HK Island, Restaurant Review

Review: Samsen

Samsen is a new Thai place, it just opened a few days ago next to the Blue House in Wan Chai. It is run by Chef Adam Cliff, who left Chachawan, the fantastic Thai restaurant in Sheung Wan, in late 2015 to open this new place. Chachawan is our favourite Thai restaurant in Hong Kong (and I am surprised I have not blogged about it yet, but then everybody else has) and it is famous for its authentic Thai dishes from the northern region, known as Issan cuisine. I love its sea bass dish and papaya salad with pork belly, and just the fact that it is not your average Thai restaurant – there is no curry or pad thai on the menu!

The new place Samsen is pretty much the same – it is everything but your average Thai. It is intimate and small (with only 35 seats, some at the counter), the menu focuses on noodles and street food – and again, it is all about the spices and freshness of ingredients.

A friend of mine told me about his place shortly before it opened, and we quickly decided to visit it with friends (so we can order and share more). We arrived before 6.30pm and quickly grabbed a table (there is a no reservations policy, and if you know chachawan, then you know that you usually have to wait). As soon as we arrive, the very friendly staff filled our glasses with cold water and told us about the specials today.

Samsen Thai Hong Kong August 2016-2

It turns out that the new menu is already changing – it is small and focused on boat noodles, but out of the five boat noodle dishes, only two were available tonight. So we decided to try the noodles with beef, which arrived quickly. A big bowl of wagyu brisket, meatballs, chopped morning glory and vermicelli-style thin noodles arrived – and the soup base was thick and rich, almost like a curry. We all agreed that it is an interesting dish, but we fancied more dishes with a lighter, fresher taste.

Samsen Thai Hong Kong August 2016-6

So we were much happier with the lab bet – a duck-dish. It came with crackling on top and was spicy, but not too much. It was refreshing with all the herbs, but had a good, strong duck taste. This was a dish on the special menu, so not sure if it will be added to the normal menu.

The wok-fried noodles with wagyu beef came with egg, Chinese mustard green and wide, flat rice noodles and plenty of sweet oyster sauce mixed in. The portion was big, the food piping hot – and very tasty. A good dish that transported us all back to the small side streets of Bangkok with the little food stalls and lots of different foods to taste. The dish was really flavoursome, and just hit the spot.

We also ordered the eep-fried eggs with chili jam – runny yolks served with a slightly sweet chili sauce. It looks spicy, but it is actually not too hot. It is a fantastic dish, something we had never tried before, and we quickly ordered a second portion.

We also had grilled pork neck as a side, a classic. Well executed, but the portion could have been a little bit bigger. It was one of the smaller ones, but then it is billed as a side dish.

Samsen Thai Hong Kong August 2016-8

Next up we ordered a papaya salad with pork belly (which is the same great combination as Adam used to serve at Chachawan) and a mango salad that comes with dried shrimp. Both salads were not on the regular menu, but featured on the special menu for the day. They were well balanced and good portions, the four of us munched through them with a big appetite!

We thought we’d be too full to order desserts – but we had to go for the mango and sticky rice, as well as Adam’s famous coconut dumplings in warm, salted coconut cream. Both are well balanced dishes, with lots of rich coconut cream – and we ate them so quickly that I could not even snap a photo.

Overall, we shared one soup, one fried noodles dish, three sides (two eggs and one pork neck), the Lab Bet duck dish, plus two salads, two desserts, four beer and two soft drinks – so the bill came to 1,200 HKD for the four of us. Not as cheap as it would have been in Thailand, but as this is Hong Kong, it is a fair price – we were all full and happy after our meal at Samsen and can’t wait to be back.

G/F, 68 Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai
Tel. 2234 0001


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