…for the Western palate, I mean. And some Asian ones.
I was in Perth in June and eager to try the food of famed Australian chef David Thomson at his newly opened restaurant. For those unfamiliar with the name, David is a champion of authentic Thai flavours with awards to match. His Nahm restaurant in London earned him a Michelin star within six months of opening and was the first Thai restaurant in the world to do so (it closed in 2012).
Understandably, my expectations were high. But because I suspected I would be paying premium for what was essentially street food, I made sure I did some research.
A common thread of advice from several reviewers I read warned to stay away from anything with a hint of chilli. If you’ve seen David on TV or read about him, you’ll know he’s a sadistic fan of VERY HOT chillies and has been known to make a TV host or two eat a bird’s eye chilli while the camera’s rolling. Not my idea of fun or even comedy, even though there’s a lot to like about the man himself. Here’s what my eating companions and I ordered:
Grilled pork to start ($18). This was yummy, sticky, tender and moist. In other words grilled just right!
If this was anything to go by, the other grilled dishes on the mains menu would be a good choice.
Chicken Biryani Thai Style, with tomato and herb soup (A$32).
What is a biryani dish doing on a Thai menu?
I’ve heard more than one person ask that question. Yes, biryanis are more often associated with Indian cuisine but it’s not foreign to Thailand. It’s not hard to imagine an abundance of biryani dishes in the south of the country where it meets the Malaysian border.
I wouldn’t have ordered this except I’d seen one person on a ratings site rave about it. No regrets and I’d order it again. The flavours were interesting, rich and earthy. The accompaniment soup was full of tomato flavour, aromatic, sour and tart, and helped cut the richness of the biryani. The chilli sauce that came with it was sweet and thankfully didn’t blow my head off.
Green Curry of Chicken, Thai eggplants and chillies (A$34).
Here’s what I mean when I say the food may be too authentically Thai. The waitress said the curry would be mild but we say it was a medium at least. It didn’t have a lot of coconut milk, which is what our palates are more used to (same would be said for Thai restaurants in Malaysia and quite likely other Asian countries). So it was too hot for us and we thought quite an ordinary dish.
Pad Thai (A$34). Talk about expensive street food and no, this was not worth it for us. It was too sweet for our taste although my cousin says that is a sign of its authenticity, as Thais do love to add lots of sugar to their dishes.
Of all the dishes we ordered, this was the most generous in size. That does not mean the Pad Thai was huge. It just means the other dishes were authentically even smaller.
But the following made it worth coming. Are you ready?…
Durian Ice Cream! (A$17)
You could see the look of approval on all our faces as we spooned the creamy thing into our greedy mouths and the distinct durian flavour melted on our tongues. It definitely hit the spot for cravers of this king of fruits and was the highlight of our meal. It’s not even on the menu online and it should be!
Too many jars of different chilli varieties to count.
My eating companions were my cousin Melissa and her husband Ken. Apart from a great opportunity to catch up with extended family, Melissa gave me her thoughts as an insider, having spent three years working in Bangkok and travelling the country sampling food from other Thai regions.
Half-eaten grilled pork on skewers.
Please note that the restaurant is hard to find. Especially if you’re not familiar with Perth city or the Como building in which the restaurant is housed. There is no signage for Long Chim at street level and you basically have to ask your way around once you’re in the building. “Just ask the lady at the coffee place just inside Como who sounded like she’d been asked for directions to Long Chim too many times,” says Melissa.
Look! No signs to the restaurant!
Eventually you’ll find the stairway that leads down to the restaurant.
Unless it’s raining, you pretty much have a choice of two eating environments. The indoor, sophisticatedly grungy and industrial looking interior for a yuppy-leaning crowd, or the more sun-loving friendly outdoor area. It was a cold winter’s day with the threat of rain so indoors it was for us!
The hallway leading to the entrance of the restaurant was full of Thai-style street grunge.
Monday lunchtime diners indoors at Perth’s Long Chim Restaurant.
The outdoor area would be a great place to eat when it’s not cold and raining!
Nothing fishy about this place. It’s all authentically Thai.
Open door policy at Long Chim Perth. Does that apply to the back door too? No reservations needed but it might help if you’re coming in a big group.
An authentic Thai restaurant wouldn’t be complete without framed pictures of Thailand’s beloved King and Queen.
The service was quick and very friendly, the environment conducive to long hours of conversation. Perhaps what helped was that we were there for Monday lunch, a usually quiet time for restaurants. The restaurant was half-full, which isn’t a bad turnout for a weekday lunch.
- Plan to get there early especially if meeting friends. The place is not easy to find.
- Understand that Long Chim’s “mild” is most people’s “very hot”. There are no indications of how hot a dish is on the menu so talk to the staff.
- “Authentic Thai” may get take some getting used to even if you’ve eaten at many Thai restaurants in Australia.
- Bookings are recommended if you are coming in a large group. Otherwise walk-ins are welcome.
- What would I order again if I returned? Easy picks would be the Grilled Pork, the Chicken Biryani Thai Style and the Durian Ice-Cream.