90 Wentworth Av
Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Doctoring aside, one of the things that excited me the most about moving to Sydney was regular access to all the amazing Thai restaurants. Melbourne may be a culinary big-shot, but they never seem to get Thai food right, not in the way Sydney does. Even my local take-away in Sydney is as good, if not better than the top Thai places in Melbourne. And seeing as I haven’t been in Sydney long enough for the novelty of good Thai to wear off, I was rather excited about my visit to Spice I Am.
Along with Chat Thai and Home Thai, Spice I Am is one of the long-standing stalwarts for good Thai food in Sydney. But unlike the other two, Spice I Am is a literal hole in the wall, instead of the huge, well-oiled machines I’ve come to expect. But as the weather in Sydney is so much more pleasant than Melbourne’s, the way the restaurant spilled out onto the street was actually a plus, and made for some very enjoyable people watching as we ate our meal.
I love a good Thai salad – the flavours and textures are so full-on and intense, yet well balanced, there really is nothing else like it. The Nam Khao Tod ($19.5) was the perfect example of that. Toss everything together, and each mouthful becomes a riot of textures and flavours – crunchy peanuts, fresh herbs, fermented sausages with a sharp tang, and if you’re really lucky, the coveted shards of crispy rice. And chilli. So much chilli. I didn’t realise that it was going to be so spicy, not that it stopped me from eating bite after bite as tears welled up in my eyes.
Ka Nom Jeen Nam Ya ($12.5) was something I’ve ever had before, so of course, I jumped right on the opportunity. Silken strands of fermented rice vermicelli were coated in a rich, coconutty fish curry, with a handful of sprouts and pickles on the side for crunch. This was a simple dish, but a satisfyingly flavoursome one.
If we’re talking decadence, the Moo Pa ($19.5) is the last word. Fatty, succulent pork belly are stir-fried in a rich curry paste, with nary any greenery to be seen, other than plump segments of eggplant. Give me a plate of this and a bowl of Rice ($4ea), and you won’t hear from me until my belly is full to bursting.
Unfortunately about halfway through the meal, neither of us could handle the relentless spice any longer, and succumbed to the Milk Iced Tea ($5.5). I won’t pretend I’m too upset however, as this drink was spot-on. Strong enough to stand a spoon in and sweetened with copious amounts of condensed milk, this did a good job of putting out the fire (until it ran out).
Just like it was with Chat Thai and Home Thai, I have absolutely nothing bad to say about Spice I Am. Everything was ridiculously flavoursome, and the meal was an entirely satisfying experience. This meal also taught me an important lesson: do not be flippant about the spice levels of the Thai food in Sydney, because unlike Melbourne, they mean business here!
Rating: 15/20 – trial by fire.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.