Archive for the ‘Thai’ Category

Sailors Thai Restaurant, Sydney

October 8, 2010

I’d been wanting to visit the restaurant proper of Sailors Thai for a while. I’d never made it to Nahm in London, run by the same David Thompson and wanted to try refined Thai food where the reputation was made.

After a few random last minute attempts, we were able to obtain a table on Saturday night. This entailed a pre-dinner martini at Blu Bar at the Shangri-La, which was humming with the buzz of groups preparing for a big night out. I had to have my watery martini remade, but was compensated by the great views.

Anyway, on to the restaurant. I was quite surprised to see what a lively space it was. I expected more formality, but the place was oozing enthusiasm. It set the scene for a fun evening.

Service was charming. It’s always good to have servers who want to share their opinion and with the amount of interesting dishes we decided to go for the tasting menu (no real surprise)… The slightly novel approach here is to choose 2 entrees & 4 mains to share from the  menu.

The one dish that seems to be a must-try are the Yamba prawns with peanuts, chilli, coconut, lime & palm sugar on betel leaves. It’s what we started with.

It’s indeed a mind-blower with more flavour than the brain can comfortably handle. The sweetness of the prawn hits first, then all the other flavours pile in delivering a zinginess that has to be experienced to understand – sour, sharp, chilli. It’s a bit of a wow culinary moment and not easily forgotten.

Things calmed down a bit with a duck salad with asian celery, coriander

This was as expected competent & moreish, the relevative fattiness of the deck balanced against good sharp flavours. it was well enjoyed.

These two entrees were followed by the mains, which came in quick procession. So in no particular order:

braised beef ribs with lime, mint, coriander, chilli & shallots.

It was dark, unctuous, meaty and fiberous. Quite frankly everything you could wish for in a slow cooked beef dish. The herbs nicely stopped the sauce from being overwhelming and provided some necessary balance. It was  very good.

Next up was a Mulloway jungle curry

The curry had split, but it was easy to forgive with the flavours unaffected. The seafood was well cooked with a well balanced spice & fragrancy which didn’t overpower the fish.

We had another seafood dish and this was a crispy fish salad with Crispy fish salad with salmon &  salmon roe:

Beautifully presented it was an unusual dish with the cucumber, crispy skin accompanying the lightest of salmon curries with very little in the way of spice. It had a mild creamy consistency which didn’t make it immediately appetising, but it was certainly a pleasant dish to enjoy. If anything it served to break up the heavy spicing of the other dishes with the salmon skin providing an added textural dimension

The main dishes finished with caramelised pork hock with chilli & vinegar dressing:

This was another meaty sledgehammer of a dish and none the worse for it. The extensive use of vinegar is a relative novel thing for me and I enjoy how it cuts through the fattiness of pork. It combined with the sweetness of the meat and it’s a great dish to finish on.

We had a good range of dishes which showed the full variety and balance of Thai cooking, yet we were a little disappointed by how the main dishes were served. We expected a normal tasting menu with one dish at a time to concentrate on, but all the plates/bowls arrived within 10 minutes of each other, reducing the meal to traditional dining occasion. We had to pick our way through the various dishes without fully savouring them.

And continuing the theme of  ‘all at once’ dining we were served a dessert platter – a trio of 3 coconut puddings:

It may well be a sweeping judgement (which I’m good at), but in my experience most Asian cuisines do not produce memorable desserts. Sailors Thai didn’t do a lot to change my mind. The 3 pudding where all very similar – full-on sweet coconut flavours, just with different textural components. I couldn’t describe them in detail except to say there was a coconut sponge, a coconut sweet and a coconut blancmange. They were pleasant to a point and helped bring the meal to an end.

So even though we did not fully embrace how the meal was served and the dessert, this was a very good dinner and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves with the ambience, service and great flavourful dishes. It was good value and we’ll certainly look to return, but this time prepare ourselves for a more relaxed sharing meal.


Crocodile Senior Thai, Sydney

February 14, 2010

768 George Street, Haymarket

This is one of those places which gets talked about in the same breath of Spice I Am and others – authentic, good value Thai food.

I’ve been here once before with fellow food bloggers and but decided to come again with a friend who’s thinking of moving to Sydney, to give him a taste of what the food is like here. Yeah, the first place I take him to is a Thai restaurant.

Just a quick meal followed, to get a taster for what might be in store culinary wise in the city.

