Level 6, Westfield Sydney
Ph : (02) 9221 0600
Open Mon-Sun: 10am-10pm
The latest addition to the insanely popular Chat Thai chain, now numbering five, this latest outpost, on Level 6 of Westfield CBD, is instantly recognisable, with minor amendments, including the lighting, which is rather dim in places. Oh, and they clearly expect that there will be queues at this branch too...
We were there early, and by the time we were ready to order, there were only three other tables occupied in the entire restaurant. Even during the 'peak period' of our meal, they were only about seventy percent full. I note this because of a recurring theme throughout this meal, a theme that was not confined to us, but which affected at a number of other tables within hearing distance.
The commonality? Perhaps it was down to teething problems, as they had been open for less than a week, but the service was consistently vague. It started when I tried to get an additional water cup, continued on to the drinks not arriving after 20 minutes (a reminder lead to further confusion), followed up with dishes arriving in a random order, and continued all the way through to the wrong dessert arriving. Not to mention the continual difficulties that plagued us in terms of getting anyone's attention.
For the neighbouring tables, in one case one dish out of four did not arrive (the table gave up), and two others found it difficult to get hold of anyone’s attention in order to place their orders.
The saving grace was the food.
First up - todt mun bpla ทอดมันปลา ($10) - dollops of fried fish cakes with pickled cucumber relish.
Rather than the commonly large and occasionally stodgy large rounds that appear in most Sydney Thai restaurants, these are bite-sized, and sit easier on the stomach for it. Served almost like a salad, this actually lightened and ‘lifted’ the dish into something much more enjoyable.
The Crying Tiger เสือร้องไห้ ($12.50), char grilled beef tenderloin with smoked chilli and tamarind relish, was a little too light on the chilli, but the beef (of which there were about half a dozen pieces) was perfectly cooked, the relish with a nice balance to it.
One of my favourite Thai dishes is som dtum ส้มตำ ($11.50), green papaya salad. Chat Thai asks diners to specify the level of chilli/ spiciness preferred, and with the varying levels of chilli tolerance amongst us, we went for medium. This was enough to lead to slight perspiration amongst one of the party, but I only found the chilli levels low.
Khao mok gai ข้าวหมกไก่ ($13.50) - chicken and rice braised in turmeric and five spice with green chilli and garlic sauce. I didn’t try the chicken (which I’m told was delicious) but did sneak a mouthful of the turmeric rice, and then a second mouthful.
Khao na bped ข้าวหน้าเป็ด ($15) – five spice roasted duck with a rich duck gravy, accompanied with steamed water spinach and pickled ginger on rice. This was a very nice dish indeed, especially for someone who loves ‘five spice’. The duck wasn't over-roasted, and would have been good even without the duck gravy. In fact, I found that the gravy tends to make the crisp duck skin go too soggy.
One odd thing - it was $15, whereas on the website the price is $10.90. Is that price a premium to eat at the new Westfield? Shouldn’t prices at restaurant chains be uniform? Or maybe website is old?
The photo I forgot to take was of the khao na gai yaang ข้าวหน้าไก่ย่าง ($12.50), grilled turmeric and lemongrass marinated chicken with smoked chilli and tamarind relish on rice. Pure comfort food, the chicken was tender, slightly smokey and not too dry, the relish more sweet than chilli.
There were a few problems with the food arrival, with two of the ‘rice’ dishes arriving first with the fish cakes, and then the som tum and the crying tiger arriving haphazardly after that, along with the third rice dish.
Ordering the desserts proved to be another small drama, with ‘electronic difficulties’ in trying to locate what we ordered on the electronic list, and then the wrong item being noted down on their iphone-like ordering device. Pak Mor (the salty steamed rice flour dumplings) somehow ended up being registered as the order instead of khanom buaing (sweet thin wafers filled with meringue and threads of candied egg yolk).
This turned out to be a bit of an issue not just because they got it wrong, but also because the Pak Mor was sweet and salty, but with far more emphasis on the latter. We knew that it was a dessert, but we still found it difficult to get past our mental blockage that it was a pretty salty dessert, especially as we’d been actually wanting something sweet to round off the meal.
Fortunately, Khao Niew Geaw (coconut sticky rice) was ordered, arrived, was suitably sweet, and was good, albeit quite a small serve.
This visit was during the first week, and it’s likely that they were still trying to find their way. The saving grace in all of the frustration about the ordering and the food arriving in the right order was that the food itself was enjoyable. Would we go back? If the service picks up, yes.
[AP & initialjh]