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.
House and 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.
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.
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.
The Westfield venue is the flashest of the lot. Old favourites are executed with precision, flavours are sharp and seasoning is bang on. Order the pad Thai – it's the Prada of its kind, luxed up with roasted and boned duck, silky noodles, tamarind sauce and green onion. And it comes with its own condiment set!
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.
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.
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. There are a range of Thai sambos here that you need to check out, like the naam todt, which is a brioche bun stuffed with sour fermented ground pork, smashed up spicy rice cakes, mayo and fragrant herb salad.
Try hitting up the canteen, rather than the dining room, at this Thai institution in The Rocks. It’s cheaper, and the harbour views far more kick-ass. Sit back, relax, and gorge on buttery curry puffs, crisp and melty pork belly and one of the city's finest pad thais.
The latest one from the Spice I Am team looks to Southern Thailand for inspiration. Order the kanom jeen set of fermented rice noodles served with fish curry sauce and a creamy, slightly sour mung bean paste. It is an absolute triumph of texture, spice and flavour.
Long Chim Sydney has the kind of menu that’ll either paralyse you with options or see you throwing caution and cash to the wind to try everything. But 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.