CRR Week 8: Chalawan Asian Eatery

CRR Week 8: Chalawan Asian Eatery

Hi! Time just fly by! We’re already at week 8 and I swear I just got here. The post is 3 days late, but better late than never right 😉

Today’s post is courtesy of two friends from the Academic Econ server. We had a great time at Lamplighter and decided it was time to go for round 2.

As the resident foodie, they gave me free reign to pick the restaurant. I decided to go with something more exotic….. and definitely didn’t regret it

Chalawan Asian Eatery

Chalawan is a small restaurant near Porter square offering big flavours. They specialise in pan southeast Asian cuisine with an emphasis on authentic Thai. Since opening, Chalawan has become a local favourite for their unique food and fine dining experience without the fine dining price tag (more on that later). Enough talk, time to eat!

Food

Chalawan’s menu is quite concise, but with so many exotic dishes, the choice was difficult to say the least. Luckily, our party of 4 got a good sampling

Starters

In typical fashion, I start off with oysters.

But, these aren’t typical oyster shooters. It’s flavoured with nahm jim, a Thai spiced vinegar chili sauce, and shallots. The incredibly complex balance of vinegar, sugar, spice and umami from the nahm jim enhanced the natural salinity of the oyster. Shallots added a peppery bite and texture.

Not a fan of oysters? Try a seared scallop with green nahm Jim (the “green tobasco” of nahm jims) ginger, scallion and shallots.

The scallop was cooked perfectly and rich, pairing perfectly with the sweet acidic heat of the nahm jim and toppings. Aside from taste and texture, I appreciated the contrast in temperatures between the warm scallop and cool sauce 

Keeping on the Thai theme, we moved on land for some chicken wrapped in betel leaf with smoked nahm prig jeaw (a sweet and umami tamarind chili sauce) and crispy shallots.

I was not a fan of this dish. First, there was barely any chicken!!! The chicken that was there was extremely dry. I’m also not a fan of tamarind. The funky sour taste isn’t my thing. 

Moving out out of Thailand into Hainan: Crispy pork belly.

This was phenomenal. Honestly the best dish of the night. The belly was perfectly crisp yet tender inside. Rich but not overwhelmingly greasy. It’s paired with a sweet and sour plum glaze and tomatillo dipping vinegar which really cut through the fat. I could have had multiple plates of this

After the pork belly, I thought it might be a good idea to lighten things up a bit with the prawn salad with apple, coral mushroom, carrots, shallots tossed in sweet fish sauce.

This was just the refreshing palate cleanser we needed. The acidity from the apples paired well with the fish sauce. Everything was crisp and the prawns weren’t over cooked! I just wish there were more of them.

Mains

We ordered three mains to share: Stir fried soft shelled crab with pong gari (thai curry) onion, chili, ginger, coconut, scallion and Asian celery, red braised baby back ribs and Javanese lamb shank curry.

The crab was first to arrive

I was quite impressed. Perfectly crisp with a very strong crab flavour that stood up to the curry. The curry is on the milder side, great for someone like me who isn’t the biggest fan of curry. I don’t think the tomato was necessary. The acidity clashed slightly with the spices

The lamb shank came shortly after.

Although advertised as a curry, this was more of a spiced braised shank with very little actual curry flavour (not a bad thing!!!). Note: I am NOT saying that the dish itself was flavourless. Quite the opposite. It had a very delicate balance of spices. The warm spices added depth of flavour and sweetness to a very savoury dish. The meat was not fall off the bone tender, but I actually enjoyed the texture.

Finally some red braised ribs.

Of course, as the Red Braised Twinkie, I had to give it a try. It was delicious! I wouldn’t necessarily say these are red braised- they were slowcooked/stewed. I actually like this version better. Less sweet, slightly spicy, far lighter. This meat was fall off the bone and oh, so delicious.

Note: There’s a separate Vegetarian menu. I’m sure it’s amazing, but I like my meat!

Service and Atmosphere

The service and atmosphere matched the food. That’s to say, it was great! The decour really highlighted the pan Asian theme with Thai murals on the walls, Chinese good luck charms and even Vietnamese movie posters as wall paper in the bathroom.

There was a sense of zen. Nothing rushed or loud.

I really enjoyed the service. The staff really embraced the “fine dining” ethos. They greeted us with smiles and were happy to give suggestions on (decode) the menu. My friends also appreciated the table side rice service.

Overall Impression

Overall, I loved Chalawan! It offers authentic, very delicious, pan Asian cuisine at reasonable prices. The trick is not to think too much and just point at items. Hard to go wrong. When I come back to Cambridge, I’ll definitely come back to try that crispy whole fish,

That’s it for this week! One more to go until back to school. Until next time, bye!

3 thoughts on “CRR Week 8: Chalawan Asian Eatery

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