Rach and I had heard a lot recently about cool café Chaiwanese, so we decided to take the trip to the last stop on the Island Line and see Hong Kong’s latest hipster hangout for ourselves. On the journey there, I counted… and the transformation from Central-ese to Chaiwanese takes a mere twelve MTR stops!
Just a short cab ride from the MTR (we were already running fashionably late, or else we could have caught one of a number of minibuses that drop you straight there), we finally arrived at Chaiwanese. When you walk in, you can’t help but stare at the amazing view – it almost looked like a photograph of the beautiful blue sea and boats parked by the pier. The huge windows were wide open, inviting in a cool ocean breeze… It was all so unbelievably calm, soothing and felt miles away from the typical HK hustle.
Once seated, we were lucky enough to have a chat with Jehan, the owner of Chaiwanese. A New Yorker who has been in Hong Kong for the past seven years, it was love at first sight when he first laid eyes on the stunning open loft-like space that now houses Chaiwanese. Even though the area seemed quite industrial and empty to us (well, compared to the busy streets of Central), Jehan was first to correct us that the area is a definite up-and-comer. If you’re able to while away an afternoon here, you can unearth hidden gems of photography studios, rare book stores, wholesale Italian food shops and some of HK’s brightest lights in the creative community (like our That Girl, Paola)! Who knew, right?!
Onto the food, and we each ordered a lunch set, which came with soup and an entrée (pastas, sandwiches or salads). As for drinks, coffee addicts will have to try out Chaiwanese’s coffee; they use beans by local roaster, Coffee Assembly, and everyone seemed to be loving their handcrafted drip Chaiwanese blend! Unfortunately, Rach and I both don’t drink coffee (I literally go crazy hyper), but the delicious smell of the coffee here almost did make me want to order a cup of joe.
Chaiwanese’s homemade Shitake mushroom soup came in delightful little teacups – it was such an ad hoc but adorable way to serve soup! Aside from cuteness overload, the crunchy croutons were the perfect complement to the lovely creamy full-of-flavour mushroom soup.
Rach and I shared our salmon salad and cheesesteak. What hit me first when the entrees came along was the generous and hearty portion size – you definitely get bang for your buck here in Chai Wan!
The cheesesteak was a definite hit – it was served with Bulgogi beef sauce, which was ridiculously yummy and soaked through the bread giving it a kick of great flavour. In case you’re a bulgogi virgin, it’s not just a funny-sounding word, but actually a super-popular Korean dish of grilled marinated beef. For me, it’s one of the most delicious flavours out there – a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, garlic and sesame oil to give beef a slightly sweet, slightly salty but fantastically meaty flavour. So if you ever get this, I’d suggest asking for extra bulgogi sauce on the side!
As for the salad, I couldn’t help but notice how substantial it was; in Hong Kong, I usually order a salad and end up with a bowl of sad little leaves doused in dressing. But the salmon salad at Chaiwanese was beautifully presented, the salmon was fresh and the leaves dressed flawlessly. Definitely a good option for a light lunch, or to share with the girls.
Finally, we ended with carrot cake. I know not to judge a book by its cover, but for me, I always judge a piece of carrot cake by its frosting. Sadly, the frosting was neither smooth nor light, and definitely not enough for the hefty dense wedge of cake. But don’t worry, Chaiwanese is in the process of revamping their desserts, so hopefully there will be some other delicious sweet treats by the time you head over there!
Chaiwanese also has lots more exciting things in the pipeline – from opening for dinner soon, to hosting pop-up private kitchens and art exhibitions, with Jehan even mentioning thoughts of a Chaiwanese clothes range!
So for a cosy getaway from the city, Chaiwanese is certain to become a Sassy favourite. The prices were incredibly reasonable (around $70 for the lunch set), the food delicious, and most of all, it’s a truly unique place, where you can explore and experience a new neighbourhood and chill out next to that amazing view. So if you’re feeling a bit adventurous, ride the MTR to the end of line and become Chaiwanese for the day!
If you’re coming from Sheung Wan, Central or Wan Chai, hop on bus no. 788 to drop you straight outside Chai Wan Industrial City; for further transport details, see here
Chaiwanese, Unit 1307, Phase 1, Chai Wan Industrial City, 60 Wing Tai Road, Chai Wan, Hong Kong, 3698 0935