Revisiting a favourite cuisine can spark memories and reignite a passion for flavours first devoured a long way from home.
The Food Sage went in search of Thai restaurants that deliver the real deal. Pleasant surprises and disappointments were par for the course.
Part One: Let’s Eat Thai
The popularity of Let’s Eat Thai has soared in the year since I first heard about it. On a recent Friday evening, without a reservation, we had to wait – wait! – for half an hour, when a table used to be guaranteed immediately. Was the wait worth it? You bet your little Thai fish cake it was.
The creativity that didn’t go into naming this no-frills venue, located on a main road in Marrickville, went into the food.
Pu min salad – or deep-fried soft shell crab with green papaya salad ($17.90) – stoked my obsession with these shell-molten crustaceans. The salad was piled on top of two generous pieces of crab that served as a sponge for the fish-saucy, lime-juicy dressing.
Any deep-fried induced crunch was lost by the time the crab reached the table – to my initial dismay – but it was more than compensated for by the suction action that bestowed on the diner a soggy som-tam infused soft shell critter.
The kitchen doused the signature som tam (green papaya salad) fieriness. But having had renditions of the dish that have chili-scorched the taste buds to the extent that the rest of the meal was tasteless, I was happy on this occasion to have a tamer version.
Slap my wrist for double dunking in the deep fryer, but I’m a sucker for a massaman curry and couldn’t pass up the restaurant’s deep-fried, smoked duck version.
If there was a smoked-infused flavour to the duck prior to being deep-fried, in was lost during the scalding, but the crisped, fat-nuggety skin more than made up for it.
What the dish gained in delivering crisp-skinned pieces of duck, it lost by not cooking the duck in the curry sauce. The slices were laid on top of the sauce, which was a little on the light side, too. But the lack of sauce provided the perfect excuse to mop up every last splash of its rich, smokey sweetness with the remaining morsels of duck.
That both dishes were amongst the evening’s ‘specials’ was an extra bonus: it meant we didn’t have to open the menu – you know the kind: cheap laminate, scores of dishes, and a 30-minute deliberation that initiates anger-hunger in those of us predisposed to petulant behaviour when they’re not regularly fed.
The service charge of un-capping our two bottles of beer brought the total bill to $45.
The verdict? This was a satiating Thai-food infused steal.