31 The Boulevarde
Strathfield, NSW 2135
What’s better than Thai food? Clearly the answer is being able to get good Thai food without having to travel far. Oddly specific I know, but I really do have a hatred of trying to get around Sydney, and that’s especially the case when it’s been about 40 degrees all weekend.
There’s plenty of Thai offerings around the Strathfield area, but the most popular one of the lot is Maenam Lao and Thai. I was initially worried about our chances of grabbing a seat in the small space, but as it turns out, they have a larger dining room past the kitchen – one that I think is far superior to the cramped and noisy section out front.
I’ve always been fond of Thai Papaya Salad ($13.9), but ever since my trip to Thailand, where I ate papaya salad everywhere I could get it (and that was A LOT of places), I’ve become borderline fanatical about finding that elusive balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy. And whilst this certainly wasn’t the one, it had the right idea. The main difference between this and what you get in Thailand is the vibrancy of the flavours; this one hit all the right notes, but it just wasn’t as bold as the best ones out there. I would’ve especially liked to see a heavier hand with the fish sauce and palm sugar, and if I were to be extra greedy, a single salted crab pounded through with the papaya would’ve really made it sing.
Just for some variety, I decided to get the BBQ Ox Tongue ($13.9). Unfortunately this was not as good as I had hoped. Whereas my previous experience with ox tongue have been with delicately sliced and indulgently tender, this one was cut into meaty chunks, leaving it a bit too… visceral for my liking. But it’s not all bad news; the meat was infused with a promising smokiness from the grill, and the spicy Lao-styled dipping sauce really served to bring out the sweetness of the marinade.
And of course, Chicken Pad Thai ($15.9). To compare this to what I had in Thailand would obviously be unfair, but this can’t even be considered excellent when compared to what Sydney has to offer. Although there’s nothing wrong with this, it was beyond generic tasting, with none of the flavours that makes pad thai stand out amongst all the other stir-fried noodle dishes. The chewy texture of the noodles however were an unexpected highlight, and admittedly it was no chore to eat, though it certainly didn’t spark joy.
Despite this being my first formal review of Maenam, I’ve actually also gotten takeaway from here in the past, and can highly recommend the Rice Ball Salad ($13.9), as well as the Potak Seafood ($8.9, small). All up, Maenam certainly has nothing on the big names of Thai food in Sydney, but it’s certainly respectable, and also has a selection of Lao dishes that you’re not likely to see at most places. It’s not the kind of place people will travel for, but as a local Thai restaurant, it does the job and then some.
Rating: 12.5/20 – bonus points for the rice ball salad and potak seafood.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.