Chat Thai- Haymarket

The original and the best!

I’m pretty good with my history of the CBD, being a kid who grew up hanging around the city streets from the early 90s – present. But even I have no clue what is the answer to this question, which came first? Chat Thai? Or the establishment of Thainatown in Campbell St? But not knowing the answer to this chicken or egg riddle, I still think Chat Thai is the original and the best!

As much as we hate waiting in line for food, we were willing to make this exception if it was for the best Thai in all of Australia! And when we were seen to our table for two, we then had to make the difficult decision of choosing what to eat/drink. So many choices, so many choices!

We ended up ordering a drink to share (Lodt Shong Singapore- $5.50); for my wife the Guay Tiew Larb ($12.00); and for me the Sokho Thai noodle soup ($12.00).

As we waited for the food to arrive, we took in the ambiance- each table was full of happy patrons all enjoying their late Sunday lunch. And listening in on conversations around us, each table of diners were all speaking a different language- Eat Thai has transcended all cultural barriers!

After a short wait, our drink arrived.

The Lodt Shong Singapore is a coconut milk with silky pandan dumplings. Sipping it through the thick straw, the flavours of the coconut and pandan all mixed together into a tasty concoction- neither coconut nor pandan overwhelmed the other flavour. And what are pandan dumplings, I hear you ask? Imagine the Chinese pudding on the square Styrofoam trays? Picture that tasty treat, but sliced up into thin 2 inch strips and poured into a glass of coconut milk. Each sip would bring up a chilled mouthful of milk and 2-3 strips of pandan flavoured jelly to chew on. Yum!

The first of the mains to arrive was my Sokho Thai soup noodle, it was like a ‘Special noodle soup’ from a Canto noodle soup store i.e. it had everything in it! I believe there were 2 different types of fish balls (one fried, the other not), minced pork, sliced pork, sliced fish tofu, peanuts, herbs, bean sprouts, and a generous serving of thin noodles, all of which was floating in a hot and sour soup, which was at the perfect level of spicyness! I enjoyed this dish, because it had a little bit of everything, making each mouthful interesting.

My wife’s Guay Tiew Larb was thin rice noodles, with minced chicken and pork offal, in spicy and sour larb flavoured soup. Her soup was a spice level higher than mine, as there were several times she had to down-tools and clear her sinuses. Haaha.  She described it like a typical Larb, but served as a soup noodle. But she was happy with her dish, as she’s a fan of the ‘nose to tail’ approach, not wasting any part of an animal if it was remotely edible.

Our end verdict? 5 from 5 Stars! 3 from 3 for food (each element on our plate was perfect! We couldn’t fault it at all!); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (although we had to wait a little, however the service staff kept checking up on us, giving us an ETA on when our table was available and she seemed about to go above and beyond to see to our needs); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (A bustling restaurant is enough for full marks, but they also had a catchy Thai pop playlist playing as well!); and 1 from 1 for Value for Money (Under $30 for 2 mains and a drink to share!? That is such great value, you honestly can’t get this level of quality for this price anywhere else in Sydney!)).

In conclusion, we haven’t given a restaurant the full 5 stars in a long while, as when it comes down to it- we’re pretty stingy scorers. But when we have a totally satisfying meal, which ticks all the boxes? Yeah, we’re more than happy to sing their praises and award them with the highest honour. 5/5! In Sydney we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to Thai, but in our opinion Chat Thai will always be the original and the best!

Chat Thai- Sunday 8 September (5.0 Stars).

PH: (02) 8317 4811

20 Campbell Street, Haymarket

Mon-Sun 10am – 11.30pm, 12midnight – 2am.

@Bangkok- Haymarket

#@Sydney’s @Bangkok!

In Sydney we’re spoiled by all the good authentic Thai food we can choose from! I’d say almost every Sydney suburb has its own local Thai restaurant and if you’re in Thai-natown in the city (Campbell Street and surrounds) you may be left debilitated by all the choice!

So with all the choice out there, why @Bangkok? It’s been a moment since we’d last dropped in on Capitol Square; and we were curious to see if anything had changed down there. And since we were in the mood for Thai, and we hadn’t tried @Bangkok before, we chose it for those simple reasons.

