17th October 2018
Level 6 Westfield
188 Pitt St
Sydney, NSW 2000
Most people are surprised to find out that my sister’s 10 years younger than me. But frankly, what surprises me more is that she’s on the cusp of turning 16. In my head, she will always be an amorphous age somewhere around 6 or 7, and the fact that she will be in first year uni when I’m in my final year of med school leaves me equal parts amused and baffled. For the first time in our lives however, my sister and I won’t be in the same city for her birthday. But thankfully she made a trip to Sydney a couple of weeks before her birthday during school holidays, and we took that chance to celebrate with a lavish dinner at Chat Thai.
I will always have a soft spot for Chat Thai, as it’s the place where I had my very first proper Thai meal. To call it formative would not be an exaggeration, and it became the standard to which I compared all my Thai meals in Melbourne from then on. What I am distinctly not a fan of however is the massive queues outside of the branch in Thai Town, but thankfully the Westfield branch is a little more manageable, though it did definitely get quite packed by 7pm.
The obligatory Cha Nohm Yen ($5) was satisfyingly sweet and creamy with condensed milk, though I do prefer the tea flavour to be a little stronger.
I’m so delighted that there were 3 of us tonight, as that meant we could order literally 50% more food. First up was the Khor Mhu Yaang ($15), an indulgent dish of char-grilled pork neck with chilli sauce for dipping. The meat was as smoky and tender as you would expect, the richness tempered by the sharp tanginess of the chilli sauce. It may have been simple, but it was delicious.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t as impressed with the Gaeng Daeng Gai ($17) as I had expected to be. Don’t get me wrong, this was definitely a good red curry – fragrant gravy with prominent notes of lemongrass and kaffir lime, tender chicken, and fluffy chunks of winter melon. It’s just that I’ve gotten used to my curries having a little more gusto than this, and having been expecting to be blown away by the punchy flavours, this was just a tad disappointing.
The Grapao Bped ($20) on the other hand was a hit around the table. Generous slices of five-spice roast duck were stir-fried with a smattering of crunchy veggies, and my favourite combination of chilli, garlic, and holy basil. Each bite was salty, spicy, fatty, and absolutely bursting with flavour. Definitely my pick for the night.
My sister was dead keen on trying as many desserts as we can manage, and of course, none of us could go past the Sticky Rice and Mango ($9). As everyone knows, there’s not much better than the combination of chewy sticky rice, salty-sweet coconut cream, and fresh summer mangoes. For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on however, I prefer the version served at Home Thai; but don’t mind me – this is still a top-notch rendition, and will keep any mango and sticky rice lover happy.
The Tub Tim Grob ($7) confused all of us when it hit the table. The translation had promised coconut milk dumpling, fresh coconut, water chestnuts rolled in tapioca. We were all expecting something a bit different, not the traditional shaved ice dessert with coconut pieces and bright pink water chestnut in coconut milk. Tasty for sure, and refreshing after the rich meal we just had, but I can’t help but be a little disappointed by getting something so far from what I had expected. I guess that’s what I get for not learning my translations.
Thankfully, the meal wrapped up nicely with our final dessert of Khanom Buaing ($4, 5pcs), which tasted as delicately pretty as they looked. The crisp wafers had been nimbly folded over a filling of creamy-sweet meringue, garnished with either candied egg yolks, or earthy slivers of candied herbs.
So here’s the question: 4 years after my original Chat Thai visit, does it still hold up? Thankfully, the answer is a resounding yes. Although I’ll never be that fresh-faced food blogger being wowed by her first ever proper Thai meal, this is still – in my opinion – one of the best places around.
Rating: 14.5/20 – good talk.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.