Vietnamese restaurant review: Co Thanh in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Finding a street scene straight out of Hanoi in Hong Kong
A few months ago, there was lots of talk about Co Thanh opening in Sheung Wan. Its claim to fame is its relation to Nguyen Thi Thành, who makes some of Saigon’s most famous noodles and soups, made even more famous after being featured in Anthony Bordain’s No Reservations. I’d put it on my ‘to eat’ list, but never managed to make it. I may have subconsciously put it off because of a few disappointments with the Vietnamese food in Hong Kong. I’d tried a couple places, but none really hit the spot. Chom Chom had a great vibe but every single dish was doused in fish sauce. Bep felt and tasted like a slightly-too-bland chain restaurant. Pho Bar was delicious, but the seating was uncomfortable.
But Friday night, after attending Fine Art Asia’s vernissage night, my friend and I were starving and wanted a quick bite before heading out to new Hemingway-inspired bar The Old Man. She brought up Co Thanh, I enthusiastically accepted, and we made our way over.
I should probably say that I love Vietnamese food so maybe I’m too picky. I’ve been to Hanoi three times since I moved to Asia in 2011, and usually do nothing besides eat my way through the city during my visits. Grilled pork and noodles at Bun Cha Nem Cua Be Dac Kim (67 Duong Thanh Street, Old Quarter), turmeric and dill fried fish at Cha Ca Thanh Long (31 Duong Thanh Street, Old Quarter), sticky rice at Xoi Yen (35 Nguyen Huu Huan, Hoan Kiem District)...I could go on.
So I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived at Co Thanh and it looked exactly like a scene from Hanoi! From the signage to the food carts to the plastic stools, everything seemed super authentic even if we were in the middle of our urban metropolis. The menu is small, so we settled on two bowls of noodles, spring rolls, and a popsicle (their one and only dessert).
We ordered the Bun Mam and the Bun Thai.
The Bun Mam ($98) had some killer soup. It was very rich and prawn-y, with a series of very fresh toppings including okra, eggplant, pineapple, squid, prawns, fish balls, and pork belly. Personally, I prefer yellow noodles to the rice noodles used, but this is a minor quip. This was a very satisfying bowl of noodles. And the spring rolls (shown in the back of the photo above) were crisp and stuffed fat with minced pork.
I only had a bite of this one but the Bun Thai ($98) seemed quite similar to the Bun Mam, but with a very tangy pork and beef broth.
As for the popsicle ($38), personally I thought it was just ok. It had hunks of fresh banana surrounded by a creamy coconut ice. It was pretty with the whipped cream and peanuts, but felt too cloying after the heavy bowl of noodles. A lighter option maybe with fresh lime or more fresh fruit could be nice.
Co Thanh is a lovely casual spot for some hearty Vietnamese food. The prices are good, the portions are generous, and the vibe is very fun.
2 Kau U Fong, Central (no phone number)
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