The latest Chat Thai at Gateway Sydney opened last weekend, bringing the Chat Thai tally to six restaurants. Already well-ensconced in Randwick, Manly, Thaitown, Westfield Sydney and The Galeries, the new Circular Quay outlet is their biggest yet, seating 145 diners.
They haven't cut back on the menu either. It's a heavy album of offerings that runs over 100 dishes. And if an opening weekend wasn't a big enough challenge, they enticed even bigger crowds with a half-price offer on the entire menu.
The fit-out is bright and modern with customers led through an entrance that passes both open kitchens. On the left side you'll see chefs making dumplings, making tapioca noodles and manning the ice machine for desserts. The right hand side is the main kitchen, including a charcoal grill and som tum station.
Som tum station
Counter seats around the kitchen provide a front row view of all the action. The main dining room is L-shaped with an assortment of rectangular tables. A large circular table in the middle seats eight.
Mhu bhing $7
Grilled pork skewers
We kick off with the classic moo ping grilled pork skewers. Few places do them as well as Chat Thai. The fatty pork is lusciously tender, its sweet marinade charred and caramelised in the best way possible.
Khanom bueng youan $16
Prawn, tofu, coconut and turmeric crepe with house pickled cucumber
Khanom bueng youan is one of the tastiest starters, a jumble of prawn, tofu, coconut, shallots and chilli piled into a super thin and crisp turmeric crepe. It reminds me of a Vietnamese banh xeo, especially with its accompaniments of bean sprouts and pickled cucumber. The crepe is light and delicate, the filling is zingy on the palate.
Tua bup goong $13
Steamed prawn and coconut dumplings
We'd watched staff make the tau bup goong while we waited in line. The crescent-shaped prawn and coconut dumplings are warm from the steamer, served with a thick coconut milk sauce. Rolled in fresh coconut, these dumplings seem to veer deliciously between savoury and sweet.
Bun sip pla $13
Steamed tapioca dumplings with snapper and black pepper
Bun sip pla is a new dish that was originally created for the staff of Noma, served at one of their final staff hurrahs hosted at Chat Thai.
Snapper and black pepper inside the bpun sip bpla
The chewy tapioca dumplings hold a filling of snapper floss (made in-house) mixed with black pepper. The fish floss is soft and tender against the sticky tapioca dough. It's another example of sweet and savoury notes combined so well.
Kai jiew bpu $26
Mud crab omelette
The mud crab omelette is a golden and puffy quilt of egg hiding pockets of picked mud crab. There are huge chunks in here, best eaten with a drizzle of sriracha chilli sauce.
Larb gai $16
Spicy minced chicken salad with soft herbs and roasted chilli
There are only three of us eating today, but that doesn't stop us going wild and crazy with the menu. We pounce on the larb gai, the classic minced chicken salad seasoned expertly with chilli, herbs and roasted rice powder.
Som dtum Thai $14
Green papaya salad with peanuts and dried shrimp
We'd ordered the som tum with pickled crab but end up receiving the som tum Thai instead. There's no salted crab funkiness but still plenty of heat in the shredded green papaya pounded with chilli, dried shrimp, green beans and cherry tomatoes.
Gaeng bpu $30
Yellow curry with mud crab and betel leaves
And because everything is half-price on our visit, we go straight for the yellow curry with mud crab. It's a marvel of tastiness - not just because of the resplendence of mud crab, but the balance of flavours in the yellow curry is so amazing I end up drinking it with a spoon. More cultured diners use the bundles of vermicelli noodles to soak up the goodness.
Pad Thai goong woon sen $26
Stir fried glass noodles with Spencer Gulf king prawns, dried shrimps, bean sprouts,
garlic chives, tamarind and palm sugar
Pad Thai goong woon sen is a pad thai take using glass noodles. The green bean noodles are sauced up with tamarind and palm sugar, then draped with enormous Spencer Gulf king prawns, garlic chives, coriander and fresh bean sprouts. Add a squeeze of lime and eat these fast before the noodles all stick together.
Khao pad tom yum $20
Fried rice with prawns, soft boiled hens egg and herbs
Khao pad tom yum is fried rice with tom yum flavours. It's as tasty as it sounds, a giant mound of rice that's sweet, sour, salty and spicy all at once. A soft boiled egg yields a sticky lush yolk and there's a generous number of prawns littered throughout. Spears of green beans and cucumber provide a refreshing crunch.
Guay tiew pak mor $15
Pork short ribs, daikon, winter melon, trio stuffed rice dumplings in pork bone
broth with smoked chilli oil
The pork short rib soup is just what we need to soothe our now groaning stomachs. The clear broth comes with an assortment of rice dumplings as well as slow simmered daikon and winter melon. A dab of smoked chilli oil drifts through the soup, adding a fiery punch when you least expect it.
Tub tim grob $8
Coconut milk dumpings, fresh coconut and water chestnuts rolled in tapioca
The dessert menu is just as comprehensive as the savoury one. You'll have to agonise over 14 offerings that include sticky rice with mango, coconut ice cream and the very intriguing black sticky rice with caramelised fish and coconut.
We narrow our dessert choices to just four. The tub tim grob or red ruby dessert has always been one of my favourites, a mix of tinted water chestnuts rolled in tapioca flour and boiled. Bite through the jellied coating of tapioca and you'll hit the crunch of water chestnut. The bright red jewels are served in candle-scented coconut milk with fresh coconut shreds and finely shaved ice.
Coconut milk pudding with fresh coconut and pandan infused mung bean noodles
Salim is another dessert we'd watched them make out the front. The mung bean dough is forced through a metal sieve that creates fine strands of noodles. Tinted white, pink and green, the pandan-infused noodles are immediately cooling, and not just from the shaved ice in more candle-scented coconut milk.
It's an addictive dessert albeit a little tricky to slurp up with a spoon. And that's not a glace cherry but luk chup, the Thai artform of making realistic miniature fruits out of mung beans.
Som chun $9
Makrut lime syrup infused seasonal fruits with ginger and fried shallots
One of the most unusual desserts here - and rarely found elsewhere - is the som chun, a tropical fruit salad marinated in makrut (kaffir) lime syrup. We find peeled green grapes, lychees, rambutan and mandarin. Add fresh ginger shreds, fried shallots and makrut zest and our tastebuds score a refreshing ride of savoury, sour and sweet.
Young coconut granita $9
Textures of fresh coconut and coconut cream
Whatever you do though, order the young coconut granita. It's like a young coconut drink in slushy form, buried with cubes of young coconut jelly. On the side is a crepe filled with meringue and golden egg yolk threads. The two go together brilliantly.
I expect Circular Quay office workers will take to the latest Chat Thai like ducks to water. The entire Gateway development is a food godsend for tourists and locals alike. And in a telling display of Thai hospitality, I love how their latest branch has been designed with waiting lounges for the inevitable queues.
Chat Thai Gateway
1 Macquarie Place, Circular Quay, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9247 3503
Open 7 days 11am-11pm
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10/17/2016 02:02:00 am