Pisco heard about La Taste, a new Vietnamese restaurant in Central, from a local weekly. Normally there is a certain amount of pride we take in visiting new restaurants before they are well-publicized, but that’s not always possible. Pride can’t stand in the way of a good meal, so we headed down to Stanley Street in the rain tonight.
La Taste is located on the second first floor, and as we walked up the stairs, smooth R&B filled the air. The main dining room has a white and mint green (avocado? pastel? who knows…) color scheme, and it’s very calming. The menu is on the simple side, with six or seven pages with 5+ dishes on each one. I initially had intended to follow a one-week vegetarian/flexitarian diet, but one look at the menu and I crumbled. Four dishes were ordered: lotus root salad with shrimp, grilled shrimp paste on sugarcane, grilled chicken skewers on vermicelli salad, and soft shell crab rice paper roll.
The lotus root salad came first and we immediately realized we had over-ordered. A large bowl of sliced lotus roots appeared, dressed with a nam pla-based sauce, with tiny bits of red chili pepper sprinkled throughout. Several decently sized shrimp, possibly poached, lounged in the salad, which was very tasty, light, and filling. The chili added just the right amount of heat; it’s a very well-executed dish.
The grilled shrimp paste on sugarcane arrived next. I had no idea how to eat it – wrap in lettuce and dip in the accompanying loose peanut sauce? Eat it like a corn dog? Sensing my confusion, the server came and instructed me to wrap and dip. Perhaps experts could make this work, but it was beyond me. The actual shrimp paste was tasty, but I could not get the hang of eating it correctly. I am sure it would taste better with the right mix of basil, mint, and peanut sauce, but I doubt I’ll order it again.
The grilled chicken skewers on bun were heavenly. For some reason, grilled chicken in Vietnamese joints is always spectacular. Tender, juicy, and slightly sweet, the two skewers came with a large bowl of bun, filled with pickled veggies and ground peanuts. The salad had quite a full flavor profile, and I wondered if there was chicken broth in it; whatever it was, it was very satisfying and much more filling than most other bun salads I have tasted.
The soft shell crab roll was quite average by comparison. The pieces were a little too large to be comfortably eaten in front of someone, and since it’s a roll, you don’t really want to pull it apart.
Pisco hears that this place compares favorably to Nha Trang (apparently the chef used to work there), but not having been there, he cannot say for sure. Whatever your reference point, I think La Taste clearly holds its own and provides a very good experience at very reasonable prices. They are open until 11pm most nights.
The meal totaled HKD 206 for four dishes and one drink for two people. You could easily get away with two dishes and walk away satisfied, but you’ll probably want to order more just to try more of their fine creations.
1/F, 34-38 Stanley St.
Central, Hong Kong [map]
+852 2815 8863