dishes, making the process of choosing only a few (okay, more than a few) rather stressful. Thankfully, our waitress was lovely and went over the menu with us while checking off some standout dishes (which ended up being basically half of the menu). We started with the Goong Golae (HK$198) – whole tiger prawns smothered in dry red coconut curry, and grilled over fire with pickled ginger and lime. The prawns were massive and deliciously juicy with a good hit of spice from the dry curry.

Mains

chachawan khor moo yungKhor Moo Yung (HK$158)chachawan nahm dtok nuerNahm Dtok Nuer (HK$148)chachawan yum makuar yawYum Makuar Yaw (HK$178)

My favourite main of the evening was the Khor Moo Yung (HK$158) – pork collar marinated in garlic, coriander root and pepper, then grilled, sliced and served with jhim jeaw sauce. There was a large portion of succulent pork collar and the jhim jeaw sauce (something which I had never heard of despite my multiple trips to Thailand) was unreal. The Nahm Dtok Nuer (HK$148) – spicy grilled wagyu beef salad with shallots, coriander, mint, and lime in a fish sauce and toasted rice dressing had a bit of a lingering sour taste that I wasn’t a huge fan of, though I did enjoy the initial flavour. Lastly, we tried the Yum Makuar Yaw (HK$178) – salad of grilled river prawns and smoky eggplant with shallots, mint, and coriander in a fish sauce and toasted rice dressing. The eggplant had a very distinct smoky taste to it that slightly overpowered the other ingredients, though the prawns did stand out on their own.

Desserts

chachawan ice cream gutiIce Cream Guti (HK$75)chachawan mango sticky riceKhao Niaw Mamuang (HK$75)

It was love at first sight when the Ice Cream Guti (HK$75) arrived on our table. Made with fresh young coconut ice cream served with toasted peanuts and sweet corn, this seemingly odd combination of ingredients worked perfectly together. Since you can’t end a Thai meal without mango sticky rice (and because it’s one of my favourite Asian desserts), we had to order the Khao Niaw Mamuang (HK$75). This was just as good as the mango sticky rice I’ve had in Thailand, however, knowing I can get this dessert only a few minutes from my flat rather than a flight away might not be so good for my waistline or my wallet.

Verdict

If you’re looking for a funky, upbeat, and unpretentious restaurant to eat some authentic Thai food, look no further than Chachawan. In a city where there are far too many cookie-cutter restaurants, Chachawan stands out in a class of its own.

Chachawan 
206 Hollywood Road
Sheung Wan
Hong Kong

Tel: 2549 0020


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