Cô Thành

Crave - - FEAST - Words Tif­fany Chan Pho­tos Sa­man­tha Sin

THE RESTAU­RANT

If it weren’t for the hand-painted sign and open­ing hours tacked on the door, it would be easy to mis­take Cô Thành, on Kau U Fong, for a con­struc­tion site. The door is a thin wooden board loosely screwed to the en­trance. In­side, it has all the hall­marks of a stripped down hip­ster den, with bare con­crete walls and shiny steel ta­bles with tacky red and blue plas­tic stools parked un­der­neath. It’s not par­tic­u­larly com­fort­able or the sort of place you’ll want to linger for hours, but then what Viet­namese street stall is? You’ll be there for the noo­dles, and you won’t mind one bit.

THE FOOD

Restau­ra­teur Brian Woo trav­elled to Viet­nam a few years ago to spend time with street ven­dor Nguyen Thi Thành, (also known as The Lunch Lady) learn­ing to make her noo­dle soups. Bring­ing her recipes to Hong Kong, Cô Thành serves just three types of rice ver­mi­celli soups as well as sev­eral main dishes. To freshen the palate, we started with the khai vi dac biet ($68), a green pa­paya salad of shaved pa­paya, ji­cama, thick slices of house-made fish cake, roasted peanuts and fried shal­lots dressed in home­made nuoc mam. It’s a re­fresh­ing salad for a balmy sum­mer’s af­ter­noon, but we found the fish cakes to be too large, given how thinly shaved the veg­eta­bles were. Bun bo hue ($98), how­ever, is a com­plex, ro­bust and soul-restor­ing beef noo­dle soup. Swim­ming with rare rib eye, ten­der brisket and home­made meat balls, it’s one we’d come back for. An­other noo­dle soup, this time seafood-based bun mam ($98) with prawn, is ex­ceed­ingly po­tent, with a fer­mented flavour not un­like Chi­nese fu yu, or fer­mented bean curd cheese. It’s un­usual – and, to us, quite de­li­cious – but it’s not for ev­ery­one. In both noo­dle dishes, the rice ver­mi­celli is served al dente and re­tains a nice bite. The banh mi ($88) packs cold cuts, rich and creamy pate and pick­les into a roll that’s crispy on the out­side and slightly stale in­side, al­most like a crois­sant.

THE VER­DICT

We’re pleased to see Viet­namese restau­rants like Cô Thành of­fer­ing some­thing other than pho. Woo’s noo­dle soups are unique (to Hong Kong, at least), gen­er­ous, pack a punch and, above all, are com­plex. There are al­ways lines snaking out the door dur­ing peak hours, so go early or late if you’re not a fan of wait­ing. 2-4 Kau U Fong, Cen­tral

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