The first dish we order is Som Tum:

It seems to be a staple in Sydney, but difficult to find in the UK. It’s an alright example delivering the normal chilli, sour and salty hit, but it’s a little underwhelming, with the flavours a little soft & watery. But my friend got the picture. I sense he could easily be converted.

A competent pad thai follows with pork. It’s a fine dish. Good contrast of flavours. no problems

The standout dish was a Larb, which you don’t come across in many Thai places. A kind of minced chicken with citrus, herbs and plenty of kick. It was most enjoyable, but needed the salad to help with the heat.

This may not be the finest Thai in Sydney, but the food is real, pretty tasty and pretty good value. In the culinary wasteland around Central Station, you could do far worse.

Longrain – Sydney

October 12, 2009

85 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills

Continuing our mission to try all things Thai in Sydney led us inevitably to Longrain, the one hat restaurant as famous for its cocktails as much as its food. It was a Tuesday so we were well behaved and let the cocktails be. My wife though continues to be amazed at my transformation from someone who’d previously dismissed Thai food out of hand to someone who can’t get enough. The cuisine in Sydney really is a different level to what I’ve had previously.

My first visit here and I was impressed by the layout and sense of space, which was not apparent from outside. The normal horror of shared tables did not materialise as the other diners are just out of arms reach across the table and its possible to be on a date without professing your love to the world. The lighting is also nicely seductive, but makes photo taking very difficult. Hence the shoddy quality of the below…

The menu full of sharing dishes is not really to my liking, but we had a fun, engaging waiting who was happy to give some half portions of curries. I guess this makes sharing a little easier.


Sydney Oct 020

We begun with a salad of crispy duck, fish sauce, green mango and basil. This was a great start. A good balance of textures, with a nice sharp & sour kick. The duck itself was cooked on the bone, fat and all. It made the sharing in the dim light a little tricky, but we each had our equal share.


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We followed with a curry dish – braised beef shin with chilli & coriander. (Trust me it’s there in the photo….) The meat was really unctuous and spoon soft. The ‘gravy’ (!) was molasses sweet and soothing in its own way. It would have made a handy soup since there was a lot of it.


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Our final main dish were trout fillets wrapped in banana leaf with red curry young coconut & roasted rice. You can just about make it out…. Trout is great fish, but here it was beaten into submission by a really heavy spicing, which essentially destroyed all flavour. I expected subtlety and range of flavours,but they were non-existent and masked a lovely moist fish. It wasn’t even a dish which were inclined to finish, which says a lot.


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We finished with a Som Tum (as you do). This pretty much always lives up to expectations. This variation had a gentle beginning and a mighty kick after a few mouthfuls. It was a fine example.


We expected a lot from Longrain and it didn’t really live up to expectations. A couple of the dishes were very good, but the fish was a real disappointment. Though I’m prepared to put this down to poor ordering, it shouldn’t really happen in a restaurant of this calibre. This brings me to the pricing which hoffers around $40 a dish. At this price the expectations are high and it doesn’t quite meet them when compared to the value of Sailors Thai.  At the price it’s easy to hit $140 without trying and it needs to be a little better at this point.

I’ll go back, but it’s got some questions to answer.

Sailors Thai

August 19, 2009

106 George Street

Another meeting in town and another excuse to try another restaurant. Back in London, Nahm, run by David Thompson is regarded as one of the finest Thai restaurants in the UK. But it’s expensive; easily £100 a head. I’ve no problem paying that kind of money for French fine dining, but for some reason I won’t do the same for Thai, when ‘street food’ shows the cuisine at its best.

Arriving in Sydney it was pleasing to see David Thompson’s place relatively well priced and so removing any barrier to try it.

I visited the canteen (leaving the main restaurant for another time). As a lone diner seeing the long communal table gave me a feeling of dread. Where do you sit and how do others sit around you? Too much social awkwardness. However there are four tables on the balcony outside and I was able to get myself a spot in the sunshine.

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The service was genial and helpful. When the dishes are meant to be shared it was nice of the waiters to offer half portions to provide some variety. I guess it helped that I asked them to order for me (always a good way to get decent service & interesting dishes).

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I started with king prawn spring-rolls. These were also filled with glass noodles and accompanied with a nice sharp dipping sauce. These were actually a bit bland for spring-rolls. I expected a greater mix of flavours, but they were well cooked – the prawns were sweet & succulent with the pastry not too oily. A good balance.

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Next up was a half dish of crisp salty pork belly with hot & sour sauce. The texture & consistency of this pork was even better than Spice I Am. Lots of knobbly crunchiness, a bit a fattiness and unctuous meat. The sauce was rich & spicy which was fine at the beginning, but got a little cloying as the dish went on, desperately needing rice to even the taste out. But it wasn’t going to detract from the pork.

