Holiday Foodsteps: Chat Thai Westfield, Sydney
One of the very first eateries to make it on our list of must-eats was Chat Thai. I must say, I was slightly surprised that an Asian eatery made it onto the list, and put it down to forward thinking - having a plan for when someone desperately needs a South East Asian meal fix at any point during the holiday. One only has to spot the queue as one comes up on the escalator to the 6th floor of Westfield to realise that I had gotten it completely wrong.
Shop 6002, Level 6
188 Pitt St.
Westfield Centre Point
I love Thai food for the same reasons I am always partial towards Indian cuisine - the clever use of spices, the bursts of flavour and those incredible aromas. We get led into the dimly lit restaurant without much of a wait, thanks to some strategising (early, early, early), and the first thing that hits you is how good the restaurant smells.
Som Dtum Thai - green papaya salad with peanuts and dried shrimp. If you go to Chat Thai and are only allowed to order one thing (although how a situation like that would present itself is beyond me), I reckon that this should be it. I've always liked the idea of the green papaya salad - something fresh and vibrant to get the appetite going but I've never had one quite like this before. It's incredible to be eating something familiar but only finally understanding it for the first time. Balance. The power of balance.
Another one of my favourites that evening, Gaeng Keaw Gai - chicken green curry. Back home, curries can be fiery, which is not necessarily a bad thing until it gets too fiery that it drowns out all the other flavours. I find Thai curries to be especially complex so while a bit of a kick is always welcomed, I'm always happy when the taste buds don't become too numb to savour all the thought that has gone into the dish. Oh, the joys of basil and kaffir lime leaves.
Bpla Raadt Prik - crisp whole snapper in garlic and chilli sauce. I liked this, not just because it came with a green papaya salad-like side but because they delivered on the expectation - crisp, yes, garlic-chilli accompaniment, so addictive I was eating it by the spoonfuls.
Gaeng Sohm Cha-Om Goong - king prawns and an acacia frond omelette in sour orange tamarind curry. Yes, we ordered this out of sheer curiosity - " omelette and curry" don't often get featured together, much less an omelette with acacia leaves. This rather comprehensive dish (egg, prawns, vegetables, sour, sweet, spicy!) was new and different, and in a good way.
We had some other dishes as well, including some Thai fishcakes (because I love fishcakes of any style) and greens (for a balanced meal, you know).
"Yes, just one, to share"
Sticky rice and mango - rice that packs a lovely, coconut-y flavour and slices of sweet, juicy mango. We'd had the foresight to save space for dessert but I think we could have done with just a tiny bit more space for a bit more of this.
I always enjoy sitting down to a meal with no expectations and being pleasantly surprised - it's almost like being presented with a surprise gift, one that just gets better and better as you unwrap. Chat Thai made me feel that way - and nothing beats that, especially while on holiday.