Sometimes, it takes a bit of tweaks to make things work for the better. I had visited chef Simpson Wong’s eponymous restaurant, Wong, several years ago, and wasn’t quite on board with its pan-Asian fusion dishes. My impression back then was that the restaurant was trying to play too cute without offering the rich diversity of flavor and texture that Asian cuisine can offer. Since then, chef Wong has changed the concept of restaurant and called it Chomp Chomp, focusing on Singaporean hawker food that you can see in various market stalls throughout the food-crazed city country. I had visited Singapore last spring and was very fond of the diversity of influences that go into Singaporean cuisine, from China to Malaysia to India. And such diversity combined to make something very special that you can often witness in one of the hawker centers. Chomp Chomp aims to deliver such hawker food tradition to the New York dining scene, and overall they were pretty successful on my recent visit for dinner.
Any meal at the restaurant needs to start with oh lauk, oyster omelet with garlic chives and chili vinegar sauce. I was deeply impressed with the balance of flavor and texture of this dish; it has the hearty feel yet wasn’t overpowering. No wonder this dish made New York Times’ top 10 dishes from last year. Murtabak (roti filled with minced beef to dip on vegetarian curry dip) wasn’t too bad, either, but suffice to say it didn’t make the lasting impression that oh lauk had made.
Singaporean food has a lot of curry-based dishes. so it was only natural that we try a couple. Curry mee which had seafood, tofu puffs and egg noodles on light coconut broth was quite aromatic and was a perfect recipe for a cold winter night. Asam fish consisting of hake, okra and tomatoes cooked in tamarind coconut sauce was quite delicious as well. Overall, I found the broth from both dishes to be on the more moderate side without overpowering spicy kick. Sometimes, adding spice enriches a dish, but other times, moderation makes more sense, and in this instance, the kitchen clearly executed on the latter side with great effect. For dessert, definitely try goring pisang (banana fritters with vanilla ice cream), which was quite delightful without the banana being over-fried.
The restaurant doesn’t take reservations so make an effort to show up early (although the turnover seems to be relatively quick). There are some Asian-inspired cocktails and pedestrian wine selections. The dining space has that trendy vibe of West Village that could make it a good place for dinner before night outs with friends or casual dates. I’m glad that Chomp Chomp has decided to evolve in a way where simplicity from the past has actually improved the quality of food coming out from the kitchen. Yes, that oyster omelet dish will linger for quite some time in my memory, too.
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 7.5/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 7.5/10
Address: 7 Cornelia Street, New York, NY 10014
Telephone: (212) 929-2888