A succession of sad little restaurants have opened and then swiftly closed on the corner of our street since we moved to HC Ørstedsvej. First a French café, then an Italian restaurant, most recently an exceedingly dodgy joint that hardly ever seemed to open at all. So hallelujah, you can imagine our delight when we heard that Henrik Yde-Andersen and Lertchai Treetawatchaiwong, the dynamic duo behind Michelin-starred Kiin Kiin, had also noticed that this Frederiksberg corner was screaming out for a reinvention. Fast forward a couple of months and we now have Chai:Wong, a Singapore kitchen serving up a mixture of Asian food that was inspired by a trip Henrik and Lertchai took this winter to Hong Kong, Hanoi, Singapore, Seoul, Bangkok and Beijing.
From the pavement Chai:Wong looks dark, very dark in fact with its black awnings, black woodcut screens, black Buddha and black tables and chairs. But come nightfall – when the ginormous lanterns are lit outside and the deep, sumptuous window seats are full of chattering clientele – the gloom is replaced by glamour. Step inside and you find a sophisticated, bustling little restaurant – hyggelig done Asian-style.
It’s completely packed on a Monday night with all 48 dining slots, including bar stools, full with expectant customers. Perhaps this instantaneous success explains the friendly yet sluggish service. It’s not that the waiter/chefs – all poached from their native countries to produce authentic Asian cooking – are slacking. They’re just completely rushed off their feet. No matter, the minute our lychee mojitos arrive accompanied by crudités and devilishly calorific peanut dipping sauce, we’re quite happy to sit, spy and peruse the enticing menu.
For starters we opt for the Summer rolls – one duck, one prawn – the Pomelo salad with grilled prawns, and Dim sum with sesame prawn toast. Of the three it was the salad that really had us scraping the plate. Laced with mint, spring onions and potent red chilies, it was a generous and refreshing delight. The Summer rolls erred on bland, lacking the customary kick of fresh herbs, but my god, the sesame prawn toast was good and the steaming little parcels of pork and seafood spot on.
For main we opted for one of three signature dishes: Prawns cooked in rice noodles with star anise and lovage. Boom. Served straight out of the saucepan, this was street food at its very best: the noodles infused with all the flavours of the prawns and ancient herbs while nestled on a cheeky layer of bacon. Our second main, the Black and white fish with cucumber and sesame noodle salad, wasn’t as good. The fish had a crispy coat and succulent centre, but the salad was a bit sad. The trick seems to be to choose wisely. Get it right and you get dishes that are amazingly tasty and great value for money (starters range from 55–125kr and mains from 145–195kr). Get it wrong and you’ll be looking longingly at other people’s plates.
Fortunately, our final, belt-busting course of banana cake with salted coconut ice cream was a winner. Elaborately presented on a vast wooden platter, it was ridiculously good, with the crispy fried cake, velvety ice cream and bonus dollop of dolce de leche creating a fantastic combination of sweet and sour tastes and textures. Thank goodness this isn’t on the takeaway menu or otherwise I’d soon be approaching 20 stone.
For drinks there is a short cocktail menu and an impressive choice of wines and champagnes, served by both the glass and the bottle. There are plenty of affordable (by Danish standards) options as well as some bottles with more punchy price tags. We started with a Bandol Rose, followed by the Big Fat & Gutsy Arakoon Shiraz – both of which held their own against the strong flavours of Asian food.
It was fantastic to see the ever-so-charming Henrik nipping back and forth into the kitchen, despite having just jumped off a long haul flight. His absolute involvement is obvious, down to the choice of painting on the wall.
So we left Chai:Wong feeling very full, a bit tipsy and most of all excited that Frederiksberg finally has an affordable, chic, friendly and tasty neighbourhood restaurant. I for one will definitely be going back.
1871 Frederiksberg; 2752 3565,
Open Mon-Sat 11:00-24:00
Cuisine: Southeast Asian
Top Dish: Prawns cooked in rice noodles
Price Range: Starters 55-125kr, mains145-195kr