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Affordable master chef fare
After acquainting Australians with Thai food, classically trained chef David Thompson picked up the cuisine’s first Michelin star at nahm London in 2001. Metropolitan in Bangkok came next, the restaurant that, in recent years, has been swooping Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant rankings – including the top spot on the 2014 list. Food-hunting Singaporeans are no stranger to Thompson, which might explain his first local outpost.
Long Chim is an edgy-cool restaurant on a second-floor perch of MBS overlooking the frenzy of baccarat action. A bar serving intrepid Asian-flavoured cocktails and a row of comely banquettes lead the way into the main dining area. Three kitchens – they specialise in wok-frying noodles, throwing fire on main courses and wood-firing meats – corral an intimate gathering of tables, over which wafts the hot fragrance of a Thai fry-up and the rhythmic ‘pok pok’ of pestle hitting mortar. Thompson is seen criss-crossing the room many times during the course of our dinner, and because it was Songkran when we visited, the chefs – with Thompson as one of the masterminds – took turns drenching each other in water.
To charge Boulud or Puck prices for Thai food in Singapore would be suicide. Which is perhaps why Thompson keeps the street food, family-style dishes here between $20 to $30. The restaurant recommends three starters and four mains for a party of four.
It’s hard not to over-order when starters ignite the palate from the get-go: we had the larb Chiang Mai ($10), which encases chopped beef, mint, Thai basil, and a gasp-for-air residual heat between lettuce leaves, as well as the smoky, tender skewers of cumin-and coriander-coated wagyu ($15). And even though we were identified on our incognito visit, we spotted the same approval around the dining room for the small betel-leaf pockets holding a salad of dried prawns, toasted coconut and Thai herb greens ($10) – they send the tongue a cascade of saltiness and sweet sauce, chased with the light bitterness from the betel.
It’s hard to escape the same level of spice in mains like the minced pork-studded glass noodle salad ($16) and tom yum with chicken feet and wings ($18). The Chinese-style fried kailan stems with cubes of roast pork ($22) offer sweet relief, but pour on the sour, curry-soaked snakehead fish slices ($22) on your unlimited servings of rice and you’re in sweat city again.
The bar seats pushed up against the different kitchens are suitable for solo dining from the noodle and rice sections of the menu. Thin egg noodles swim with dark chicken meat chunks ($22) in a fiery bowl of Chiang Mai-style red oil curry, but skip the holy basil minced beef ($25) – it’s serviceable, but can be enjoyed elsewhere for cheaper.
In contrast, the desserts are unmemorable. The Thai staple of mango sticky rice ($10) is about as standard as it gets, as is the durian ice cream ($12). Cocktails like the mezcal-, peanut- and tamarind-mixed Tears of the Black Tiger ($18) taste savoury with a strong nutty overtone, while the Lumpinee ($18) is an uneasy accord between bourbon and fresh coconut water.
For too long, MBS has been lacking a good food option for leaner pockets. But Long Chim, which translates from Thai to ‘come taste’, has now arrived to fill the gap. Though it’s still early days for the restaurant, with its vibrant cuisine and approachable prices, we can’t see it being easy to get a seat here in the near future.
Time Out Singapore reviews anonymously and pays for all meals. Read our restaurant review policy here.
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