One of the latest NYC dining trends is to see respected restaurateurs open up street-food-inspired joints. Café Asean’s Chef Simpson Wong is one of them, with his 2015 opening of Chomp Chomp, bringing Singaporean “hawker” food to the West Village culinary scene.
For those of you who’ve never been that far East, Hawker centers are Asian food courts, offering cheap local street fare in large open air complexes in which you hop from stall to stall. Chomp Chomp definitely isn’t as cheap but a rather gourmet version of Hawker food eateries, while respecting authentic traditional recipes in a casual setting.
The decor is a mix of the typical West Village restaurants attributes (white rustic open-brick walls, dim candle lighting, open kitchen and bar area) and a high-end version of an Asian food hall. Chef Wong describes the decor as “pure old-school Southeast Asian chic”, with details like Chinese antique wooden doors, bamboo blinds, dark wood etc. Great atmosphere, except for the horribly uncomfortable chairs – but I guess they were just trying to recreate the food court experience!
Sit at the chef table stools overlooking the kitchen
The crowd is young, hip, and foodie orientated, and often heavily Asian which is a good sign when it comes to authenticity! 🙂
The concept is inspired by Chef Wong’s childhood in Singapore (Singaporeans take their food very seriously!). The multicultural food influences are omnipresent, which means you’ll find Indian, Chinese, Malay and British Colonial flavors in Chomp Chomp’s cuisine.
Just like the real deal, all dishes are served in Melamine dishware and are best shared family style: “Sharing is loving. Hawker food is meant to be shared” is even their tagline! The menu is divided between “snacks” (appetizer style section) priced from $8-$12, “rice & noodles” and “mains” – around $15, “sides” and “desserts”. I hope you enjoy shrimp paste (“sambal belacan”) because you’ll find this signature local flavor in many dishes.
Although I got taken to Chomp Chomp my two legit well-traveled foodie friends, the food can be a hit or miss, so order intelligently: the highlights were the snacks, especially the Murtabak (stuffed Roti) and the Hah Zheung Gai (Shrimp paste chicken wings). I was grossed out by their Oh Luah (Oyster omelet) – I was so excited to try this but it was overbearingly fishy. My friends enjoyed it though… The Rice & Noodle section is pretty straightforward and nothing to write home about. The Char Kway Teow is very good if you like Thai drunken noodles. The Nasi Lemak was blah , and the biggest disappointment was the BBQ Stingray dish – way overcooked and flavorless. Sigh. I really enjoyed the warm sweet potato dessert Bo Bo Cha Cha though. I will definitely go back though to try more “snacks” and their “carrot cake” signature dish.
They offer good signature cocktails, a handful of decent wines, and tea of course, but even for a wino like myself Asian cuisine always tastes better washed down with a cold Tiger beer.
Chef Wong’s goal was to make his “comfort food” accessible to everyone, just like the legit hawker eateries. It most certainly isn’t comparable to the $3 average meal in Singapore (this is NYC after all), but it definitely is on the more affordable side for the West Village, which makes it worth its while. Rather than a traditional hawker joint, I would define Chomp Chomp as a Singapore inspired restaurant for a West Village crowd.
Chomp Chomp is walk-in only so expect a wait!
Open for dinner daily. Lunch and Brunch are expected to come soon!