199 Sussex St
Sydney, NSW 2000
I snuck off to Sydney for some serious business last week, and of course, with serious business comes serious eating. I’ve long come to accept the fact that Thai food (and maybe even Asian food in general) in Sydney is superior to what’s available in Melbourne, and although it will never cease to upset me at least a little, it also gives me an extra reason to be excited when flying interstate.
Spread out over 3 levels (well, more of 2.5 levels – you’ll need to see it for it to make sense), Home Thai is one of the most popular and highly-rated Thai restaurants in Sydney, and so there were predictably half a dozen tables ahead of us when we put our names down for dinner. But unlike the cosy, family-styled Thai restaurants you tend to find around Melbourne, Home Thai runs like a well-oiled machine, and we were seated within 15 minutes.
The menu is extensive, but you’ll find no faux-Thai filler dishes here. Instead, you’ll see all sorts of things you’d be hard-pressed to find around Melbourne, such as Thai pork dumplings, traditional Isan soup, and Thai doughnuts.
Yet somehow, we find ourselves ordering the Massaman Beef Curry ($18) with a side of Steamed Jasmine Rice ($3.5). This was as good as any I’ve had, the rich gravy a comforting, harmonious balance between sweet and savoury, the creaminess of the coconut milk offset by the warmth of the spices.
Slow-cooked over 8 hours, the hearty chunks of beef were thoroughly-seasoned and fork-tender. Served alongside was a sweet baby onion that fell apart in layers, and a waxy potato to soak up the sauce. It was all very good, but I did have one minor complaint – even taking into account photo time, the curry was closer to lukewarm than piping-hot. It’s a minor detail for sure, but a noticeable one nonetheless.
And to get even more generic, I decided to try out the Pad Thai with Chicken ($14) to see how it compared to the lacklustre versions in Melbourne. Of course, it was significantly better; the noodles were chewy, vegetables crisp, and the flavours a moreish balance of sweet, sour, and savoury, all held together by a hint of smokiness. Although I will always prefer the more exciting flavours of pad kee mao, this is comfort food at its finest.
I eschewed ordering entrees with the sole intention of doubling down on dessert, and the first item on the agenda was the Thai Doughnuts ($7). These were like a mini version of Chinese doughnuts, with a fluffier, chewier texture. Coat them with the slightly sweet, slightly savoury dipping sauce of fragrant pandan and creamy coconut milk, and you have yourself a dessert that can’t go wrong.
But it was the Tab Tim Grob ($6) that took my heart that night. Hidden beneath the coconut milk and shaved ice was a cornucopia of treats – crunchy water chestnut dipped in lurid pink jelly, slivers of tender coconut, and pungent strips of jackfruit. Each cooling bite brought a new mixture of flavours and textures; it’s half-dessert, half-drink, and all delicious.
Once again, allow me to reiterate how upset I am about the state of Thai food in Melbourne. Despite having improved significantly in the last few years, it just doesn’t hold a candle to the quality of the meal I just had. There’s an effortlessness to the Thai food in Sydney that belies the skill and complexity of the dishes – much like that with authentic street food.
(But just very quietly: I may not have to be upset for long, as there is a good chance I’ll be making the move north very soon.)
Rating: 15.5/20 – marks off for the lukewarm curry.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.