Friday, March 28, 2008

Trolling around Thainatown

The slick interior of Chat Thai

I rarely ever do restaurant reviews on this blog as there are so many other blogs that do it so much better. Not one to impose on already well trodden territory I steer away from reviews not only for the latter reason, but simply because I don't eat out nearly as often enough as other bloggers who do reviews. Oh yes, and I'm unable to take a decent photo inside a restaurant for the life of me.

Reviews in my opinion are so relative and mostly based on comparisons from previous experiences and tastes of certain cuisine. I don't think I have gathered enough food mileage to be able to be an expert in anything. But sometimes in a serendipitous, fluky way, you happen to have your camera when you go out for a casual lunch and next thing you know, you are taking a photo of ever dish.

I may not be an authority on most cuisines, but I think I have eaten at enough Thai restaurants and eateries to be able to gather an opinion about the food. And I have to say that although there's an abundance of Thai places in Sydney, the bad far outweighs the good.
Thai cuisine is usually marked by its depth of flavour; the beautiful cohesion of taste sensations and textures. It's usually a splendid symphony of sweet, sour, spicy and herby, put together with such harmony. There simply are too many Thai restaurants serving bland and watered down versions of the real thing.

Ornamental cups

Simply put, when the menu says, "this dish is very spicy", I want the dish to deliver on its promise. I want it to be flaming hot enough for me to be able to breath fire afterwards. There are just too many renditions of seemingly spicy dishes that just aren't that spicy at all. If my brow isn't sweating, then you really haven't done your job. And I'm not even one of those people with high levels of tolerance for capsaicin.

Which brings me to Chat Thai. Chat Thai is a little bit of an anomaly, as in that even in the midst of a million other Thai eateries in that part of Pitt St which has been affectionately coined Thainatown, there is always a line of people outise waiting to get in, even at 11:30pm. Spoilt for choice in the midst of Thainatown, there is something about Chat Thai that people are willing to wait in line, outside, sometimes in the cold and rain.

Some say that it's usually the most dubious looking eateries that are the most authentic and the best priced, and to some extent this has been proved correct. This however cannot be further from the truth when it comes to Chat Thai. Although a handful of their dishes take a short detour from the original, the flavours are truly Thai at heart. And when they say spicy, they mean it.

Chat Thai Lunch

The restaurant's interior can fool you, it doesn't look like a Thai restaurant that would serve traditional Thai fare, and serve it well. It looks more like an uppity bistro than an Asian eatery. But nothing could be further from the truth, it's just a plus that the place comes with soft mood-lighting, modern brown tables, rustic brick walls and to my surprise, friendly staff that make up for the wait you have to make for a table during peak hours, which can be up to an hour and a half.

To be honest, I cannot recall what we had that day. I was too engrossed in the eating part, that I forgot to remember the dishes for the blogging part. Hence the reason why I don't do reviews. All I remember is that there was a pad thai somewhere in the mix, a staple at any Thai place. And if they can't get a pad thai right, then there's really no point in wasting your time. But the heartening thing is their pad thai was good. Good enough that every last morsel was scraped off the plate.

So if anyone is in Sydney looking for a Thai place whose kitchen doesn't close at 10, then head over to Campbell St and put your name on the list for a table. If you come late enough, you won't have to wait that long. Chat Thai has several other locations around the city although I've only been to the one in Haymarket. Weirdly enough, it's the only one not featured on the website.


20 Campbell St
Haymarket, Sydney NSW
Phone: (02) 9211 1808
Open: 7 days 11am-2am


Robyn Vickers said...

That looks amazing. I'm off t hunt down some coconut milk as we speak!
BTW, I tagged you for a meme.
Keep up the great posting!

parolediburro said...

Hi JenJen,Thai-town looks fantastic!
I love your blog,photos and recipes are beautiful!

Hillary said...

Mmm looks like delicious fun! Thai food is my favorite!

RecipeGirl said...

Your post reminds me that I'm due for some good Thai food. I won't be getting to Australia for that though so I'll have to look 'round here!

Anonymous said...

Isn't it called, "Thainatown"? I heard it somewhere, but you may be right.

soleslide said...

Some good stuff here. I will try your Sausage and Capsicum Linguine tomorrow. I hope I can do a good job of it. Am a recent convert to cooking stuff myself... on weekends.

Kez said...

You're popular today - I just tagged you for the "Food Porn Meme" - Enjoy :)

jenjen said...

Robyn- Thanks for the tag. Most people know that I am notoriously tardy in doing memes but will definitely make a go of it.

Parolediburro- Thanks so much!

Hillary- Me too, I think out of all the Asian cuisines, Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese would have to be my perfect trifecta.

Recipe Girl- Good luck in your search!

Anonymous- I think you might be right... I had also read the term somewhere and obviously remembered it incorrectly. Thanks for being so astute.
I will change it on the post.

Soleslide- Great... hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Kez- Wow, I am popular! Thanks for the tag, will try and get through all of them soon : )

garance said...

Hi jenny , Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions , i did understand all but don't know if i am abble to put the whole thing together , thank you anyway ....And if you are planning on coming round Provence (the Luberon area ) please contact me and i 'll be more than happy to show around ...
Love watching Sydney that way , i worked in different restaurants there (Pier 1 , Unico Senso , Café Roma and the Cauldron ) well that was years ago...
Keep posting about food that way i love it...

VeggieGirl said...

What a great-looking place!!

So sorry for lack of comments on your blog - your blog is one of my all-time favorites, and check it daily; but I haven't had time to leave proper comments lately (so much schoolwork!) - just wanted you to know that you haven't lost VeggieGirl as a loyal reader! :0)

Robin Sue said...

I really enjoy reading your blog, especially when I am in the dead of winter and you are in the bliss of summer. Your photograhy is beautiful.

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Certainly on the list for my Sydney visit... whenever that may be...

Lorraine E said...

Wow, you're right, the interior doesn't look very Thai at all (but it does look lovely!). It's always good to know somewhere to get a late meal and a line of people queuing to get in is always a draw!

Anna said...

another chat thai fan!!! i am so pleased to see these guys get the attention they deserve.
i made friends with the owner back in 2002 and eat once a week at their galeries victoria takeaway.
when they opened haymarket i have taken so many friends and preached and preached and preached like a crazy fanatic.
the food is great and now the word is out!

Chubbypanda said...

I think you did just fine. Most food bloggers and print reviewers don't have much actual culinary experience, so their reviews are also based on the "That was good. I liked it." test.

White On Rice Couple said...

You make me want to jump on a plane and go eat in Austalia! This restaurant look so great!

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CollyWolly said...

Hi JenJen your post is marvellous! and your photos are great. I also want to jump on a plane now and go and eat all over oz!!! :) I am crazy for Thai food......