There seems to be a fixation with Thai food in Sydney. I don’t write this just due to the fact that there are at least 5 Thai restaurants for each place featuring any other cuisine, but also because several of my friends (who don’t know each other) usually choose Thai for birthday lunches/dinners or takeaway. For me is overkill (I like variety) but then I think about the eateries back home and the same thing happens, the food scene is dominated by chifas (Cantonese restaurants adapted to the Peruvian taste) and pollerías (charcoal chicken restaurants).
Last year my friend Ana and her husband Rale celebrated their birthdays (in July and October, respectively) in Thai Pothong. Not only the same cuisine, but the same restaurant (it’s not that the place isn’t good, it’s just that I’ve been there a number of times and I prefer going somewhere new each time). When I received Ana’s email for her birthday dinner this year I wasn’t surprised when I read the word “Thai”, but I was happy to see that I didn’t know the restaurant, and in fact it was located in a suburb where I had not dined before: Thai Face in Crows Nest.
A quick check in Google Maps gave me the location and a general feeling of the people towards this place. I used to trust blindly in Eatability until we went to a 8.9-rated Vietnamese restaurant and the five of us agreed that it was worth half of the points at most. So now I just read lightly the latest user reviews and try to avoid expectations. From my brief investigation I learned that the place had been formerly Thai Riffic (they have one restaurant in Newtown, too), that is now under new management and obviously new name, and that service is quite slow.
Alvaro and I got there by train and bus after attending a talk and nibbling on some after-talk snacks. We met there with our friends and met new people (most of them South American). The restaurant is big; its atmosphere is similar to Thai Pothong’s. It has an open kitchen, red chandelier-style lamps hanging from the ceiling and red lanterns by the walls. There are long tables with groups celebrating special occasions.
The menu is not traditionally Thai (you can tell by the phrase in the cover of the menu: “The New Thai Dining Culture”) and it has mix-and-match sections where you can choose a meat (or tofu) with a style of dish. It also has a “chef pride” section with the restaurant specials, significantly more expensive than the rest of the dishes. One thing that got my attention was the inclusion of roti in some of the dishes and as a side, with or without satay sauce. We didn’t check the drinks menu because we had brought a variety of wines, as always. This time I brought a dry rosé because it was cheaper than my usual more appropriate choice of Riesling. It wasn’t bad at all.
Time passed by catching up with our lives, taking photos and perusing the menus, but nobody came to take the order. We even had a waitress take a group picture but she didn’t ask if we were ready for ordering. Finally one of our very hungry friends stood up and called a waitress. She looked confused when taking orders but in the end we all received what we asked for.
One of our friends (the one who called the waitress) ordered the creamy sweet basil curry. It looked amazing, according to our friend it was tasty but some pieces of hot chili didn’t allow him to finish the dish.
Alvaro and I shared a roasted duck salad and the mussamun lamb (from the specials section). The salad was very good, it had mixed leaves, quartered tomatoes, strips of zucchini, raw onion, chilli jam-lime dressing and a splash of coconut milk. The duck was tasty and the amount of meat didn’t leave us feeling ripped off.
Some minutes after we finished the salad the mussamun lamb arrived. The curry sauce was the traditional one, the difference was that instead of slow cooked chunks of meat inside the sauce, there were four smallish lamb chops on top of the sauce. There were also two slices of cooked potato, some whole cashew nuts, cinnamon sticks and four roti wedges. We had ordered steamed rice even when the dish had roti in it, and it turned out to be a good decision because there wasn’t enough bread to dip in the sauce. The sauce itself was ok (not to be arrogant, but I prefer mine), but the lamb was a bit tough, too salty and not enough.
One of our friends had ordered the traditional mussamun beef curry and he couldn’t finish his plate. He told us it had too much meat, which was incredibly tender. Next time I’ll stick to the classics.
After everybody finished and a few more photos were taken, the caramel cake Ana had brought arrived. We sang “happy birthday” in English and Spanish, Ana blew out the candles and we stuffed our faces with cake, which tasted very much like homemade cakes you usually find in Peruvian homes.
We were still chatting when we realised that there were no other customers left. The cooks and waitresses were ready to go and the rubbish bins had been taken out of the kitchen and placed in the dining room (I don’t know about here but that is illegal in my country). Our friend Nestor drove us home, while the rest of the gang headed to the pub across the road to continue drinking.
9-11 Falcon St
Crows Nest NSW 2065
(02) 9906 8716