This Thai casual style eatery is NOT kid friendly. Do not bring your toddlers or babies, there are no high chairs (bar chairs), no kiddy utensils and no kids menu. So you gotta go alone or on a date!
Note: it’s open Mon-Sat lunch 12 noon to about 2.30pm then dinner 6-10pm. Shut on Sundays.
We have done takeaway from Samsen several times, all delightful eating even out of cardboard boxes. The only dishes Samsen doesn’t allow takeout for are their noodle soups or “boat noodles”.
One day last week, I found myself liberated and alone for lunch. I gleefully took myself to Samsen at 12 noon and promptly got seated at the bar counter. Perfect.
There are hooks thoughtfully placed beneath the counter to hang your bag (love restaurants that do this) and I had a great view of the working kitchen which always helps to manage time and expectations.
It was a boiling hot day. The Thai iced tea was perfectly shaved and sweetened with just the right kick of lime acidity. It was a pleasure I sought to extend by drinking it very slowly.
My Wagyu beef boat noodles arrived. Oooh first….inhale the aromas. Then follow up with a taste of the soup. Be careful not to slurp it all down. The Wagyu beef was super tender and the beef balls chewy. The noodles were done just right, smooth texture with a good touch of elasticity.
The bowl looked small but by the time I got to the end of the broth I felt strangely satiated.
No dessert for me today but definitely next time.
Samsen requires no introduction given its high profile chef and nightly queues for dinner. It’s a thumbs up from me, a welcome addition to the Wanchai dining scene.
La Station, one of my favourite neighbourhood coffee shops just celebrated their second anniversary.
I met up with a friend, (founder of Ookus) at La Station for breakfast early in the week. As I was leaving, the eternally effervescent blonde manager Kat (a sort of Asian version of Jessica Alba) chased after me and presented me with a card.
“It’s our second anniversary this Thursday” she breathed, “will you come?”
I was in a bit of a hurry but promised that I’d be there. I marked it down in my calendar, it was a party running from 7-10pm on Thursday evening. What fun. I haven’t been out at night in the neighbourhood for quite a while.
We got there around 8pm and as we turned the corner at Eric Kayser onto Tai Yuen Street, a wonderful party scene greeted us.
Very hip-looking friends of the owners had turned up in full force and they were drinking beers and champagne on the pavement, faces lit by the La Station signboard overhead.
The perch counter near the fridge display area was converted into a makeshift bar where Alan bartended ice chilled beers in bottles, champagne and lemonade for the non-alcoholics. The funky lounge tunes made it seem as though everyone was queuing outside a newly opened club.
Inside, people were gathered in chattering groups, taking selfies and photos of the fabulous food.
There were mini sausage rolls, quiche, ham and cheese croissants and Croque Monsieurs.
We sampled each one and it was all consistent of the La Station / Paul Lafayet standard.
After half an hour, the desserts were put on display. This is Julian figuring out how they should sit on the tray.
Each dessert was no bigger than your thumb but packed a huge flavour punch. The chocolate squares of cake and ganache were moist and addictive. I had to restrain myself from devouring a second piece.
These desserts were mini masterpieces… I kid you not. LPQ and Kayser attempts at these sweets are left in the dust.
Small person grabbed a Paul Lafayet creme brûlée and chiselled away at the caramelised topping, gleefully shoving it into her mouth. This is after Pete had gifted her a pink macaroon and she had polished off a ham cheese croissant. Well, it isn’t every day that she gets to indulge.
Somehow the delicious breakfast food went super well with the booze and dessert. I can see how this scene can be replicated successfully elsewhere. Apparently the team has been hired frequently for stylish Lane Crawford events.
La Station is one of those coffee shops that hires people who bother to remember your name and beverage preference. It’s this familiarity and excellent food and beverages that keep the loyal customers returning despite not having much of a seating area. If you do decide to sit at their counters, you’ll see that the tables are small but there’s room for your bags. Just hang them on the hooks underneath by your legs.
I went for another beer which Alan happily obliged.
These guys know how to throw a good party.
Here’s a shout out to their team – Pete, Kat, Binny, Stella, Alan, Vivian, Julian. It was a great party and we look forward to more 🙂
If you’ve had to bring wine to a friend’s house for dinner, you might have encountered something similar to this:
Me: “Ok so we should bring a bottle of red to go with the steak she’s cooking”
Partner: “Watson’s or Taste (PARKnSHOP)?”
Me: “err dunno, whichever is open I suppose”
15 minutes later at the Watson’s wine cellar.
Me: “ok so what should we get? By country or region or price?”
Partner: “Let me check my wine app…”
30 minutes later…… still at the Watson’s wine cellar….
Me: “decided yet?”
Partner: “let’s just go with the sticker that says it’s an award winning wine for 2016 and reviewer says it’s good.”
*SIGH*… very often the wine turns out to be pricier than we thought and tasting quite mediocre. I’m not convinced that a sticker is entirely trustworthy.
The antidote to this problem is to either have a sommelier friend who can quickly assess the budget-event-palate suitability or to have a knowledgeable wine shop owner walk you through their favourites.
In Wan Chai, the neighbourhood wine shop with the pre requisite chatty owner can be found on Stone Nullah Lane – Ross Wine. A little off the beaten track and hidden by the large logistic trucks parked there, you’ll need to look left to see the shop. It’s next to an independent art gallery and photography studio called the Wanchai Stallery.
We came across the shop last year while on a walk down from Wanchai Gap. I was very curious as to who had taken over the rather strange concept Chinese Timekeeper’s bespoke watch shop.
Ross did some simple renovation but kept the hanging hexagonal lamps, glass door and the nice steel handle that looks like the bezel of a watch.
