Co Thanh serves delicious and authentic Vietnamese food made with fresh ingredients that are handpicked by the chefs daily
Hong Kong is best known for its fascinating culinary culture. Whether you’re hunting for the tastiest local street food, Japanese restaurants or Indian restaurants, the city never ceases to surprise you. And one must-try restaurant to add to your tasting roster is Co Thanh – an authentic Vietnamese joint in Central that serves food full of flavour, fresh ingredients and colour.
Sample Vietnamese food at Co Thanh
Although Vietnamese restaurants in Hong Kong are a dime a dozen, finding a bona fide eatery that truly honours the heritage of Vietnam cuisine is like scoring a seat on the MTR at rush hour. But, the team at Co Thanh are on a mission to educate Hong Kong about what real Vietnamese food is, one bite at a time. And if the queues are anything to go by, it’s paying off.
In fact, the lunch crowd is exactly where the origin story of Co Thanh begins. The restaurant is built on the success (and with the guidance) of one of Saigon’s most famous food icons, a humble street food vendor named Nguyen Thi Thanh, known to most as The Lunch Lady. And with the launch of Co Thanh, we now have an outpost in Hong Kong to sample the delectable creations from this awesome aunt.
The Lunch Lady shot to prominence in 2009, when her food stall was given the seal of approval by Anthony Bourdain on his television show. Although the luscious flavours in her soups and sauces were already known to bloggers and epicureans, she rose to global fame after Bourdain nibbled on her noodles, and her stall has been swamped ever since – often selling out in less than two hours of opening each day.
Veteran Chef Son Pham underwent three years of training with The Lunch Lady, and although he’s worked in Michelin-starred restaurants across the world, he is most grateful for his apprenticeship in Vietnam, where he mastered traditional recipes at aunt Thanh’s street food stall before bringing them to Co Thanh in Hong Kong.
At Co Thanh things are dialled back to basics, which is the way real Vietnamese food should be.
Over 70% of the ingredients are handpicked at Co Thanh to make sure the flavour, aroma and texture is spot-on. The pate, chili sauces, mayonnaise and preserved limes are house-made, and the restaurant imports noodles and other ingredients from Vietnam. The team buys from local markets daily and keeps the menu small to ensure consistency and quality; you can literally taste the meticulousness that goes into each dish, with every component carefully considered.
If it’s pho you’re looking for though, forget it – at Co Thanh they take it much further than this standard dish. Don’t fret though, as there is life after pho. If you’re after something hearty, try their bun bo hue, a hearty beef broth with tender cuts of meat, juicy beef balls and perfectly chewy noodles.
Make sure not to miss the banh mi either, which has a perfect ratio of meat and bread and comes stuffed to the brim with cold cuts, tangy pickles, coriander, spring onions and more. The restaurant even sources bread from a nearby bakery every meal session for maximum freshness and crunchiness.
Like the food, the interior is modest and unassuming, but intentionally so. With bare concrete walls, hand-painted Saigon-imported metal signs and classic plastic street food vendor stools, there is a raw industrial chicness about the space, which has a Vietnam urban street vibe to it.
This is fitting, as the focus here is on the food. This is deliciously detail-orientated dining, and once you’ve tasted the effort, thought, heart and experience that goes into each dish you’ll be coming back in no time.
In five words
Authentic Vietnamese meets industrial chic
Co Thanh, G/F, 2-4 Kau U Fong, Central, Hong Kong, 中環九如坊2-4號地舖