Taikoo Li North has started to see a revival in the past 6 – 8 months. I can remember the days when Beijingers would flock to the North end of the village and were obsessed with the Colibri cupcakes. In the intervening 5 years alas, I haven’t ventured up there much. With the revitalisation of Colibri and the introduction of Cacha Cacha, alongside the long-term solid performer Transit, things are looking up.
Cacha Cacha is a Northern Thai restaurant (think Chiang Mai) and the food is by a very talented chef Tom Samranjit who boasts both an impressive and extensive culinary track record, mostly working with big name hotels in Hong Kong. Breaking free to do what he knows best, Cacha Cacha’s menu is distinctively different from other Thai restaurants in Beijing using treasured family recipes.
“We specialize in authentic Lanna (Northern Thai) cuisine by our proprietor chef Tom Samranjit. As a second generation Thai chef, Tom brings his exotic recipes inherited from his family legacy of more than 50 years.” – Leo Wu, Partner of Cacha Cacha
Decorated to feel like a Thai food court (minus the numerous health and safety violations), they’ve done a great job with neon lights that bounce brightly off the corrugated iron, Muay Thai themed plates and playful Thai adverts displayed on their walls. This is a strong contrast to the rest of Taikoo Li which, especially in the north portion, seems to be based on a beige and black color scheme. Tucked away next to Let’s Burger Plus, the easiest way to find the place is to walk straight into the North area from Bar Street, down the escalator next to Colibri and then into the doors that are to your left.
Entrance of Cacha Cacha
Casual and Relaxed Dining Atmosphere Reminiscent of a Thai Food Court
Chang Lime Soda (RMB 36)
Fresh lime is something I always have to remind myself to try to have more of. Paired with the soda makes this drink soothing for the spicy dishes, despite the bubbles in the soda!
Thumbs Up Thai Tea (RMB 34)
I loved this! A very original recipe, this came highly recommended by Leo and I’m so glad it was mine! It’s a less-sweet version of a Hong Kong or Taiwan milk tea, but with much more depth of tea flavor.
Lemongrass, Pandan & Sea Coconut (RMB 34)
We’re still perplexed by what sea coconut actually is, but this drink was also a hit and a great balance to the spicy dishes.
Phad Gaprow Nuer – Stir-fried minced beef with chili, garlic and hot basil (RMB 58)
A classic Northern Thai streetfood dish, this would definitely have been better in 30 degrees and 90% humidity, but Beijing wasn’t cooperating in February. Enough spice to let you feel it, but not to overwhelm the flavors.
Nham Prik Ong – Slow Cooked Tomatoes and Minced Pork Dip with Crispy Pork Rind and Vegetables (RMB 68)
The closest thing I can think of to compare this dip to is fried egg and tomato. That’s similar to the flavor on display here. To eat this properly however, you spoon some of it into a vegetable wrap. It’s a great combo with the Thai basil and the deep fried pork rind is basically crackling, which everyone swooped up as soon as we all realized what it was!
Gai Yang Prik – Grilled Marinated Chicken Skewers with Sweet Chili Sauce (RMB 56)
Tender and full of flavor, these are highly recommended. The only annoyance is getting the last piece of meat out of the wooden skewers that clamp the meat. Just get in there cause it’s worth it.
Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Garlic and Black Pepper (RMB 88)
Another dish that came recommended, this was awesome. Crab is best when you don’t have to pick out all the meat out of the shell and just eat it all without all that added effort. Nicely seasoned and lightly battered so the natural flavors of the crab meat really come through.
Dtom Yum Gung – Spicy and Sour Prawn Soup with Lemongrass and Chili (RMB 68)
Yet again, we should have asked about the spice levels for this one. For me, the spice overwhelmed the rest of the dish which is a shame as normally I like this.
Green Curry with Braised Beef Brisket (RMB 88)
Creamy and packed with flavor, this is just how we like our green curry and the beef brisket is tender and does its job of soaking up all that green curry goodness. We were all impressed with Cacha Cacha’s rendition of this famous Thai dish considering how difficult it is to get fresh herbs and spices in Beijing. It’s a tough task for Thai and other restauranteurs that rely heavily on imported ingredients as they are held to a standard that is nigh on impossible to match in China with the import rules and regulations.
Khor Muu Yang – Grilled Marinated Pork Neck with Vegetables (RMB 78)
This was the highlight – grilled to perfection, the meat was charred slightly, yet still moist and with a great dipping sauce. Others at our table thought it was a bit too fatty, but I’m of the belief that more fat equates to more flavour.
Yum Som O – Fresh Pomelo with Deep-Fried Soft Shell Crab, Chili and Lime Dressing (RMB 88)
Fresh pomelo with some nuts and onions to provide texture and some more of that fried soft shell crab we all couldn’t get enough of. What’s not to love? At once chewy, crispy and moist.
Yum Tua Pluu – Tossed Wing Bean Salad with Prawns, Squid, Minced Pork in Roasted Chili Paste, Poached Egg and Tamarind Sauce (RMB 58)
I definitely would not have ordered this dish unless it didn’t come recommended to me by Leo. The first time any of the 8 foodies at my table had ever even heard of or seen “wing beans”, we were hesitant with the interesting mix of seafood in a salad, but anything with an oozing poached egg gets me excited and we were all surprisingly impressed by this one!
Geng Hangley – Casserole Pork Belly with Homemade Curry Paste, Ginger, Solo Garlic and Peanuts (RMB 88)
Some loved this, some thought it was too fatty. It’s like Hong Shao Rou in that respect. If you share Chairman Mao’s passion for pork belly, you will love this. If on the other hand the fat turns your stomach, this is one to steer clear of.
Kret Nahm Kang – Beijing Arctic Ocean Citric Sorbet + Ai Dim – Liquid Nitrogen Thai Tea Ice Cream (RMB 28 + 32)
The Beibingyang Sorbet was really refreshing and a great palate cleanser to end the meal. If you like Beibingyang, you will love this. If you’re European and have not drunk Beibingyang before, think Orangina. For Americans, this is like a less sweet Fanta. The Thai tea ice cream was a nice contrast with its creamy and a complex taste. Everyone loved this ice cream as much as they loved my Thumbs Up Thai Iced Tea. Cacha Cacha really managed to keep the profile of the drink intact which is pretty awesome and anything with Liquid Nitrogen just makes it 10 times cooler.
Cacha Cacha Details:
- Address: Across from Colibri, next to Let’s Burger in the B1 level of North Sanlitun, NLG-45 Taikoo Li North, 11 Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District
- Tel: +86 010 5721 2286
Kristen Lum has an accomplished background in PR, communications and events in China. Born and raised in California, Kristen has been based in Beijing since 2006 and is founder of the lifestyle blog called LumDimSum, covering mostly restaurant news and reviews alongside upcoming events around town that relate to Beijing’s muti-faceted, quickly-developing creative industries like art, music, film, health and fitness, fashion, nightlife, charity events, and travel tips.