Samsen (Sheung Wan)
Time Out says
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Thai food stalwart opens the second branch that offers new dishes as adventurous as they are delicious.
Since opening in Wan Chai back in 2016, Samsen has gained droves of loyal fans and a stellar reputation for serving up some of the best damn Thai fare in Hong Kong, especially when it comes to those legendary boat noodles. In this new venture, head chef Adam Cliff boldly does away with the brand’s famous headliner to focus on the northern-Thai staple of Khao Soi. As questionable as his decision may at first seem, the chef’s sense of adventure here – and elsewhere on the new menu – pays delicious dividends that leave the Sheung Wan outpost well-poised to match the success of its older sister.
The interior stays faithful to the Wan Chai flagship with distressed concrete walls rising from a weathered tile floor behind a shopfront which can be opened to introduce that all-important al fresco vibe to the dining experience. At this branch, however, there is an increased use of bright hues sloshed over the sticker-speckled walls and, notably, space is significantly larger to make for an experience that is less likely to see you rubbing elbows with hungry strangers than at the original.
Like the colour on the walls, the new menu prides itself on being “bold”. Upon a preliminary scan, it is apparent that Chef Adam Cliff is letting his imagination run free with the experimentation on Thai flavours in a range of truly exciting culinary creations. Particularly flavourful titbits include the Grilled Chicken and Wing Bean Salad ($118), the dish treats the taste buds to a spicy, aromatic symphony of chilli jam, lemongrass and Thai Basil. The Grilled Coconut and Chili Prawn Skewers ($118) are grilled to perfection and soaked in a southern Thai curry and pickled ginger concoction to give every bite a fragrant lilt that overpowers the coconut but is delicious nonetheless.
As for the mains, the Pad Thai of Tiger Prawns ($138) hits the proper flavour notes and does delicious justice to the Thai staple–noodles crafted with just the right texture and bounce from the first slurp. At this point, it may be time to order a drink, so go ahead and try one of Samsen’s reasonably priced cocktails like the Samsen Mojito ($92), a fresh, punchy, lime-forward libation that, while not life-changing, cuts through the decadent flavours of the food to leave you wanting more.
And now for the million-dollar question: how does the new Khao Soi ($148) compare to the revered boat noodles of the original Wan Chai branch? It’s hard to say, with the two dishes completely different creations. The Khao Soi is comprised of incredibly succulent beef in a creamy, sweet curry soup complete with noodles of both the soft and crispy variety (the crispy ones coming as a garnish on top in true Chiang Mai tradition). As with the boat noodles at the Wan Chai branch, the quality of ingredients is clearly high, and attention to detail great. So Thai food lovers are sure not to be disappointed either way. Maybe it’s time to get down to Samsen Sheung Wan to answer this question for yourself!