A ‘Game of Thrones’ in the Sydney Thai scene, or is it just simply the usual ‘musical chairs’ of the Sydney dining landscape?
Once again driven by the curiosity to try all the newly opened restaurants in South CBD, we first poked our heads in on ‘Old School Kafey’, a newly opened Korean café on Pitt St- to find that they only serve desserts and drinks (so not appropriate for Friday night dinner). At the time we just thought it a little odd when the friendly Korean shop owner told us that the “Thai restaurant is now located in World Square”. *Shrugs*. Whatever that means…..
Secondly, we made a brief stop at Miso, a Japanese restaurant which is known for their bento boxes; but once again they were packed to capacity with a wait-list of 8 parties…… yeah, we don’t queue for food in da city. So we headed to the adjacent side of World Square to V-bar, where Satang Thai Infinity had just opened up in the past months.
We entered via the V-bar entrance, walking past the Friday after-work drinks crowd, down a few steps to the back of the bar where the bathrooms were situated and just when we thought we’d gone the wrong way, there was the entrance to Satang Thai a glass door with their name printed on it (at least we know where the bathrooms are located!). But as soon as you pushed the door open, the sounds from within rushed out to greet us! Sounds of music (not Julie Andrews) but the sounds of a live acoustic guitarist performing Thai and English pop-songs, and the sounds of a near capacity restaurant full of office workers grabbing a meal with friends or colleagues after a long week of work. It was really happening in there!
We were seated immediately, and after studying their phone-book sized menu (I exaggerate, but there were at least 20 pages) we settled on the Grilled pork jaw (from the Lao section of their menu); a dish similar to Larb but served with Glass noodles (from their Signature dish section); and a serving of Thai Fried chicken with Massaman curry (from their fried chicken section).
And as we sat back and relaxed, the vibe that I was getting from tonight’s meal was something resembling ‘date night’. We rarely have ‘date nights’ as we dine out just the two of us on average twice a week, so you could say every week is ‘date night’, but there was something definitely different about tonight, it was probably due to the live act which created a mood which felt a little bit more special than the standard meal-out. And the ambience of Satang Thai Infinity was really interesting, industrial chic my wife described it as.
And as the first artist finished up their set for the night, our first dish arrived (less than 10 minutes after placing our order)- being the Larb-like dish.
The first mouthful, “Wow!” It had a level of spicy which woke me right up! But after a few more mouthfuls the heat level did settle down to a tolerable level of spicy, once my tastebuds got over the initial shock of it. The menu had stated ‘Glass noodles’, which are round transparent noodles, however we’re pretty sure we were served up with vermicelli noodles (or at least a very thin version of glass noodles) which was a bit disappointing, as vermicelli is a run-of-the-mill ingredient. Boo!
The next dish we tantalized our tastebuds with, was the Grilled pork jaw. I had specified my desire for this dish as I’m a sucker for trying types or cuts of meat which I’ve never tried before. And first impression, “Yeah, this is kind of cool”. Imagine a meat crossed in-between an ox tongue and pork belly? It had that unusual velvety texture like a tongue, but it also had a layer of fat and skin similar to the belly portion. The actual flavour was quite nice, it had a flamed grilled taste to it, and it was also served with a hot sour dipping sauce. Yum!
And the last of our proteins to arrive was the Thai fried chicken- described in the menu as crumbed chicken deep fried and coated in a sauce of your own choosing; we had chosen Massaman curry, but you could opt for Yellow curry, Chilli basil etc. etc. Our first impressions were “Hello! Welcome to the Fried chicken market!” A fried bird which is comparable to KFC- Korean Fried chicken that is. The crumbed outer layer was applied thickly so it was super crunchy (considering it was coated thickly in massaman gravy), and along for the ride were large chunks of powdery slow-cooked potato. *Slack jawed emoji*.
But have you ever seen someone fall-out of love with dishes in a matter of minutes? It’s a curious thing, the interplay between your mind and your stomach, and how you perceive food and desirability when you’re hungry and when you’re full. When we first started eating, everything was so tasty and perfect! Because I was hungry, the common saying ‘I’m so hungry I can eat anything’ aptly described how I felt. But as we went around for seconds (my initial hunger had been sated by now), all of a sudden I could only focus on the flaws of each dish. i.e. How the vermicelli larb dish was a tad too spicy so given the choice if you wanted more or less, you’d lean towards less; that the pork jaw was a bit too fatty and at one point I felt a bit nauseous when I had a particularly large fatty and chewy piece in my mouth and almost felt physically sickened by it; and the chicken used under all the fried batter reminded me of budget restaurant’s use of cheaper types of meat, hoping that the thick batter and frying process would mask any signs of a lower quality produce.
But I think this feeling could have been avoided if we dined with another couple? I think if the dishes were shared around and each of us only had a smaller portion and ate them while everything was hot, we’d avoid the scenario where we felt obligated to finish each dish when we didn’t really want more and the dishes were all getting cold. So my second-round impressions were influenced by this, but let’s just say there wasn’t much motivation to go for thirds and we left at least a third behind in each dish.
In the end, the atmosphere and ambiance of the restaurant was more of a stand-out, compared to their food offering tonight. We were about to head off, when the second live performers arrived and started to set-up (this time a duo), so intrigued by how they might sound and what songs might they perform, we hung around for another 15 mins- if we were less Asian, at this point would have been perfect to order a round of drinks…….. But being Asian that we are, I picked at another piece of cold TFC, the batter was completely soggy now and it was really salty. *Shudders*.
Our end verdict, 3 Stars from 5 (1.5 from 3 for Food; 0 from 0.5 for Service (we had close to no interaction with service staff, as they were rushing around servicing a full restaurant tonight); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (if we had more points to dish-out here, we’d pour on more points for their Atmosphere as it’s rare to see a restaurant with live performers these days); and 1 from 1 for Value for Money (after ordering 3 mains, the total was still only $47, each plate equating to slightly over $15 each which isn’t bad in this current day and age).
Will we be back? Unfortunately not, it’s a case of ‘been there, done that’- there are just too many other places to try and taste in the CBD.
Final thoughts….The Sydney food market is a strange place, Satang Thai Infinity has only been around since December but it’s clear that they have already established themselves with a strong customer following if tonight was a fair indication of any-given Friday/Saturday night. And only later when I was fact-checking for this post, did everything make sense- why the friendly shop owner at ‘Old School Kafey’ had recommended to us the Thai restaurant in World Square. As Satang Thai Exclusive used to occupy the shop where Old School Kafey now resides. *Lightbulb moment*. The proprietor must’ve have his fair share of diners stumbling into his store seeking Thai food, but like Musical chairs down here in South CBD- a restaurant shut-down in V-bar, Satang Thai then moved in, leaving the Pitt Street store empty for the Kafey to move in. One night when we still have stomach space for dessert, we vow to try Old School Kafey for their Patbingsu.
And as Satang Thai expands from their humble beginnings on Quay street, as the go-to haunt for UTS students (so many good memories…sigh), a ‘Game of Thrones’ is playing out in the Sydney Thai dining scene. Each popular Thai establishment opening up a sister store, jostling for position beneath Chat-Thai. Can anyone de-throne the Chanta dynasty? Or should it be diner-sty?
Satang Thai Infinity- Friday 22 February (3 Stars)
***Please read the next post “Sweet Things – Strawberry Cheese Pie – Old Skool Kafey” for the whole story***
Ph: (02) 8080 7025
15/91 Liverpool Street, Sydney (Inside V-bar, and has a front entrance in one of the World Square alleyways- the one with the bull statue).
Sun – Thurs 11am – 1am
Fri – Sat 11am – 2am