Tucked away inside an obscure and somewhat dingy Chinatown shopping mall, you seriously wouldn’t know to come here unless you’re Thai or follow food blogs/foodie web-sites like Zomato.
You know it’s going to be authentic Thai and something special when everyone else seems to only speak Thai. And when flicking through the menu, we scanned the headings and chose to focus our attention on the ‘Southern Thai’ and the ’Contemporary’ sections, as our thought was that we could get your ‘usual Thai’ staples somewhere else, but when in Rome…..
We ended up settling on 2 dishes from the Southern Thai section (Chicken Curry with Choko, and the Sour Fish Curry with pineapple and papaya); and from the Contemporary section, the Som Tum Noodle Rolls (papaya wrapped in rice noodle) with Prawns. And we elected for a serving of sticky rice, over the jasmine or brown rice options.
When our Thai waitress took our orders and gave us the option of the Som Tum Noodle Rolls to be served either mild, medium or hot, I enthusiastically chose the medium chilli level (as I know at best I’m a two-chilli guy). And when she took our second order (the fish), she warned us that the dish was going to be very spicy and tried to steer us away from it, considering I had only moments ago admitted that I was only a medium-chilli man. But being a ‘typical guy’, I told her that it’ll be fine, and after she left and while we waited for the food to arrive, I have to admit there was some genuine anxiety as I wondered how hot this dish could actually be!
The wait wasn’t long at all, as we took in the atmosphere of the place (there were some interesting light fixtures); the cutlery and water glass were both heavy and substantial; they scored an easy 3 out of 5 stars on the napkin test; and the Thai 90’s pop-music was something different. And in no time our food arrived……
When the dishes were laid out in front of us, we could already smell the chilli and my anxiety level immediately went up a notch. We layered our plates with a bed of sticky rice as a layer to absorb all the sauces from the chilli fish. And I seriously felt a little apprehensive when taking my first bite from it, but thankfully it wasn’t too bad; it was definitely spicy but still tolerable. However the cooked papaya and pineapple which came along with the fish had absorbed all of the heat from the sauce, and oh boy, that was when the runny nose and burning in the mouth started. Let’s just say, I wouldn’t advise a new couple to dine here within their first few weeks of starting to date, as the last impression you’d want to leave on someone you’re still trying to impress, is a vision of you sweating and bubbling snot from your nostrils. And let’s just say the dish was nose-bleedingly spicy (literally), and I happily passed on having any more of the cooked spicy fruit.
When we had finished the first dish….or should we say after we gave up on it (thank goodness the servings were on the smaller side), we then tried the curry chicken with choko. Sometimes I don’t order meat dishes at Thai restaurants, as I often find that they overcook their meats. But this chicken was cooked on the bone, so the chicken remained nice and tender, and this dish’s spice level was definitely milder than the fish dish, but still quite spicy (or perhaps my mouth was only smarting from the first dish). But I was able to enjoy this dish more, as I was actually able to taste the flavours of the food this time. And by this point of the meal I had already used 2 napkins for my running nose, but I was slightly jubilant, as the young Thai guy on the next table was also sniffling throughout his meal, encouraging me that it wasn’t just the one non-Thai couple in the restaurant who was finding the food hot!
And after soothing our burning mouths with the last of the sticky rice, we started on our third and final dish, the cold green papaya wrapped in rice noodles, served with Som Tum sauce, fresh salad and ceviche prawns (I think it was ceviche, they were very fresh). Before placing the first spoonful into my mouth, I was literally saying a small prayer, praying that this last dish wasn’t going to be too spicy. And thank God! It ended up being quite sweet and sour with a hint of spice, rather than being torturously spicy. This hands-down was our favourite dish, every element was perfect from the fresh flavoursome green beans, the salty preserved dried shrimp, the interestingly textured rice noodle wrap, the crunchy green papaya, and nice sweet-sour-spicy Som Tum sauce. The star of the dish among a host of stars was the ceviche prawns, they were big and juicy and cooked in an acidic juice, perfectly capturing its freshness and the natural sweetness of the prawn!
In conclusion, I think if you’re good with heat, you’ll love this place, so check it out! If you usually stay clear of multi-chilli level dishes, still come on down! But perhaps always insist on mild, and when the waitress warns you that it’s going to be hot, please listen to them and change your order! But yeah, all-in-all, an interesting experience, not your usual Thai meal and I’d definitely be back for the Som Tum prawn dish alone! And hopefully the tingling feeling in my lips will pass soon, which I’m still experiencing as I write this 2 days on….. jks….. It has only been 4 hours.
Caysorn- Saturday 18 August.
PH: (02) 9211 5749
Level 1, Prince Centre, 8 Quay Street, Haymarket NSW
Mon-Sun 11am – 10pm