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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Spice I Am, Surry Hills

It's official.
The best green papaya salad is here.
Spice I Am.
Champion It Is.

green papaya salad
Green papaya salad (som tam) $7.90

If you like your som tum pallid, watery and flavourless you won't like this one.

Spice I Am makes their green papaya salad zingy, crisp with plenty of heat. There's a healthy dousing of fish sauce, a wink's worth of lime juice and a chilli kick that gets the adrenalin pumping and the endorphins flowing.

It's a party for the tastebuds and the generous handful of dry roasted peanuts add a pleasing buttery crunch.

Bael fruit drink $3.00

I had abandoned Thai cuisine recently, sick of insipid same-old same-old dishes sweetened to Western palates. But after a green papaya epiphany, Thai-yerd became en-Thai-sing once again.

And so we headed to Spice I Am for a weekday lunch. This hole-in-the-wall eatery sits between two backpacker hostels on the Central-side of Surry Hills. The seating is cosy and you could practically pick the peanuts off the pad thai on the table behind you.

A vermillion red feature wall marks one side of the eatery; framed prints hang on the other. And yet my attention is undisturbed by the shiny silver exhaust fans in the kitchen. They are gleaming like new. Perhaps they are new. But they are mesmerising in their resplendent magnificence.

A smiling staff member wearing a funky logoed t-shirt takes our order. The place is filled with a motley assortment of businessmen, backpackers and locals but a sense of ordered efficiency prevails.

green curry chicken
Green curry chicken $7.90

Within minutes our drinks arrive. I choose the bael fruit drink out of curiosity which tastes much like a berry drink with a splash of salty plum.

Our green papaya salad is shared and then our other dishes arrive with rapidity as we frantically perform a game of crockery chess to make room on the table.

The green curry chicken is gooood. With a complexity of spices underlying its creamy texture, the Thai pea eggplants burst on the tongue with surprising freshness.

massaman beef
Massaman curry beef $7.90

The Massaman (mussaman) beef is also sighed over. The chunks of beef fall apart with a mere poke of a spoon, melting in the mouth amidst a pool of ochre-coloured sauce. It is a little on the sweet side but the beef is so tender that all is forgiven.

cashew nut chicken
Cashew nut chicken $7.90

The cashew nut chicken has a little more kick than your average Chinese version using a special blend of chilli jam and a hint of lime.

Crispy fish pad prik king $9.90

My choice for our shared meal was the pad prik king, a tasty mass of fried, hot, sour spiciness. Fish fillets were fried in a coating of curry sauce and pork rind. Green beans are crisp and barely cooked, and a smattering of microscopically sliced kaffir lime leaves garnish the dish like festive tinsel.

Our dishes are scraped clean by eager spoons and desperate forks, capturing every drop of sauce for ransom by our bowls of fluffy white rice. We are pleasantly satiated but our eyes still wander greedily as towers of tantalising pad thai pass us by.

Next time. Next Thai-m.

spice i am entrance

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Spice I Am on Urbanspoon

Spice I Am
90 Wentworth Avenue (corner Campbell St and Elizabeth St)
Surry Hills, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 928 00 928

Opening hours:
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
Darlinghurst, Sydney
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 (Aug09), (Aug07), (Nov05)
7 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Anonymous on 11/22/2005 11:14:00 pm


  • At 11/23/2005 10:46 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This place is down the road from my office and I LOVE it. The best food. Great review. Oh, and I found the calendar on your site, thanks ;)

  • At 11/24/2005 9:31 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Looks so yummy..AG..!!

  • At 1/06/2006 12:15 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    On the 3rd of Jan my wife and I ordered take away from this restaurant and at 4am the next morning both of us were violently ill.

  • At 1/10/2006 12:19 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm surprised by your comment, Gastro, because they were closed whenever I dropped by over the Christmas/New Year period.

    I've eaten there a couple of times a week for more than a year and the only side effect I've suffered has been a pleasing fullness.

    Did you perhaps order something packing a little more heat than what you were used to?

    Viva the nam khao tod, the hoy tod and the pad pak boong.

  • At 8/14/2006 12:21 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    An updated review for your consumption - http://royaltech.net/blog/2006/08/14/spice-i-am-updated/

  • At 8/14/2006 10:49 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'll be quite interested to see if it's just me getting them when they're a bit off...

  • At 9/13/2006 11:34 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Have you been back there yet? I went tonight... the som tum was SO hot:) Although the pork belly was a little dry for my liking...


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