A new Vietnamese eatery on the border of Central and Sheung Wan, Co Thanh dishes up authentic dishes that challenge the palate and send the senses to Saigon.
Ever since word got out about Co Thanh there’s been significant buzz due to the link to Nyguen Thi Thanh. Her popular Ho Chi Minh City food stall, The Lunch Lady, was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s TV show No Reservations, earning her international foodie fame. It’s her only apprentice, Brian Woo, who’s behind this spot on Kau U Fong.
The restaurant feels like a sleeker version of a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese eatery – all bare concrete, hand painted signs, plastic stools and fold out tables. We got started with pork spring rolls that were generously meaty, wrapped in a crisp, golden brown casing with a wonderfully garlic-laden nuoc cham sauce for dipping.
Our banh mi came packed with homemade pâté, cold cuts including lean pork, Vietnamese ham, pork shank and skin, pork head and ears terrine, pickles, coriander, spring onions and Vietnamese chili peppers. The toasted hunk of bread was a little too crunchy but balanced out the almost rubbery texture of the Vietnamese cold cuts with a fiery kick from the chilis. It was a solid and authentic banh mi, but there are better ones being dished up elsewhere at places like Le Petit Saigon.
Moving on to soup noodles, the bun nam variety was made with a fermented fish and shrimp paste broth, topped with prawns, squid, roasted pork belly, pineapple, okra, aubergine and chives. The broth had a stong fishiness and whilst I enjoyed it, it didn’t provide the savoury kick I craved. The pork belly was cooked to perfection, though, with a crisp skin that maintained its crunch even after sitting in the soup. Although the veg was a little overcooked, the seafood was fresh and sweet.
The bun bo Hue was a resounding favourite on the night. Its rich Hue style beef broth was addictively moreish, with a cinnamon hint that cut through the fatty beef, cha Hue (basically, a pork roll) and pigs blood tofu. The banana blossom and basil complemented the harmonious balance of flavours and the vermicelli had a more satisfying bite to it in this soup.
Co Thanh may serve the classics but it shows Hong Kong diners that there’s more to Vietnamese cuisine than just pho and bun cha and does so in style.