Chilli Club (Hong Kong, December 2018)

Back to Hong Kong but not to Cantonese food. After four Cantonese meals in a row after arrival, I had Thai food for dinner on my second day. Lunch had been a dim sum blowout at Maxim’s Palace and my friend wanted to take me to one of her favourite Thai places for dinner. Though I put up knee-jerk resistance (“I want to eat Cantonese”, I whined), I was secretly curious to see what Thai food in Hong Kong would be like. On our previous trip we’d eaten at a well-regarded Sichuan restaurant and had not been terribly impressed. Would Hong Kong do better by a non-Chinese cuisine renowned for its heat? Read on.

The boring answer is both yes and no. That is to say that while this dinner at Chilli Club in Wan Chai pressed more of my Thai food buttons than Qi – House of Sichuan had pressed of my Sichuan buttons, this was also a restaurant that did not rise above its counterparts in the US. Greater proximity to Thailand did not mean very much in this case. This is, of course, only one meal at only one Thai restaurant in Hong Kong—it is possible, even likely, that there are other restaurants that offer more specific and unusual Thai flavours and regional cuisines. Chilli Club, however, has a menu largely comprised of popular Thai cuisine all-stars. By the same token it executes them all very well. Everything we ordered was very tasty.

There were four of us. We started with three dishes from the “Snacks” section of the menu, all of which were very good indeed. We got the larb with chicken, their som tum, and moo yang (or charcoal grilled pork) served with a chilli sauce dip (the sauce was excellent and had a good kick). We followed these with a green curry (with pork, I think) and an order of steamed fish with lime and chilli sauce. The green curry was good, the fish—barramundi, I think—was excellent: perfectly steamed and the sauce was nicely balanced between sourness and heat. One young coconut each alongside to fight the heat. Speaking of heat, on account of a couple of people in the group not being able to handle very high heat, we didn’t get the larb, som tum or the curry “Thai hot”.

For pictures of the food and the restaurant launch the slideshow below. Scroll down for more on service, value etc.

We were there on a Sunday evening and the restaurant was quite full when we arrived (we had a reservation). Service was fine. So were the prices. My friend took the bill and so I cannot confirm the total but it was on par with similar places in the US. So, what would the similar places be? In the Twin Cities On’s Kitchen and Bangkok Thai Deli are the closest. Chilli Club beats them in my view—the fish, in particular, was done with a delicacy not found here. However, I would take our favourite places in Los Angeles over it any day—especially Jitlada and Luv2Eat. This is not a knock on Chilli Club: Los Angeles just has excellent Thai food.

Would I recommend it? Well, probably not if you’re in Hong Kong for a week or less and aren’t likely to come back again anytime soon. If you’re around for longer and longing for something far less mild than most Cantonese fare, then yes, I would recommend it. Indeed, when/if I come back for a much longer trip in a few years’ time, it is more than likely that I will eat here at least once; though I will also scope out some of the other locally-lauded Thai places.

Okay, only two Hong Kong reports left to go: one more dim sum meal and one round-up of smaller meals and snacks eaten across the city. I’ll be done with those next week. In between, however, I’ll have another Bombay report: either Goan or Malayali.

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