As I have no doubt mentioned before, Thai food is definitely one of my favourite cuisines that packs flavour into every bite, whilst still seeming somewhat healthy. A couple of years ago, former Chachawan chef Adam Cliff decided to go his own way and open his own Thai street food concept, Samsen. If you’ve been to Chachawan, you’ll have experienced a different kind of Thai food not quite like any other Thai restaurant in Hong Kong. Although, naturally, Chef Adam has taken the essence of some of his Chachawan recipes with him, the same can be said about Samsen; it certainly isn’t your average Thai restaurant.
Samsen isn’t a new restaurant, but I have only managed to make it there recently, having previously tried to visit and been put off by the long queues that snake out the door and around the corner, given the restaurant’s no reservation policy. It seats only 35 diners and, true to its street food concept, features rustic, almost unfinished-looking décor, designed by Charlie & Rose.
The menu at Samsen is more concise than Chef Adam’s previous restaurant, but there are certainly plenty of similarities, starting with the fact that the placemat is your menu and your waiter will circle your choices in pencil when you order. We started with the chopped duck salad, which was, in fact, entirely different to the salads I’ve tried at Chachawan. Here, the “salad” is more of a DIY job, where you fill an iceberg lettuce leaf with the meaty goodness. The flavours were delicious and I enjoyed the contrast of the crispy pork rinds, but I did feel it could have been significantly spicier.
The stir-fried Wagyu beef with wild ginger, garlic, chilli and red basil was simple yet carried a bold flavour, although I did find the beef to be just a little on the chewy side.
The Thai crabmeat and spring onion omelette was excellent, with a crisp exterior that gave way to fluffy lightness and delicate flavours that popped with the addition of the accompanying sriracha sauce.
Samsen is perhaps most famous for its boat noodles, of which we tried the pork version. Having never tried boat noodles before, I was unsure of what to expect and yet was seriously impressed by the lovely, intense and earthy flavours of this dish. The thin rice noodles were satisfyingly chewy, contrasting nicely against the tender slices of pork, succulent meatballs and crispy pork skin. I can imagine this being the perfect comfort food if you’re feeling under the weather.
Samsen’s dessert menu features some familiar items from Chachawan, so we couldn’t resist ordering the pandanas coconut dumplings, which I knew to be delicious. Biting into these little balls of goodness released chunks of sweet coconut flesh, which paired beautifully with the comforting salted coconut cream.
A meal for two with a refreshing fruit juice each came to about $300 per head. Service was also excellent and we appreciated our waiter’s personal recommendations and quirky sense of humour. I continue to be a big fan of Chef Adam’s take on Thai cuisine and think Samsen is definitely worth the wait. For lunch, you’ll have to physically stand in the queue (which makes eating there in a strict one-hour lunch break impossible), whereas for dinner you can put your name and number down and go for a drink across the road at Stone Nullah Tavern.
68 Stone Nullah Lane
Tel:+852 2234 0001
Open for lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday (closed on Sundays). No reservations.