It's always reassuring when things stay the same.
Consistency of quality was mentioned at Restaurant09 as one of the key drivers behind restaurant selection by customers. With a two-year gap between visits to Spice I Am, I'm always surprised to see the food is always just as good as I remembered.
Bael fruit drink $4.00
and Thai iced coffee $4.00
In fact the only thing that's changed is the signage. Gone is the hanging blue and yellow sign between the two backpacker hostels. Now there's a fancy banner in silver afixed to the building, a colour that blends so much as to be almost invisible. A couple of times I've been convinced Spice I Am must have closed, until I get closer and realise it's still there, trading busily despite the lack of fanfare. Perhaps it's a ploy to get people to visit Spice I Am Restaurant!
Seating is still reasonably strict. There are no bookings taken, and when I arrive earlier than my dining companions, I'm told I must wait until everyone has arrived before I can take a seat (it's just on midday and they're less than a third full).
Finally everyone arrives and we can take our seats on the wide and squat wooden stools. The staff bustle about in their black t-shirts with the Spice I Am logo written in orange on the back. The menus look expanded in variety, particularly at lunchtime, but the prices don't seem to have gone up from two years ago.
Thai fried rice $10.90 lunch special
Chicken fried rice with egg and Chinese broccoli
Drinks are served promptly, a bael fruit drink for the G-man and a Thai iced coffee for me. The bael fruit drink tastes like a berry cordial, its ruby-like appearance visually striking. Thai iced coffee is strong and sweet, a huge mound of ice helping to dilute its bitterness.
LJ is a man of mild tastes, a possible quandary in a Thai restaurant. He's happy with the Thai fried rice, a compressed mound of rice mixed through with shreds of fried egg and Chinese broccoli. Hidden within a strips of cooked chicken. Three fat slices of cucumber and a lemon wedge provide refreshment.
Seafood pad cha (Phuket style) $12.90
Stir fried with curry paste, peppercorn (seasonal), basil and thai eggplant
The G-man is in rhapsodies over the seafood pad cha, a dish he says is not commonly found outside of his native Thailand. There's a distinct bitterness to the dish, added to by the tiny thai eggplant that look like peas but pop like bitter salmon roe pearls. It's also extremely spicy, a heat I can tolerate for a few spoonfuls but unlikely to be able to sustain for the entire dish. The G-man only laughs. More for him.
A mixture of seafood is fresh and flavoursome, the strips of scored calamari particularly tender.
Pork pad prik king $10.90
Stir fried curry paste with green beans
sliced kaffir lime leaves and pork rind
Somehow I always end up ordering the pad prik king. It's sweet and spicy and I quietly revel in the delicacy of the kaffir lime leaves sliced so thinly they're wispy tendrils. It amazes me that the dish looks exactly the same in 2007 and 2005.
I think I know why I always succumb to this dish. It's the memory of the crispy pork rind, cubes of deep-fried pork crackling that crunch in the mouth, a contrast to the sweet and sticky curry paste and the squeak of fresh green beans.
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Spice I Am
90 Wentworth Avenue (corner Campbell St and Elizabeth St)
Surry Hills, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 928 00 928
Open Tuesday to Sunday
Lunch 11.30am - 3.30pm
Dinner: 6.00pm - 10.00pm
BYO no corkage
Closed on Mondays
A second more upmarket version of Spice I Am can be found at:
Spice I Am Restaurant
296-300 Victoria Street
Tel: +61 (02) 9332 2445
Lunch: Thursday to Sunday 11.30am - 3pm
Dinner: Daily 6pm - 10.30pm
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Spice I Am (Aug07), (Nov05)
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8/12/2009 03:20:00 am