In Sydney, there’s good Thai and there’s great Thai, and we’re all about the latter. From the best deep-fried snapper to the finest pad Thai outside of Chang Mai, here’s our list of the best places to get your Sydney-Samui on in town.
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The best Thai restaurants in Sydney
Long Chim Sydney has the kind of menu that’ll either paralyse you with choice or see you throwing caution and cash to the wind to try everything. All three problems are solved if you just go the $45 set menu: it’s an affordable treat with all the good bits in reasonable portions – and reasonable means you’ll be full to bursting, but very, very pleased with your life choices.
Omelette in a sour Thai soup does not sound like it should work, but, goddamn, if it isn’t a delicious revelation at number 79 on Spice I Am’s famously lengthy menu. At 82 items long, those A3, double-sided, laminated menus have been keeping flavour fossickers on their toes for 14 years.
Boon Café in Haymarket is from the folks behind Sydney's indefatigable (and consistently excellent) food chain, Chat Thai, and is one-third styled-up city café, one-third restaurant and one-third Thai supermarket. The menu is overwhelmingly long, but thankfully there are lots of pictures, which make it easier to choose.
How do you convince a town whose bachelor degrees are powered by six-dollar Thai that they should pay $36 for a Panang curry? Serving it inside a room that looks to be moonlighting as a European wine bar is a good start. Elegant restraint is the design brief here, in the former Onde building opposite the original Darlo Bills, but the bar sends the clearest message about the intentions of this upscale riff on Thai dining.
This ever popular Haymarket eatery has become legendary with chefs and Thai locals alike for for its lava hot noodles and soups. It's the original hot spot from Somporn Phosri, who's gone on to expand the chain to Chatswood, Melbourne and Bondi Junction. The main event is the signature tom yum noodle, coming in a clean, sweetly porky, hot-and-sour broth hit with generous spoonfuls of fried garlic and topped with crispy wonton strips.
Sydney might have invented the dance known as ‘queuing for hours for a hot new restaurant’ but that aspirational jig was perfected by Melburnians when Chin Chin, the Modern Thai eatery on Flinders Lane, proved that the quickest route to popularity was a hot wok, a cache of chilis and a stocked bar.
The menu here is easy to penetrate: start with crisp hunks of pork belly with greens, or super hot-and-sour prawn soup. Move on to some soft, glutenous dumplings filled with fine shreds of garlic chives, or some grilled Isaan-style sausage, packed with chilli and served with peanuts, raw ginger and dried chillies.
Caysorn specialises in southern Thai cuisine – a part of the world known for its heat. Kanom jeen – a vermicelli-like noodle traditionally made with pounded fermented rice – is offered in several versions. But the house special is kanom jeen tai pla: noodles sauced with a dark, complex salted fish curry that seethes with chilli.
As soon as you walk through the door into the New York warehousestyle space you’ll see a bunch of chefs toiling over flaming grills and boiling oil in a space big enough to swing a kitten. Come here for feather-light redfish fritters – powder puffs of kaffir lime spiked redfish mousse served with pickled cucumber.
Let's Eat is the rare Siamese outsider in the very Vietnamese neighbourhood of Illawarra Road. Order the Tar Zan in the Jungle. Putting the name to one side, it's as rich in herbs and eggplant (both apple and pea varietals) and as pungent as any jungle curry, but deploys those flavours not in a wet dish but a stir-fry of prawns. A must.
Among the selection of snacky-type things, there's not merely salt-and-pepper squid, but a whole S-and-P menu covering tofu, squid, prawns and soft-shell crab. Among the more interesting smaller things are the tod mun, the traditional fish cakes leavened with a healthy addition of minced pork.
When you walk into this Hall Street staple you can instantly smell fragrant Thai basil and hear the sounds of woks clanging. They do seriously big serves (one serve will satisfy two) of grilled meats, super rich curries and wok-fried favourites. You'll also find a whole page of the menu devoted to duck (try the boneless roasted 'Lucky' duck) and lamb (the massaman uses whole lamb shanks) alongside plenty of vego dishes.
Spice I Am may only be a two-step away, but neither offers a comfortable dining room like Muum Maam. The genuinely tasty gear includes their winning version of crisp pork belly with Chinese broccoli and a red curry of beef with crisp noodles that's a rich mess of potato, meat and sweet curried coconut cream.