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Sailor Thai and Spice am I


PhilD
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You really can’t get great Thai food in Europe, even David Thompson’s Nahm isn’t a patch on his old Darley Street Thai, I know lots of home sick expats would argue there are some good ones but I think that is simple a result of fading memory. So back in Sydney a week and we already have two under our belt, and wow, it is so good to be back. We think it must be the quality of fresh ingredients that makes the difference, everything has a zing and freshness that lifts the taste of the food.

First off a trip to “Spice I am” in Wentworth Avenue. It has got a little more fancy since the early days, but is still pretty basic. A 40 minute wait for a table which shortened to 20 (and they take mobile numbers so you can head off for a beer, or pick up BYO as it isn’t licensed). The menu is good, with a broad range of dishes and 3 or 4 specials of the day. We opt for three mains, a Som Tum (green papaya salad), Basil Crispy Pork Belly and a Green Chicken Curry. I know the last one is a cop out but if you haven’t had a good one for a few years it becomes a craving. The food is good, in fact very good. Maybe not quite as vibrant and interesting as I remember, but still good value at approx. $50 for two. One worrying aspect was the waiter asked how hot we wanted some of the dishes, and warned us about the green curry. Have they “de-tuned” the cooking for the suburban palate, we thought it may have been.

The next night we find ourselves at the Opera Bar, it is good to see how popular the place is and how much bigger it is, but maybe they need to add more bars as well as more space for punters, 15 minutes for a $7 beer is not fun...! So we decided to retire to another old haunt “Sailor Thai Canteen”, we managed to grab a seat on the balcony rather than the shared table. Again a good menu with some specials. We shared a mixed plate of specials to start, a very prawny spring role and a fried spinach dumpling which was great with lots of spice. For mains we chose another Green Curry, this time with beef, and Som Tum. Both dishes have a lot of depth and complexity, the beef has been simmered for hours (in coconut milk?) so it simply falls apart. The Sum Tom seems fresher and crunchier than Spice I am’s version, it also comes with wonderful chunks of glazed pork, which is so much better tan the Spice I am deep fried pork. But, and it is a big but, both the main course dishes lack heat, there is simply no spicing. The green curry is a bit muddy in colour, is this a sign there aren’t many chillies in the paste? And the Sum Tom is really quite flat without any chili kick. It is quite strange, the dumplings to start had a good kick but nothing else has, I ate here in March and the spicing was good. Is it a new chef? A mistake? Or again de-tuning for a suburban audience. We will try it again as it is an old favourite we have eaten in many, many times. Hopefully, it was a one off.

It is interesting to compare the two places. Sailor Thai cost $70 without booze, and Spice I am was $50. We ate about the same amount in each, and as Spice I am is BYO the booze costs pushes then further apart. But, I do believe you can see the difference in the quality of the food. Both are good Thais, Sailor Thai has the edge in terms of quality of ingredient, coking techniques and quality of ingredient. If Sailor Thai get the spicing right then for me it is far better food than Spice am I. However, are both restaurants becoming too mainstream for serious Thai food enthusiasts. We aim to get to Longrain soon to compare. Where else should we try? Which is the latest happening Thai?

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Welcome to Sydney PhilD

Since I'm new to Sydney I've been checking out quite a few Thai places. I had previously been a little disparaging of Thai food in general, thinking it a little one dimensional. I clearly too quick to judge and am becoming quite a fan.

Spice I Am and it's Sum Tom is excellent. It's a bit of a heat battle and since I tend to let the staff order for me, I suffer for it. Hearing the Sum Tom is good at Sailors Thai, means I will have to revisit. From your thoughts it wouldn't surprise me if Sailors Thai was more geared towards tourists, hence the spicing, while Spice I Am is a little more uncompromising.

I will also look to try the downstairs of Sailors Thai. The tasting menu looks pretty reasonable, in comparison to Nahm in London.

As for other recommendations, I've gone to Papaya a few times, which is really good. However I think they're only based in Cremorne & Cammeray, so they me be a bit of a trek for you.

fergal

www.foodmiles.wordpress.com

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