Ever had that feeling after a meal when you know what you ate, but you don’t know know. Don’t know the name of the dish, don’t know the price, and don’t know how to order it again.
GUYS, THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON’T TAKE A PHOTO OF THE MENU. FML.
Asian restaurants are quite notorious about not putting up information on their extensive menus online, and it turns out that even a chain like Chat Thai – with fairly modern sensibilities like having an online presence – is not immune. Which means that the result of an impromptu dinner at Chat Thai in Haymarket is me scrambling for information because I am not even sure what each dish costs indivually because we split the bill.
The Order (as best as I can remember/Google):
Mhu Grob Pad Prik King, $15
Stir fried crispy pork belly and Wild ginger in red curry paste.
Padt Thai, $13
Dtum Tardt (specials menu), $13.90 for small
Papaya salad platter with prawn cracker, Thai sausage, pickled crab, egg and rice noodle.
Sticky Rice Durian, $8
Sticky a rice steamed with sweet coconut cream and palm sugar accompanied durian custard and fresh durian.
Voon Kathi, $4.50
Young coconut jelly
What can I say, really. To this date Chat Thai has never let me down in terms of food quality (prices are another issue entirely) and no matter which outlet you visit, you know that you’re getting an authentic plate of food. After all, the many MANY Thai people who work at all the outlets simply cannot be wrong, right?
The Som Dtum (papaya salad) and all its incarnations remain my favourite, especially with its heavy aromas of dried shrimp and other preserved seafood. Yeah, you know the smell I’m talking about. If it’s available, go for the share platter on the specials menu (Dtum Tardt) – it elevates the humble salad to a full meal, with rice noodle sticks, Thai sausages, and prawn crackers thrown in.
The Mhu Grob Pad Prik King, $15 was a very pleasant surprise, given that I had no idea what to expect. Firm cubes of pork belly is coated in the fiery red paste – peppery and savoury and perfect on a bed of steamed Jasmine rice. No frills, just the good stuff.
The Padt Thai, too, really hit the spot. Sweet, nutty, and fresh (from the raw bean sprouts), this classic plate of thin rice noodles bring me right back to uni days, where it was both staple and indulgence at once. (Read: I ate a lot of it, but felt guilty every time).
Dessert-wise, the Sticky Rice Durian wasn’t quite the “slap some fresh durian on sticky rice and cover it on coconut cream” plate that I was looking for, but I guess they were classing it up a bit. The Voon Kathi, though, was a pleasant surprise. Made with rich coconut cream, I found myself thoroughly enjoying biting into fresh chunks of coconut dotted through the jelly.
The thing about Asian restaurants with a high turnover: the service is, well, unpretentious. They are super efficient on their end – bringing out food at lightning speed, and refilling water with ninja stealth – but they expect you to be, too. Make up your mind, eat, pay, and let them turnover the table. If you’re a dawdler, I would expect to feel slightly rushed, like the world is playing at 2x speed and you’re stuck trying to catch up.
Mind you, they were NEVER impolite either. Towards the end, we were asked firmly if we had finished ordering and whether the bill could be brought, but never was an explicit word said about needing us to leave. Very tactful, and clear about getting the message across.
Value for money:
Every time I have Asian food in Sydney, a small part of me weeps about how cheap it all is in the home country. But you know what, we are in Sydney and not Thailand, and I’m just going to have to suck it up. As far as the CBD goes, it’s actually really decent food for a fairly decent price, and for the fact that I know it’s a brand I can rely on, I’m willing to pay that price, and possibly more, every single time.
Let me start this bit by saying that we went on a 32C day, not realising that the restaurant IS NOT AIR CONDITIONED. However did I miss this before?!
Well, I’ve no idea, but part of me swears that it’s a convenient ruse to bring the element of Asia into Sydney, where we’re entirely too comfortable.
Lack of air conditioning aside, there is an easy status quo in Chat Thai though – the waitstaff clearly aren’t here be your next BFF, which takes the pressure off making small talk with them while they’re just trying to do their jobs.
Chat Thai is like an institution for Thai food in Sydney – the brand is everywhere, and we have come to trust that they’ll serve up good food consistently, no matter which branch you visit.
Haymarket remains my favourite, though. There’s just something about being in Sydney’s little ThaiTown that heightens the experience.
And besides, any excuse to buy Thai groceries, emirate?
This meal was independently paid for.
20 Campbell St
Haymarket NSW 2000
Phone: +61 2 9211 1808