A recent discovery, I’m only posting this here now because I think its really awesome. For 20 or so dollars, I can basically stuff myself silly with spice and everything nice at Chat Thai. Which is now my unofficial favorite joint in town, located opposite Capitol Square along Campbell Street. (Note that this is not the same one with a website and 3 branches.)

The single largest drawback is the fact that you usually have to wait for a place. A small throng usually crowds the entrance whilst a clipboard is where a long list of names is scribbled down. Getting in is the only hurdle this place has, a testament to its popularity. To circumvent this, I’d suggest going early maybe 6-ish or going late, like 10 or 11. Even with a booking, you might need to wait a touch. But patience rewards.

A recent trip reveals that the decor is lifted from Longrain, a relatively famous yet expensive joint that I have not been to. I really could care less if the place was a shithole but it isn’t. Its 3 floors high, simple, woody and warm. You get served these lightweight aluminium cups with ethnic designs pressed into the sides, decent cutlery and clean white dishes. Oh and there’s this one waitress that I think must be some sort of ploy my friends pull to distract me so they get to chow down. But the decor and assorted side attractions are hardly the reasons why this place is packed to the rafters.

Why is it good? Well, its cheap (as far as Sydney goes) for starters. Most dishes are under 20, save the whole fish, which never broach the 30 dollar mark anyway. Yet, more importantly, the food is frickin fabulous. So far, the 4 or 5 times I’ve eaten here, they have been some of the best value for money meals I’ve had when I do eat out in Sydney.

Their menu focuses heavily on a good mix of authentic Thai dishes, with particular attention on Isaan style ones. Whilst they do make pad thai, I’ve never bothered to try it. Their various stir fries overall are pretty awesome and their grill must be the busiest in town. I personally highly recommend the following dishes for a party of 4. Include as much sticky/steamed rice as deemed necessary.

  • Grilled Prawns – these perfectly chargrilled, morsels of succulence come with the most exhilarating lime dressing in the history of humankind.
  • Grilled Chicken/Lamb – kinda like the prawns only you get the most kickass nam jim jaew ever.
  • Papaya Salad – theirs is a lovely piquant, rounded and textural version.
  • Tom Saap – the Isaan version of Tom Yam which comes with meat and offal.
  • Fish – whether steamed or deep fried, their fish is excellent.
  • Mango with Sticky Rice – not on the menu, but if its available, you should get a serve.

Now, this might not be the most amazing Thai food I’ve had in my life but its pretty damn close. Even my Thai friend loves the place. For the price of the food and the quality of the flavor experience, this place is a steal, a godsend. What they might lack in a certain refinement, they more than make up for with full on flavor in their sauces and dressings. Like many Thais, they err on the side of sweet, like in their curries for instance. This isn’t my idea of a lovely curry but I can still see past my own personal preference to notice the attention to taste in most every dish they serve.

Perhaps its the newness of the experiences for me. I mean I’ve had Thai food before, but Chat Thai really jams the flavors up your nostrils (it goes all the way up) in a way you’d appreciate. I suppose its a newfound sado-maso streak I’ve got, some weird desire to burn my buds in the name of taste. Still, I think anyone would be hard pressed to find an equivalent meal for the same amount of money in town. If you like it spicy and you like it tasty, there’s none better than Chat Thai.