Once in Chinatown, many either forage for street food bites or dine at one of its historic family joints. But find Vietnam-inspired affordable fine-dining hidden in a trending soi? Inconceivable until now.
Tucked inside an antique riverside shophouse and former warehouse, Hybe Songwat has a seven-course menu loaded with dishes influenced by the owners’ trip to Ho Chi Minh and Can Tho just weeks before the pandemic put an end to doing such things.
The restaurant is run by four friends – Apichaya Maneerattanaporn, Napatsanan Ekwarongkul, Chalocha Ninthammachart and Piyapa Vichiansan – who own the nearby Pieces Cafe & Hostel, Soi Nana’s Nahim Cafe and umeshu speakeasy bar ShuuShuu Hiddenplace just upstairs.
Available through November, the current cuisine is dubbed Fraichement (“fresh” in French) and is presented in three chapters – Street, River and Home. When diners sit down, a vintage television flicks on to show footage shot by the four owners on their journey through the Vietnamese cities.
It starts with Chapter One: Street. Vietnamese street food dishes are interpreted and transformed into Thai-ified versions using local ingredients. A Bahn Mi sandwich becomes Walk and Talk, a baguette made of riceberry sourced from farmers in Isaan, resulting in a bread that’s dry yet pleasantly soft. It adds spiced pork sausage, chicken liver pate topped with pickled vegetables and chili sauce made in-house.
The second chapter, River, highlights Can Tho, where rural life revolves around the Mekong River Delta. One of the dishes, Along the River, features baked razor clams topped with crispy garlic crumbs and edible flowers. It’s complemented by the sweetness and tanginess of kumquat mayonnaise.
Nuoc cham – a Vietnamese dipping sauce with a balance of sweet, salty and sour flavors – brings the best to Home, the last chapter. For Homemade, a fish sauce-based staple is used to glaze organic chicken breast from Chiang Rai. Next to it is a risotto consisting of four different types of cooked broken rice inside paper-thin wrappers. A refreshing, zesty chunk of mango salsa helps counterbalance and soothe the heat.
After November, the menu will change to another destination theme. With travel limitations curtailing their forays – only domestic flights are allowed – the owners said that likely means Isaan, the northeastern region where the food is distinctive, unique and always worth exploring.
The Fraichement meal is THB1,590 per person. Wine pairings are THB1,190. Everything is subject to a 10% service charge. Seatings begin at 7pm every day except Monday, and reservations are required.
Hybe Songwat is located inside Trok Saphan Yuan off Soi Song Wat. It can be reached by walking a few minutes or a brief ride from MRT Wat Mangkon.
Saphan Yuan Alley, Soi Song Wat, Samphanthawong
Opens 7pm daily, except Monday
MRT: Wat Mangkon
This article, Travel Vietnam by tongue at Chinatown’s Hybe Songwat, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!