My wife was pleased to see that her favourite Thai dish was on offer (Yen Ta Fo- $14.00); while I ordered the Kway Teow Ped- $15.00, purely because I hadn’t heard of it before; and we ordered a Yakult smoothie with Pipo jelly- $7.90  to share.

Although the restaurant is located inside Capitol Square, oddly it felt like dining alfresco- due to all the sounds bouncing around. Considering it was 2pm on a Sunday, all the tables were occupied, and when admiring the restaurant’s ambiance the light bulbs spelling out the restaurant’s name was the most eye catching interior detail.

In no time our food arrived (less than 5 minutes), the first time our food has ever beaten out the arrival of our drinks.

My Kway Teow Ped was a soup noodle, consisting of a clear thin noodle, roast duck, blood jelly, with herbs and beansprouts in a sweet soup base. Every element of the dish was perfect! The duck was cooked perfectly, tender thick sliced pieces and they were very generous in their portioning; the clear noodles was something I’d never had before, really thin and perfectly squared off, with a delicate texture to them; the blood jelly is an acquired taste which we like, just like an iron-laden tofu; the herbs and sprouts were super fresh; and the soup was sweet, it could be too sweet for some but I didn’t mind it. All in all a perfect dish in my opinion.

My wife’s favourite dish (Yen Ta Fo) is also a soup noodle; in theory our dishes were similar- but very different at the same time. Where my soup was dark brown, her soup broth was pink in colour; instead of thin noodles she had large sheet noodles; instead of roast duck she had an assortment of fishballs, squid and fried tofu; we both had greens but her herbs were a different selection of fresh greens to mine; while the only same same ingredient was the blood jelly. My wife’s opinion of the dish compared to all the others she had in the past? Also Perfect! 3 from 3!

And our drink? It was served in a jam jar mug, with a thick layer of blended ice on top (like a slushy); underneath the ice was the Yakult, and the pipo jelly. There must have been another unnamed juice mixed into the drink, perhaps fresh tamarin juice as it was pretty sour. I mean really sour. But the drink was interesting, sucking through the thick straw, it was like taking core samples- getting a hit of ice first, before the sour liquids came gushing up, and followed by the pipo jelly (little balls which were sour as well). It was actually so sour that when I was trying to finish the final inch of ice and liquid, my jaw seized up from a combo of sourness and iciness. I had to keep exercising my jaw for the next 20 mins to free it from it’s aversion to ice and sour (the 6th book in George R. R. Martin’s series).

Our end verdict, 4.5 Stars from 5! (3 from 3 for Food, it was perfect we couldn’t fault it, and even with the locked jaw, I’d still give them perfect marks for the food/beverage offering; 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (the staff were all polite and really efficient); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (as the place was modern, they played a Thai pop playlist which I liked); and 0.5 from 1 for Value for Money (@Bangkok was good, but we really do reserve 5 Star ratings for the Best restaurants, so we had to look for marks to deduct and Value was probably the only weak-point of today’s experience)).

Would we be back? You can stamp my dining-passport now as I’ve been to Bangkok, been there, done that. Unfortunately the next time we have a craving for Thai food, we’ll just try the next Thai place we haven’t tried before. Call us dis-loyal, but there are just too many Thai options out there!

@Bangkok- Sunday 14 April (4.5 Stars)

PH: (02) 9211 5232

Shop G11, Capitol Square, 730-742 George Street, Haymarket

Mon-Sun 10am – 4.30pm, 5.30pm – 12 midnight.

Sweet Things- Thai Milk Green Tea & Pandan Milk Bun- Chapayom

Suite 1, Skyview Plaza 537-551 George Street, Sydney

After attending a wedding and being fed in a post-knot-tying spread, we just had to squeeze in a ‘Sweet Things’ treat, to maintain a regularness to our posts for you, the reader!

This week on my interminable trawling of the web for all that is new in our fair city, I learned that the Thai brand Chapayom had opened its first Australian store on George Street!! (The first shop greeting customers as they enter the Skyview Plaza when entering from George Street).

If you haven’t heard of Chapayom before (I hadn’t either before this week), here is a super quick origins story…..Back in Thailand, only 7 years ago, they were a start-up serving up Milk Tea and coffees in a street-side store in Hat Yai. But 7 years on (and after becoming one of Thailand’s most favourite brands, and expanding to other South-east Asian countries) Chapayom are now serving up their own brand of Thai Milk Teas and Thai Coffees to Sydney-siders in their street-side store, but in a much busier setting than their humble beginnings in Hat Yai.

