Monday, September 19, 2011

Cheers at Chat Thai, Westfield Sydney

My regular clinking of glasses tends to be a drinking gesture rather than a celebratory motion. Cheers are regularly made to Tuesdays, Thursdays and relief-toned Fridays, as well as to not hating jobs, to new shoes, to being indoors from cold weather and indeed, to drinking itself.

There was definitely some clinking, then, at the newest Chat Thai restaurant in the CBD's Westfield Sydney. It was probably cheers to now having some decent and well-priced Thai dinner options in the city, and the availability of alcoholic beverages on this Chat Thai's menu.

Mai Thai cocktail at Chat Thai, Westfield Sydney
Cocktails featuring Thai ingredients, wines and beer have made it to the upscaled Westfield-ed restaurant, next to Xanthi, Spiedo further down and Chinta Ria: Mood for Love to open opposite soon.

The Mai Thai is a popular choice that incites other nearby orders and inner pyromaniacs. The dark rum in the lime half cup packs the expected mai thai punch along with shaken white rum, triple sec, pineapple and lime.

BS 101 cocktail
I can't help but order the basil seed dotted BS 101, just because I'm a bit of a child. I adore eating the slippery membranes of the black seeds - even more than tapioca pearls and flying fish roe. Thai basil, lime, vodka and vanilla liqueur round out the fun in this glass.

Sour monkey cocktail
One for whiskey lovers, and even quite drinkable for a non whiskey lover. The Sour Monkey is a play on a whiskey sour, featuring Monkey Shoulder whiskey in the egg white foam topped drink. The lime and sugar make it a lot easier to drink; perhaps a covert way to sneak whiskey into my drinking repertoire.

Longan Island Iced Tea cocktail
A little more familiar is the longan cocktail with four different liquors, but familiar in a better way than my memories of Long Islands. This is highly drinkable, and simultaneously sweet and lethal - and to think I'd left those days behind me.

Aside from cocktails, there's the difficult task of electing dishes to share from the extensive menu. A beautifully photographed book, the menu is daunting and tempting with full page photos. I find it incredibly difficult not to just order the few photographed dishes.

Todt mun goong gaeng keaw -
Fried green curried prawn mousseline, drizzled with pickled plum sauce
I cannot get enough of this starter. Though I haven't nearly tried all the starters on the Chat Thai menu, this is undoubtedly a star; leagues away from same-old, machine-manufactured Thai fish cakes, moneybags or spring rolls that are passed off as starters elsewhere.

Go past the golden crumbs into the bouncy-textured prawn mousseline with subtle curry flavours, to find large prawns cooked within. The plum sauce is just the icing on the cake, while the crisp, deep fried basil leaves are endlessly delightful.

Khor mhu yaang -
Char grilled pork neck with smoked chilli and tamarind relish
There's an entire page dedicated to grilled meats, and after trying the pork neck, I'm not sure I will be tempted away from ordering it again and again.

The small pieces of pork neck have an addictive char flavour and are surprisingly tender whilst being fairly lean. The dipping sauce of chilli and tamarind adds a nice, balanced sour and sweet component.

Beak gai nahm prik pao -
Fried de-boned chicken wings sauteed in smoked chilli jam sauce
The idea is spot on - I think I'd like all my chicken wings de-boned from here on, thanks. There can be some pleasure from picking every bit of meat off the thin chicken bones, but in a restaurant setting, the de-boned option is a winner.

Here, the battered and deep fried wings soak up a smokey, sweet sauce of chilli jam; and while it would be nice if the wings stayed nice and juicy inside, this Thai play on buffalo wings is just too much fun.

Ship & Shore -
Chicken, pork, prawn and fried egg salad dressed in smoked chilli jam
Another playful dish is the Ship & Shore "salad" - more a surf 'n' turf meat salad than one of vegetables. A melange of marinated chicken and pork prop up gorgeous prawns atop a golden fried egg, with Spanish onions and chilli jam thrown in for good, salad-like measure.

Yum ma kruea -
Char roasted eggplant salad with ground chicken and prawns
Yet another pictured item in the menu is a modern styled salad of roasted eggplant, prawn and chicken mince. The eggplant stack with prawns looks like something from a Mod Oz menu while the sawtooth herb seems to be signalling to someone or something.

The silky cooked eggplant is actually quite subtle, and with onion, herbs and a light saucy dressing, the clean flavours of this salad make it a standout.

Gaeng daeng gai -
Red curry of chicken with apple eggplants, kaffir lime leaves and basil
At this point I think I should mention that dining with a group is the best way to try a lot of dishes, though a hungry couple could easily have a two starters and two bigger dishes, I think (with potential takeaways for tomorrow's even tastier lunch).

The red curry of chicken is a people pleaser - not too hot, not too creamy, a little sweet, and with loads of chicken pieces, cute and slightly bitter apple eggplants, and lots of herbaceous goodness.

