With the Sydney Comedy Festival on in full force, tickets to see a crazy Swede at the Factory Theatre in Marrickville came with the perfect reason to visit a new, nearby establishment for pre-show dinner. There's no fun in laughing on an empty stomach.
The straightforwardly named Let's Eat Thai sits in a quiet block near Marrickville train station. With a chef hailing from the venerable school of Spice I Am, the promise is set at a rather high bar. A constant stream of diners and takeaway orders gives the restaurant a casual feel. The main chalkboard menu lists all the Thai favourites plus some of the lesser known, with another (which I saw only at the end of my meal, behind me) listing the specials.
A slushy ice concoction of sweet lychee prepares the palate for a potential onslaught of chilli heat. Going by the menu's heat indicators - ranging from no chillis to two chillis - we're on four chillis overall. It's always hard to know what a description of 'hot' is - I've had medium heats that have sent my tongue running scared back down my throat.
The deep fried curry puffs are exemplary samples of their kind - a thin, crisp and utterly scrumptious pastry in perfect triangles with perfect pleats. The deep gold covering encases a mild curry of diced vegies and partners delightfully with the sweet, slightly tart accompanying dipping sauce.
I adore a paw paw salad - there's something very sophisticated about the mix of flavours and textures; a fine balancing act indeed. This version has slivers of green paw paw piled up high with slightly chewy green beans, juicy cherry tomatoes, chopped peanuts and whole dried shrimps - showered with a sweet and punchy dressing spiked with chilli. The freshness and crunch of the paw paw has me at "hello"; the balanced flavours of the ingredients and dressing just the icing on the cake.
I'm also immediately sold on 'crispy pork belly' on the menu description, as it seems many at the restaurant are. The kra prao moo grob is naughty decadence on a plate - with two chilli indicators. It's quite obvious on the plate that there are significantly more than two chillis, but also deep fried basil leaves and a great big pile of pork.
Following the silence from the first bite come the raves - although not from all. The small blocks of pork belly are fried to a crunch - the skin and, admittedly, the fat are blissful. The meat has also taken a long vacation in bubbling hot oil to come out hardened and crisp - a bit dry for some opinions, but an exciting textural contrast for others. I enjoyed the pork immensely, with lots of rice to temper the chilli and make it appear healthier to the mind (though I think I failed miserably on the latter).
The red curry arrives looking quite attractive, flashing fresh peas and Thai apple eggplants from within its saucy red coat. By this time, having already faced three chilli indicators, my tongue is starting to numb from chilli heat - although not to the point that I can't taste the lovely flavours of the curry. It too is hot - in terms of chilli and temperature - but seriously moreish. The fresh peas are larger than your regular frozen variety and while the eggplants have retained some bitterness, their texture make them perfect to soak up the precious spices of the curry.
Having spotted the dessert list earlier on, we'd deliberately ordered lightly on the meal to ensure space for sweets. It's a simple choice between two very Thai, if not Asian, desserts and the arrivals surprise me, to say the least. My order of the unknowingly patriotic Thai custard is small-ish but packs a filling, stomach-expanding punch. The green tinged glutinous rice is only lightly flavoured - sweet with perhaps a pinch of salt too. The bright gold-yellow custard is eggy and airily textured, although this still struggles to offset the extreme sweetness. Teamed with the sticky rice is the way to go flavour-wise but be warned - it is heavy.
So heavy that a quarter of the way through my custard order, I hijack the similarly verdant sago dessert from across the table in a not-too-subtle switcheroo - and I'm glad I did as I now have a dessert crush. I've fallen for a green, spotty blob swimming in thick, white goop. The green blob is a jelly-like pudding of sago pearls, almost unsweetened, swimming in mildly sweet coconut cream with seductive and slippery pieces of young coconut flesh. I like you.
I like that it's just sweet enough to let the young coconut flavour through, nudged along by the cream. I like the feel of the soft pearls submersed in the thick coconut. And oddly enough, I like the unapologetically green blob peeking out of its white pool. I'm fascinated by the use of green colouring through the desserts, although I'm informed it's common in desserts of various South East Asian cuisines.
Downing my final mouthfuls of creamy sago with the constant filled water at the table, the meal has ended on an absolute high. While the food was hitting bull's eyes left, right and centre; the service was also nothing less that what I'd expect at a white tableclothed establishment - for the entire night. Paw paw, pork belly, sago, service - I'll be laughing all the way back here sometime soon.