Today we shared a ‘Perfect Match’- a choice of any standard drink and edible pairing for $8. We chose the Thai Milk Green Tea, and the Pandan Custard Grilled Milky Bun.

The Milky Bun was the stand-out – the bun was soft and fluffy, toasted on both sides, covered and filled with a moreish Pandan flavoured custard cream, and sprinkled on top were shreds of toasted coconut. *Slack jawed emoji*.  So it was a great mixture of textures – a soft and a little bit crunchy bun; a sticky oozy custard cream; and the chewiness from the coconut! The texture reminded me a little bit of a doughnut, if I had to attempt to describe it to anyone – but imagine a Krispy  Kreme donut, rather than a standard cinnamon doughnut. Yeah?

The Thai Green Milk Tea….. Um, it was creamy and it was sweet, but it wasn’t a stand-out? Perhaps in Sydney we’ve been spoiled by really good milk teas, both by the Taiwanese and by the numerous Thai restaurants. Thus after taking our first sips we just registered the flavours, and went “hmmm, ok then.” And if anything, my criticism was that it came with too much shaved ice, which didn’t blend in with the tea? Not exaggerating, at least half of the cup was ice alone? Although the cup is large (probs 450ml) and when you hold it, it feels quite substantial; however when you’re happily sucking enthusiastically on the straw, in moments you realise that you’re out of drink and you’re left with half a cup of ice. *Sad look*. And because shaved ice just piles onto itself, so you’re literally paying for almost half a cup of shaved ice and half cup of milk tea. Maybe you can try asking for “no ice”, and see how much tea you get then- but I personally didn’t think I got $5.50 worth of value.

However as an afternoon sweet treat (post-lunch), Chapayom’s ‘Perfect match’ is a nice late arvo treat, the tea def has enough sugar/caffeine to keep you wide awake during the late arvo lull. Although if you want copious amounts of tasty, strong Thai Milk Tea, I’d recommend you to down it at Tawandang (2 blocks down George Street). Tawandang does a $6 unlimited Thai Milk Tea, when dining in. Literally when they see your glass reach the half way mark, they’re back filling up your strong milk tea from a chilled jug right back up to the top again! Let’s just say if you plan not to sleep for 2 days, just go nuts and get your moneys worth there! Haaha.    

Satang Thai Infinity- World Square

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

Boon Café- Haymarket

One stop shop for your immediate & future culinary needs!

What can I say, Boon Caf is our go-to restaurant when we’re undecided on what we want for lunch. The suggestions usually start flying when we’re ‘Umming & Erring’ about a prior lunch plan, and we start to toss out alternatives: Ramen? Korean? Viet? And often-times we inevitably look at each other and suggest Boon Caf?  And we always land on a point of agreement as soon as Boon Caf is thrown-out there.

This afternoon was no exception, we had initially planned to have Pizzas from Fratelli Famous at World Square, but since we were at Galleries Victoria doing some shopping I placed doubt in our minds by suggesting Blackstar Pastry? But when we were there, checking-out their pies and sausage rolls, all of a sudden we remembered that we hadn’t had veg in a while (we had burgers for dinner 2 nights in a row); thus wanting a lighter meal, so we inevitably deferred to our go-to option…….  Boon caf!

It was only the other day when I was listening to ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry’ podcast, where LT was interviewing Palisa Anderson, the daughter of Amy Chanta and the inspiration behind Boon Café; and after hearing some of the behind the scene stories I had a greater appreciation of the Eatery & Grocer. If you’ve been blissfully unaware of Boon Café, Boon caf is a spin-off from the incredibly successful Chat Thai group, filling the gap in the market for a Thai Western fusion menu which Palisa had grown-up eating, i.e. Asian ingredients stuffed in-between two slices of bread. And I can completely relate, as my mum had made her fair share of Chinese-ie Sandwiches for me and my sister, ranging from placing last night’s leftovers in-between two slices of brown bread and butter like de-boned chicken drumsticks with bok choi; leftovers of her signature meat rissoles (come to think of it, it was kind of like a burger); or a generous spread of Gaiyum? I’m not even sure how to spell it, and Google can’t help me this time. Boo! If I describe it you might recognise it from your childhood as well? It’s this yellow/green sweet paste which you can get from Vietnamese grocers, I think it’s made from yams? So my mum used to spread it thickly onto our cheese and butter sandwiches (yeah the flavours didn’t always work out being savoury and sweet at the same time), but thinking about it now brings back many fond memories. In the past when we’ve eaten at Boon caf we’ve always stuck with their Asian offerings, but inspired by the pod and thoughts of sandwiches my mum used to make, this time we ventured out of our comfort-zone and tried Palisa’s fusion options.

