Eating Out: Chowing Down at Chôm Chôm
I am two bites into the Cha Ca I ordered -- a dish of white sole fillet pan-fried in a sauce of turmeric, dill and served over vermicelli noodles -- when I decide that Chôm Chôm lives up to and surpasses the hype.
With tables and bar seats constantly full, a crowd always gathers outside -- seemingly waiting to have dinner but not the least bit disturbed to start their evening with a drink or two on the stoop. Just like in New York City, Chôm Chôm proves this age-old wisdom true: if a restaurant is constantly packed with lines out the door, it's probably really good.
The Vietnamese restaurant, situated on one of the steepest hills in Hong Kong's SoHo neighborhood, is an ode to the street food of Hanoi. Chôm Chôm prides itself on keeping with Vietnam's Bia Hoi tradition of drinking cold beer on busy street corners (hence the always-present crowd). The spot is warm, fun, exciting and I guarantee you will crave its food once you leave.
Dining in the restaurant feels like a rush of sorts -- small, loud and lively. While tables are coveted, I think the best spot is at the bar, where you can watch the talented staff cook, roll and fry your meal to sweet perfection. Because of this, I think Chôm Chôm is best for parties of two at the bar, or four at a table.
Everything on the menu tastes incredibly fresh, familiar and inventive but my go-to order starts with as many summer rolls as I can eat, followed by the Cha Ca. Just take a look at this Pho Roll made of grilled beef, fresh rice noodle, pickled daikon and purple basil below -- doesn't it look like heaven?
Like many of the places I'd like to eat at forever, Chôm Chôm does not take reservations -- but that really is part of its charm. Go early, leave your watch at home. Have a few beers on the steps, then grab a seat at the bar. Order everything. Repeat.