Cha’s Restaurant 思南查餐厅
Address: 1/F, 30 Sinan Lu, near Huaihai Zhong Lu / 思南路30号, 近淮海中路
Tel: 6093 2062
Price: 50~70 RMB/person
Cha’s Restaurant, a dedicated replica of Hong Kong’s 1950s cha cantings (Cantonese diners, if you will), has been wildly popular since it opened in July 2009. How popular? Well, if you must ask, there’s a queue all the time – at 11:00am, at 2:00pm, at 4:00pm, and at 10:00pm. As I’m not a big fan of either cha cantings or queues, I managed to ignore this place for almost 2 years. It wasn’t until very recently that I decided that it’s about time to find out what the big deal is with this place.
Note the long line already forming at the door, and this was only 11:15am.
Spam and instant noodles
Our waitress was understandably impatient. Tapping her pen on her notepad as she waited for us to order, she was most definitely signaling the message: Ah you ignorant first-timers…Chop chop! Do you not see the line forming outside the door? We need to turn tables here!
Milk Tea 查記奶茶, 13 RMB (hot) / 15 RMB (iced)
It seemed like our food came immediately after we placed our orders (it probably helped that everything we ordered are the typical “popular plates”). So here’s the first dish, Cha’s Homemade Beef Brisket and Tendon Curry (查記牛筋腩咖喱, 40 RMB), a greasy but delicious start. Chunks of beef brisket, beef tendon, carrots, and potatoes swimming in a curry broth (full of spice but not at all spicy), perfect with a bowl of rice.
Cha’s Homemade Beef Brisket and Tendon Curry 查記牛筋腩咖喱, 40 RMB
The next dish, Poached Chicken in Soya Sauce and Rose Wine (玫瑰豉油雞, 50 RMB/half a chicken), was my favorite of the meal. Supremely succulent.
Poached Chicken in Soya Sauce 玫瑰豉油雞, 50 RMB/half a chicken
Poached Chicken in Soya Sauce 玫瑰豉油雞
Sweet & Sour Pork (菠蘿咕嚕肉, 36 RMB), with its characteristically crispy skin in a thickened sweet sour sauce, was another easy crowd pleaser.
Sweet & Sour Pork 菠蘿咕嚕肉, 36 RMB
Cha’s Fried Rice (查餐厅炒飯, 32 RMB) wasn’t too shabby, but I still refer Din Tai Fung‘s egg fried rice.
Cha’s Fried Rice 查餐厅炒飯, 32 RMB
And of course we could not leave without trying the Pineapple Buns (菠蘿油, 6 RMB/each). For those poor deprived souls who have never tasted pineapple buns, these sweet pastries actually don’t contain any traces of pineapples, but are named this way because their sugary crusts resemble the exterior of a pineapple. The Hong Kong canting version of pineapple buns come with a generous slab of butter, making this already artery-clogging pastry one of the top 10 most harmful snack foods in Hong Kong. Oh, what the heck, it tastes so good.
Pineapple Buns 菠蘿油, 6 RMB/each
The egg tarts (5 RMB/each) at Cha’s, on the other hand, were very disappointing. KFC does better.
Egg Tarts 酥皮蛋塔, 5 RMB/each
The verdict? Food was great, but not worth the long wait. Cha’s fans should be delighted to know that a second branch has opened up in Xujiahui at the following address: Novel Place, B/F, 131 Tianyaoqiao Lu, near Xingeng Lu / 天钥桥路131号, 近辛耕路. Now off you go.