The "original" Chat Thai (of endless-queue fame) is located near Haymarket, but since I can't be bothered to trek all the way downtown, the Chat Thai in Sydney Westfield (Pitt St Mall) is good enough for me. It's dark (and leafy) enough inside to make you forget that you're sitting in a restaurant, and to imagine instead that you're sitting in a cosy, cheerful, chatter-filled restaurant in Bangkok. The iced coffee with condensed milk (and golf-ball sized ice cubes) is the perfect time-filler if you're waiting for someone to arrive, or perusing the menu.
These are Chat Thai's crowning glory - its fresh spring rolls of smoked fish sausages, chicken and crab with caramelised tamarind relish. Mmmhmm, you read that right - tamarind relish.
Because every sauce deserves its own close-up.
Food envy is a terrible terrible thing. There's nothing worse than spending a good twenty - I mean, ten - minutes poring over the menu, agonising over the difference between steamed or fried, baked or grilled, chicken or fish, ship or shore, creme brulee or creme caramel, while the waiter is tapping his shoe, trying (unsuccessfully) to hide his impatience, and in a moment of sheer desperation you relinquish all decision-making to the heavens, and point randomly at the first thing you see on the menu. And then it arrives. And your heart sinks. And you try not to stare too enviously at the amazing dish your companion just ordered - and just finished. Sigh. There goes $30.
To prevent the occurrence of such unpleasantries, I usually look at what other tables have ordered, and make my decision based on how good their dishes look. Todt mun goong gaeng keaw was one such dish (see photo above). It's fried green curried prawn mousseline, drizzled with pickled plum sauce. In lay terms, crunchy fried prawns. With other seafood thrown in for good measure. Yum.
Larpb gai - spicy minced chicken salad. All-time favourite dish. Light, green, healthy, herb-y (yes, herbs just became an adjective) and packed with a good, lean source of protein. I had to ask for a very mild version, because my spice tolerance is not much better than that of a small infant, and the dish arrived swiftly, with just the right amount of kick, and heinous amounts of herbs and flavour.
Padt char bpla gaia - stir fried fish dumplings with fresh chilli, wild ginger and apple eggplants. This was another wonderful dish, as the dumplings were uber cute and uber chewy. Pretty heavy on the heat though, so not good unless you're armed with a carton of cold milk.
Sticky rice cubes with palm sugar and sesame seeds. Light, chewy, and only $4.50. Definitely worth your while.
And now time for more holiday planning (Thai-themed of course).