VIET­NAMESE STREET FOOD GOES SOHO

Fresh and fla­vor­ful are the key­words in an up­dated cui­sine spiced with re­lax­ation and fun. Donna Mah ex­am­ines the menu.

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

In­spired by the street food of Hanoi, chef Peter Franklin has opened Chom Chom Bia Hoi and Eatery in a cozy lo­ca­tion on Peel Street in Soho. Some may know Chom Chom, which mean “rambu­tan” in Viet­namese, from its days as a pri­vate kitchen on Wellington Street. But in its new in­car­na­tion, it is a ca­sual and lively place that is draw­ing in the crowds.

With seat­ing for 45, this small­ish space with high ceil­ings and huge 100-year-old ceil­ing fans shipped to Hong Kong from Viet­nam, was com­pletely filled on the night we dined there.

Seat­ing is in­ti­mate (or a bit cramped, de­pend­ing on how you look at it), but the vibe here is mod­ern, re­laxed and fun.

Bia hoi refers to the fresh draft beer that is de­liv­ered to drink­ing spots in Viet­nam on a daily ba­sis and is also used to re­fer to the so­cial ex­pe­ri­ence of en­joy­ing a beer with friends street­side.

Franklin says: “At Chom Chom, we fo­cus on the so­cial cul­ture of the bia hoi and a menu of fla­vor­some dishes in­spired by the street food of Hanoi, dishes not nor­mally the high­light out­side of Viet­nam.”

One thing you will not find at Chom Chom is pho, the steam­ing hot bowls of rice noo­dles in soup. “There’s more to Viet­namese cui­sine than just pho noo­dle soups, bun sand­wiches and drip cof­fee,” Franklin adds. We didn’t miss them at all.

We started off with a cou­ple of the spe­cialty cock­tails — one Pho-jito and one Saigon Sour.

The Pho-jito had all the fresh fla­vors that I as­so­ci­ate with Viet­nam — lemon­grass, mint and lime. The Saigon Sour was a frothy and slightly tart tipple. Both were de­li­ciously cool and just right for the weather. A se­lec­tion of craft beers is also served here.

The shrimp and roast pork rolls and the spicy tuna rolls were served with a fish sauce for dip­ping. The spicy tuna rolls were not too spicy.

The mango and pa­paya salad had crunch, cit­rus and spice; came with slices of lemon­grass beef on the side; and was more than we ex­pected.

The “VFC” — Viet­namese fried chicken — wings were crispy on the out­side and juicy on the in­side. The grilled beef in be­tel leaf, with the leaf wrapped around the out­side to help keep the meat moist, is a dish I will def­i­nitely or­der again.

The shak­ing beef — cubes of sauteed beef ten­der­loin served with wa­ter­cress and rocket salad topped with very small fried gar­lic cloves — was en­joyed by all with the cloves of gar­lic be­ing es­pe­cially pop­u­lar.

The Cha Ca Hanoi — sole fil­let with turmeric and dill — was crispy on the out­side and ten­der on the in­side, and served with rice ver­mi­celli that had been tossed in a lime sauce. It was one of our fa­vorites.

The Bun Cha pork skew­ers, grilled pork Con­tact the writer at sun­dayed@chi­nadaily.com.cn. belly and pork shoul­der, had a great grilled fla­vor, but the pork shoul­der was a bit too salty for my taste.

Dessert was a col­or­ful fresh fruit plat­ter with a twist. The fruit was served with one sweet and one sa­vory chili dip­ping salt that made eat­ing fruit just that much more fun. Care­ful how much you dip, though, as you might just end up with a bit too much spice in your life.

PHO­TOS BY DONNA MAH / FOR CHINA DAILY

Viet­namese fried chicken wings are crispy on the out­side and juicy on the in­side.

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