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A good-ol chicken & potato yellow curry was up next – Sweet, spicy with a good hit of turmeric. The potato was fall-apart soft and made for a thicker & smoother curry. It was a fine example and the accompanying chili, cucumber & onions added a little bit more taste & texture.

So, this was a pretty enjoyable lunch. Unfortunately I didn’t get to try the green papaya salad, but there’s plenty to like. I would put it on a par with Spice I Am, but that is also cheaper with no discernible difference in quality. So I know what I’d choose.


Spice I am

August 2, 2009

9o Wentworth Avenue

Out of the plethora of Thai restaurants in Sydney it seems as though the same three always come up – Longrain, Sailors Thai & Spice I Am. So they were always going to be on my list to try. I was in Surry Hills during a morning and walked past the last on this list just as it was opening at 11.30am. It proved too tempting. A return trip to Yoshi could be postponed.

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It’s  a tiny place with about 10 small tables that rapidly fills up from 12pm as office workers arrive early to grab a seat. I was thrust a menu and ordered a quick lunch with a couple of house specialities.

I’ve generally been a little sniffy about Thai food – i.e. just stir fries & green/red curries. But you can over simplify most national cuisines… But if it’s tasty, then it’s tasty and the two dishes I had for lunch were terrific:

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Som Tum (Green Papaya Salad) – sliced papaya with dried shrimp, chili and peanuts. You’re meant to specify how hot you want this and I asked the waitress to decide…. It was lethal, but so, so good. A great textural dish with lovely sweet & sour packed with a heat which just grew and grew until you were gasping for something carbonated to douse it. You couldn’t really eat it in one go, so I had to return to it at intervals as the heat from each mouthful gradually receeded.

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I was glad to see some cooling rice with my other dish. This came with Crispy Pork Belly with (more) chili, chinese broccoli and oyster sauce. Another very simple dish which really hit the money. The pork belly was that great combination of crunchy fat with moist unctuous meat. It rocked. The chili behaved itself, the broccoli was nice and firm and the oyster sauce was light as it should be and not a cloying dish-spoiler it can be. I sat there a happy man, polishing off the dish, rationing my Coke with the remaining Som Tum.

It’s easy to see why this place is mentioned so much and popular. It’s good honest cooking with good flavours, well cooked/prepared for a decent price – $25. This restaurant makes it look so simple, that you wonder why aren’t there more places like this. Though having said that, there is a second branch in Darlinghurst, with apparently the same food in a flasher setting  at double the price. Why mess with the formula? I know I’ll be coming again, but staying well clear of Darlinghurst.


Thai Nine – not quite

July 16, 2009

8/3 Vista Street, Mosman

It appears Thai restaurants are to Australia, what curry houses are to the UK. They’re all over the place and everyone has a favourite. So expect many reviews in the future.

Sydney Week1 July09 040

Friends took us to Thai Nine in Mosman last night. A good introduction to the cuisine here; a smart but relaxed place with plenty of couples & families .

We cooked things off with the obligatory spring rolls & the imaginatively named Curry Puffs.

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As with most thai starters, they were a little average and tasted more of pastry than they did of the filling. Yet I still keep on ordering them, because you never know…

After the relative disappointment of the starters we had a couple of good meat salads (!) – beef & duck salad:

thai duck salad

thai duck salad

Unlike springrolls, these are the sort of dishes which are relatively simple if you get the ratios right – just sear some meat and add a few leaves, shallots, chilli with lime, sugar, fish sauce. That’s no bad thing and they were good examples. It’s always a great combination with a nice zing. Tasty.

Thai surf & turf

Thai surf & turf

The highlight of the meal was a thai surf & turf dish which had fried ling fillets with pork crackling, basil, bok choy & chilli. Awesome. It was surprisingly light and really moreish. This was a dish that I did not want to share.

Penang Curry

Penang Curry

We followed up with a chicken penang curry. A good alternative to red & green varieties. The muddy flavour is always interesting and unique to thai food (i think?). Always good for flavouring the rice

So we had a number of classic dishes in a nice environment. As a midweek simple meal it’s hard to fault and it’s clear the general standard of thai food in Australia is pretty high. I don’t think I’ll be able to judge before I have a few more and the likes of Longgrain & Sailors Thai are on the hitlist and apparent must eats.

6.5/10 (though the surf & turf was an 8.)