Curious, we went in for a look. Ross (the boss) was very welcoming and happy to introduce himself and his wines. We found him knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He started the business promoting wines from Australia’s Margaret River region but has expanded his footprint to include New Zealand, Italian and French wines. Rieslings or Pinot Noirs, you can see what you fancy.
Ross has the tasting notes printed and stuck on the shelves but agrees that these can be somewhat vague and misleading. He presents his own opinion on the wines and can suggest a bottle ( just tell him with whom or what you intend to consume with it).
He’s also got some tasty beers for sale from a few different small breweries.
We came away with a small selection of beers and wine. I liked the Waipara Springs Riesling which was gobbled down during Saturday’s Easter BBQ. It made a subsequent bottle of white wine brought by a friend taste like cheap plonk.
Ross promotes “every day wines” -no fancy chateaus here- just affordable drinkable wines which haven’t soured on the shelf. Most importantly, they are reliably decent and won’t embarrass you in the company of wine connoisseurs. Ross curates the wines himself and takes the stress away from the selection process. This makes it easy to buy a few more bottles with confidence.
After our lunch at Maureen’s, we decided to walk off a bit of those noodles. SW suggested we walk up towards the Pak Tai temple where he had noticed a new cafe.
Just when you’ve walked up as far as you can go on the tarmac, the road bends to the left (straight ahead is a path that takes you up to Kennedy Road). Here was a promising sign under the street sign. It was a blackboard with a fairly simple menu touting coffees, tea and a few pastries.
Encouraged by the menu, we proceeded down the street. Lung On Street really is a beautiful street. The banyan trees, conserved and cared for by the temple, provide shade and a sense of nature’s calm.
At the end of the street is a cul de sac, and this is where the cafe is located, looking all cool outfitted in black and glass.
It really reminded me of neighbourhood cafes I’ve been to in London, New York or Sydney. Simple, with some alfresco seating areas and a signboard that isn’t screaming full attention. Nicely designed.
There was a kids cooking class that was going on. About ten children were creating a ruckus just talking to each other. All equipment had been laid out, they were definitely doing some baking.
There wasn’t a whole lot of space internally as half of it was devoted to a professional kitchen. There was a proper large stacked oven for breads, pizzas or grilling a whole suckling pig. A nice looking fridge and some pots and pans. Importantly there was a deep wide sink and a work top. Bite Unite offers chefs a licensed kitchen for hire.
Khun Tanarak, the owner, is there as the site also serves as his office (he’s a photographer specialising in weddings).
I asked him about his choice of location.
“Wong Chuk Hang where most kitchens are, is too far away. Most chefs just need a convenient space to pop in, prepare and get back to whatever else they need to do..”
Since he lives up on Kennedy Road, it is also convenient for him to site his office within walking distance.
He apologised as the coffee machine was under maintenance. Well, that’s a perfect excuse to come back to try the cafe another day.
Every once in a while, I get a doughnut (donut if you’re American 😀) craving. Oh where to go for a simple doughnut that will hit the spot? Most local style doughnuts are a bit chewy and leave a lot of sugar crystals all over the place.
I’ve had ones from the ABC Bakery, the takeaway section at Taste, and the one from Happy Cake Shop on Queens Road East. Personally, I quite enjoy the JCo ones for the airy texture (not chewy or doughy) and it’s “not so sweet” on the palate.
Here are some photos for you to decide where to go for your doughnut fix in Wanchai.
Apart from the texture and consistency of J CO’sdoughnuts, they also have a nice cafe setting for you to enjoy your doughnut, elevating it from a grab and go snack in a bag to a pastry status.
It’s warmly decorated, spacious and well lit. There’s also a ramp entrance, a huge plus for strollers and prams.
So here’s the one I had. Non glazed basic doughnut which was an absolute delight.
Find them at 55 Hennessy Road.
It’s on the side of the street heading down towards Causeway Bay, or check out their Fb page here.
I really thought I’d blogged about this dessert place before… so when HP told me he had a cold and was looking for something ginger-soupy, I wanted to refer him to my blog. But, no I hadn’t! That was an article I wrote for another blog in reference to the Cong Sao Dessert branch in Sharp Street, Causeway Bay.
How could I have missed this important little gem?!
Chinese dessert shops are commonly found in Causeway Bay. They are littered all over (also in Times Square, CitySuper food court) with a particular concentration near the bus stops on Canal Street East and on Sharp Street. The desserts usually consist of either shaved ice (cold) with all possible combinations of fruit, jelly, beans, nuts or soya. Hot desserts tend to be creamy or gingery soup bases with a variety of ingredients like ginkgo nuts or snow fungus.
I have a soft spot for chinese hot desserts, my mother used to make them at home. We would have Cheng tng (light soup) which was hot, sweet and constituted of dried longans, sago pearls, white fungus and fresh ginkgo nuts. This is hard to find here but at least Cong Sao Desserts has some soupy stuff that I’ll resort to when the craving hits.
It takes up the ground floor shoplot of the Wen Ding restaurant, a standalone building that has benefitted from a gazetted public seating space on one side and an easement for loading to J residences.
It’s surprisingly spacious… well I suppose the tables are quite small and they’ve maximised the space with stools, but the point is that it’s designed for the maximum number of people to do a quick dessert “in and out”.
On the pavement, a standee advertises their happy hour promotion. Essentially you get 10% off if you come off peak hours between Monday to Friday between 1-6pm. Good to know.
Here’s their menu, you can plan what you’d like to have in advance.
HP, for a fluesy friendly dessert, I would recommend the ones below ticked in green.
Digging beneath the dirt… To find the good and the gritty