Given how ubiquitous they are today, it’s hard to believe it was the late ‘70s before Sydney’s first Thai restaurants opened. Now suburbs are awash with cheap-and-cheerful spots churning out repetitive menus of fish cakes, red and green curries, and pad Thai. However, thanks to legends like Amy Chanta and David Thompson who pioneered authentic Thai flavours in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and a wave of bright young chefs following in their footsteps, we also have some of the finest Thai food this side of Bangkok. Here are five of my favourites when I’m craving a sweet, sour, salty, chilli hit!
Long Chim, Sydney
With this moody, almost subterranean, Angel Place restaurant, David Thompson has transported the taste, aroma and vibe of modern Bangkok to Sydney (he even makes the curry pastes in Bangkok and ships them over!). Produce is the best available, flavours are uncompromising (of course) and if you put yourself in the master’s hands with one of his maa long chim (‘come try and taste’) shared menus you’ll be ensured a harmonious balance of flavours, texture and dishes. The concise wine list is spot on too, plus great Thai-inspired cocktails!
As a young chef enchanted by Thai food, Annita Potter realised that to master its complexity she’d need to learn from the best. So she flew to London and told David Thompson she needed a job at Nahm. Ten years later, after being his righthand through numerous restaurant openings, she struck out on her own with Viand, a narrow 30-seater, wrapped around a dynamic open kitchen. It is simply one of Sydney’s best dining experiences, the full package of superb ambience, service, food and beverage.
Chat Thai (various locations)
The late Amy Chanta was a pioneer of Thai food in Australia, opening the first Chat Thai in 1989. Today her legacy is continued by her daughter Palisa Anderson, with city venues in Westfield, Circular Quay and QVB, plus Chatswood and Neutral Bay. Produce from Palisa’s organic Boon Luck Farm is used to create traditional, flavour-filled dishes for dine in and take away. Seek out the the authentic Chat Thai restaurants under Palisa’s stewardship.
Joe’s Table, Darlinghurst
This tiny inner-city space is home to one-man-dynamo Joe Kitsana, who cooks, serves and clears some of the tastiest classic Thai dishes in town (with a little help from his friends, note Greek desserts inspired by Janni Kyritsis). The narrow space and little courtyard are perfect for group bookings, value is excellent and there’s a short, appropriate list of wines by glass or bottle plus BYO.
If you find yourself in the Southern Highlands for lunch or dinner, look no further than this minimalist space where Michelin-starred Bangkok chef Bee Satongun creates pretty plates of Thai flavours with a sprinkling of Aussie ingredients (think warrigal greens and sea blight). The set menu is the best way to experience a balanced meal; and take time to peruse the extensive wine list including some good Southern Highlands drops.