Mhu grob padt prik khing -
Stir fried crisp pork belly and wild ginger in red curry paste
Pork belly is an automatic order with a lot of people I dine out with. When it's stir fried with beans and ginger in a red curry paste, I can totally understand. The warning here, though, is that it's pretty hot on the chilli meter (not sure if you can request a milder version) and that it's not always as crispy as it could be.

Bpla choo chee
Crisp whole snapper in red curry
The whole fish on the seafood menu is pretty decent value for a large and impressive dish. There's a choice of five different sauces and we again veer towards red curry. It's just easy and predictably good.

There's quite a bit of flesh on the well cooked fish, although you need to be a little careful with fish bones. Ideally, eat with caution and while not too un-sober.

I seem to stuff myself to the gills everytime I eat at Chat Thai, and while I'm happy to pass on dessert more often than not, others aren't. There is an entire front kitchen dedicated to Thai desserts at the Westfield Sydney Chat Thai (much bigger than the one at Haymarket), and the creations are nothing short of spectacular.

Khanom buaing - 
Sweet thin wafers filled with meringue, candied dried shrimp and herbs
I've watched in wonder the creation of the truly unique wafer and meringue desserts many a time in that front kitchen. A thick batter forms the crispy, thin, round wafer - the whole process reminding me of fortune cookies.

A dollop of glossy white meringue is topped with diced candied dried shrimp and coriander. That's right - dried shrimp in a dessert.

I don't like dried shrimp generally, but I find it a little less challenging when candied and served with sweet meringue; taking the salty-sweet combination to another level.

Steamed layer cake (back) and young coconut jelly
The young coconut jelly is more my thing. I can't resist having it at yum cha but this version blows the others out of the water. Not too sweet and filled with pieces of soft, young coconut, the firm jelly is just the thing after a filling meal.

The green and white steamed layer cakes are small but heavier nonetheless. They're almost cloyingly sweet, and flavoured with coconut and pandan for those attractive footy team stripes.

Fresh mango with sticky rice
And for those with a bit more room in the stomach (or really, those who haven't over-gorged on the savouries), there are the reliable Thai sticky rice desserts. I was pretty impressed to be having gorgeously ripe mangoes in winter (sourced from Queensland) and could easily wolf down the fruit part of this dessert.

The sticky rices were expectedly sweet and filling, with a touch of coconut milk for added richness. The purple-hued rice had an unusal floral taste; the colour and flavour of which I think comes from a particular blue flower used in Southeast Asian cooking.

In the end, absolutely stuffed with a fair few cocktails under the belt, it's three cheers to Chat Thai opening in the CBD.

Disclosure: Food, booze and shoes is acquainted with staff at Chat Thai Westfield Sydney and has previously dined complimentarily.

Chat Thai Westfield Sydney on Urbanspoon


MissPiggy said...

We walked past Chat Thai in Westfield y'day and it was PACKED with quite the line up outside waiting for a table. Looks like it's worth the wait.

chocolatesuze said...

FIRE! wooooo i do love drinks on fire!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I'd be interested in what the prices are like here for the dishes. They do look good.

rockahenry said...

drinks on fire are good, with the best being a flaming charlies at charlie chans :P

candied dried shrimps... interesting.

mademoiselle délicieuse said...

I like to think that I'm cheers-ing the company with whom I'm sharing drinks, but any excuse will do really =p

And those thin wafers filled with meringue remind me of giant fortune cookies as well!

Tina said...

Hi MissPiggy - Yup, just like Haymarket, although if you plan ahead, you can book.

Hi suze - Yes, there's something very attractive about drinks on fire, isn't there? As long as the straws don't melt.... :S

Hi Lorraine - It's been a while since I've been to the other stores, so I can't really say.

Hi rockahenry - They were indeed interesting. I'm not one for dried shrimp usually but...

Hi mademoiselle délicieuse - Yep, cheers to anything really! I really like fortune cookies, so makes sense that I like the wafer-meringue dessert too!

jeanne@thehungryduck said...

Wow its a full blown restaurant. I thought it would be something smaller like my sassy red is..

Looks great! sticky rice & mango dessert yum

Justin Agar said...

Wow, these things look delicious :)

missklicious said...

Ohh I came here the other week and really enjoyed that starter too! I had the BS101 cocktail but wasn't a fan - much prefer the look of the longan iced tea cocktail! Will have to try that next time.

Vivian - vxdollface said...

I love the wide range of food variety at Chat Thai, much more extensive than the usual pad thai noodles! hehe love a flaming cocktail

sugarpuffi said...

wowowowowow wtf! never knew they served cocktails at chat thai! love the flame on the maithai!

Tina said...

Hi Jeanne - Nope, proper Level 6 restaurant with a massive menu, as per Chat Thai style :)

Hi Justin - And it all was!

Hi missklicious - Yep, I've been trying all the cocktails ;) I love the basil seeds - so much fun!

Hi Vivian - They do a mean pad thai though :) And pad kee mao!

Hi sugarpuffi - It's new, and exclusive to the Westfield Sydney outlet :D


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