The Boon café menu is really extensive, ranging from stir fries and noodle soups, to breakfast toasts and healthy flavoursome bowls. We usually don’t go past their rice bowls and this time was no exception, ordering the Nahm Prik Makua- (Northern region smoked eggplant  relish, soft boiled egg, herb and pickled cabbage salad), but this time I elected for the sandwich instead of it being served with brown rice ($11- sandwich and rice bowl are the same price). While my wife had the Chicken, Squid and Holy Basil Sandwich- which was also served on sour dough bread ($14- this dish only had a sandwich option). And for drinks we had the Fresh cold pressed juice ($6) and the Taro milk tea ($5- without pearls).

If you haven’t been to Boon caf before, let me describe it to you- half of the store is a rustic café with bare brick walls and wooden floorboards; while the other half of the space is devoted to their own grocer (picture your typical Asian grocer, but insert neatly stacked shelves and a limited offering of products- just the true Thai essentials). The atmosphere and vibe of the café is always lively (as it’s always at least ¾ full),with pop-music playing over the speakers, happy chatter from every table, and the sound of the over-worked blender which is busily making ice drinks and cold presses (the combination of all these noises make for a vibrancy which adds to the dining experience).

Our drinks arrived first, and it was great to see that Boon caf were taking steps to be sustainable, replacing plastic straws with stainless steel reuseable straws with their drinks. My taro milk tea was sweet and refreshing, with a strong taro flavour; while my wife’s freshly squeezed green drink tasted predominantly of green apples, and fresh herbs. Very healthy indeed!

Then our sandwiches arrived shortly after.

From a value for money point of view, I still think you get more for your $$$ when you elect the rice bowl option, however if you’re looking for a light lunch and wanting something out-of-the-ordinary, having all the Thai toppings and flavours in-between sour dough was a nice change. The freshness of the ingredients was the stand-out for me, and the chilli hit was at the perfect level (hot enough, but not too hot where it overpowers the dish), and the sour dough bread was nice (I especially enjoyed the chewy crust, so much so that my wife gave me all of hers).

My wife’s Chicken and Squid sandwich was an open sandwich, with chicken mince, chunks of squid, herbs and soft boiled egg resting on-top of her sour dough. A knife and fork was required to devour it, and from all accounts it was tasty and she also agreed it was a nice change-up from our usual go-to dishes when we come to Boon caf. And when you’ve finished your meal, you can always mosey on to the grocer half of the store, and pick-up fresh produce which had featured in your meal for your next and future meals! A one stop shop for all your culinary needs for now and into the future!

However if we had to choose again, I still think our preference is for the rice bowl version of our dishes, and/or the Asian half of the menu. Just for the simple reason that Boon caf does so so so well with creating an outstanding Thai dish, thus we’ll always go back to those more traditional offerings. But it’s nice to know that the fusion offerings are there, if we feel like it!

End verdict, if we’re grading it on today’s experience alone, it’ll be a 4 from 5 star rating? (2.5 from 3 for Food). However if we’re rating Boon Café and taking into account all of our previous visits, the rating will be 4.5 from 5 Stars (3 from 3 for Food; 0.5 from 0.5 for Service; 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere; and 0.5 from 1 for Value for Money, as you’re paying a bit of a premium, when compared to other Thai places around the corner on Campbell Street). We’ll always go back to Boon caf, as it’s our go-to when we want Thai, or a healthy feed! And now that we’ve tried their fusion offerings, it’s nice to know it’s there if we want it.

Boon Café- 13 January (4.5 Stars)

(PH: 02) 8318 2283

425 Pitt Street, Haymarket NSW

Mon-Sun 8am – 12midnight

Caysorn- Haymarket

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