David Thompson brings the heat to Long Chim Sydney
In my humble opinion, Long Chim Sydney is one of the best Thai restaurants I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. I know this is a big call, especially since we are so spoilt for choice when it comes to Asian cuisine in Australia. I keep trying to think of a time where a restaurants’ natural aesthetic, menu and staff have blended together so seamlessly.
Sydney chef, David Thompson has spent the past 15 years opening restaurants all over the globe, from London to Bangkok. Nahm routinely makes the world’s best restaurant list. With Long Chim Perth opening its doors only a few months ago, it made perfect sense to develop a second instalment in Sydney, bringing Thompson’s restaurant dream back to where it all began.
Make a turn on to Pitt Street and you’ll walk by the likes of Mercado, China Lane and Mejico. You know you’re entering prime restaurant real estate. Down an unsuspecting alleyway, a large neon sign glows ominously in the distance. ‘Long Chim’ flickers red. You have arrived.
Push through a heavy glass door and the smell of spice will hit you. If you look up, you’ll notice that the ceilings are high and the walls are held together by exposed century-old bricks with a few stools skirting the perimeter. There is a real minimal feel to this interior. Just beyond the entrance however you’ll notice a painting of a baby elephant, done in pastel tones. The words ‘love affair’ are written in bold across the top. It’s a small feature, but this piece emits a softness in a space otherwise lacking.
Walking further inside, you’ll face a cornucopia of twists and turns. Disco balls twirl from the ceilings of smaller dining booths. Mesmerising refracted light splashes onto the bricks as the ball goes round. The spectacle doesn’t end there, with blue and green shimmering lights projected from the ceiling onto the floor, creating the illusion of the seabed.
A large, hollowed-out wall creates somewhat of a divide between patrons and an enormous open plan kitchen. Look closely though. You’ll soon find a menagerie of samurai fighting fish residing in individual bowls. A young waitress explains that she is in charge of feeding the fish daily. The bowls cannot get too hot or too cold, or the fish will die. What a job!
We start our night with a round of Tor Kor Mule cocktails. A generous slosh of Monkey Shoulder whisky is mixed in with CAPI spiced ginger beer and almond syrup. It makes for a refreshing start to the night, with the strong, spicy ginger hitting my nose and the booze going straight to my head.
To wet our appetites, we first sample the signature crunchy prawns, served with herbs, shallots and whole chillies ($20). The prawns are deep fried and served whole. Ignore the fact you’re eating prawn heads and relish this salty, spicy, crunchy mouthful. The chilli offers just enough kick to get your tongue tingling, with that distinctive sweetness of the prawn hitting the back of your palate.
A must-try starter is definitely the chive cakes ($20). Served in a pool of dark garlic soy sauce and chilli, this is one of those dishes where simple flavours trump over all. The dough is shaped into little circles and lightly fried. Once you take a bite you’ll discover a gooey chive mixture, balanced perfectly against the salty sauce.
Another starter to try is the fried prawn, ginger and toasted coconut, served in betel leaves ($18). If you ask any of the waitstaff whether these are spicy, the common response is ‘a little’. Be warned. Even if you’re someone like me who lathers Sriracha sauce over everything, they have some serious kick.
If you haven’t already filled up on starters, we recommend trying the baked prawns with glass noodles ($34). Like the title suggests, little baked prawns are served on a big bed of lightly stir fried noodles. Whilst the prawns look pretty plain on their own, the noodles offer intense depth of flavour. With each bite you can taste aniseed, combined with garlic, spring onion and of course, lots of chilli.
The steamed curry of barramundi ($45) is a light dish worth trying for mains. Served on a banana leaf, the flesh is blitzed and mixed into the curry sauce prior to cooking and then steamed. The effect of this is a soft and light pillow of fish. A welcomed change from the heavy, grease laden curries often served in Asian restaurants.
For dessert we are thrown a curve ball. Durian ice cream ($18). Yes you read correctly. Durian, as in the fruit banned in certain countries for smelling so bad. How bad can it really be? Well it has been described as akin to sewage, stale vomit, skunk spray and used surgical swabs, combined. With that in mind, we take a bite. As far as first impressions go, it is unlike anything we’ve ever eaten before. It starts off creamy, then slightly acidic, and suddenly quite nutty with a salty finish. Our palate is taken on a journey with each spoonful. It’s actually a really nice end to the night.
Long Chim Sydney is the contemporary Asian restaurant of 2016, and probably 2017 for that matter. There is no hiding behind any one of their dishes. Each one is bold, robust and bursting with flavour. We have no doubt Long Chim Sydney will be heaving with people, every single night of the week. As the weather warms up, people will line up outside and not care about how will take to get in. At the end of the day, it will be worth it.
For bookings and to check out the menu make sure to jump onto http://www.longchimsydney.com
Long Chim Sydney
14 Martin Place (access via angel place)
02 9223 8670
Open evenings 5:30pm to midnight daily