I’ve got it, the Masterchef Australia 2010 bug. I first started showing telltale symptoms early last week.
Our family Sunday night dinner was fast forwarded to an early meal so that we could be all fed and sitting in front of the TV before 7:30. My little sister’s boyfriend arrived over halfway through the meal and had to let himself in the back door, no one was rising from the couch.
Then, during the week I began to display reluctance to go out for dinner, unless of course I’ve set the TV to record. When my good friend, the Boss asked me to Chat Thai in Haymarket I had to say no, partially due to a skype date with Call me Jose’s parent’s but also because of my date with my current favourite Callum, my current cringe guarantee-r Kate (of the mayonnaise and potato fame), Gary, George and big Matt Preston and of course the #masterchef chat on twitter.
Luckily for Call me Jose, who was quickly tiring of washing up after all of my eating at home and work-lunch cooking during the week, on Friday we headed out for our first washing up free meal of the week. Dinner at Bangkok Sidewalk in Kirribilli.
Kirribilli is an easy walk or a very quick drive from our apartment, so it’s a favourite for Call me Jose and I for a quick and easy meal (I swear by Pizzeria Rio as the best pizza within 10 minutes of my apartment). There are at least four Thai restaurants in the area so it’s hard to know which one is best.
Luckily, my sister, Little Tee had made the decision for me and booked a table for 16 to celebrate her birthday. Little Tee has pretty typical early twentysomethingyear old friends, you know, ones with plenty of plans for a Friday night and who are prone to last minute cancellations or bringing of friends. She changed the number of guests from 18 to 16 and the ladies from Bangkok Sidewalk were not pleased.
So, we knew we weren’t in their good books when we arrived at 8. Fortunately I think they were too busy to notice. The restaurant was packed, and even though I hadn’t yet conceived my food baby for the evening, it was difficult to navigate through the tightly packed tables to our long table against the far wall. We sat down on the long bench and watched the tiny waitresses weave their way through the tables to deliver us some water and menus and waited for the rest of our group to arrive. I was feeling smug about having a pre-dinner snack at home so that I wouldn’t be constantly asking little Tee whether it was ok to order before all of her friends arrived.
So a glass of wine later and it was about eight thirty and we had the rest of our 16 people (phew! The empty benches were starting to get nasty stares from the waitresses and my fears of spit in our food were growing). We ordered multiples of two of the starters, the fresh rolls (rice paper rolls) and the kaj satay (chicken satay) and they came quickly.
The fresh rolls ($5.50 for two) were rice paper rolls, filled with vermicelli, tofu, lettuce, prawns and served with a “pulsing” chilli and lime dipping sauce. I’m not sure whether it was because I was getting peckish or not, but they hit the spot. The chilli and lime dipping sauce was not sweet and sickly, but tart and punchy, a perfect accompaniment to the rather bland rice paper rolls.
The kaj satay intrigued us all. The chicken skewers, marinated perfectly and served with a sugary sweet dipping sauce and peanut sauce plus small pieces of toast. It was the toast that threw everyone off, but it was slathered in peanut sauce and devoured as quickly as the skewers were. I only wish that we got all of the plates we ordered at the same time, we got our final plate of satay just as we were polishing off our mains about an hour later!
The turnover of customers at Bangkok Sidewalk wasn’t as quick as some of the other local Thai places, people tend to come in bigger groups (it has the biggest dining room in the area) and bring a couple of bottles of wine and settle in. We were one of three big tables there on Friday night and I was particularly thankful that we weren’t some of the couples there for a romantic meal, squished in right next to us as we got rowdier and rowdier.
The waitresses ran a Thai-ght ship, we weren’t allowed to order our mains until after our entrees and our dismal pronunciation of the Thai dishes was often met with a “which number?” Suffice to say I wasn’t feeling particularly “always right” as the customer, but the entrees were so good I just wanted to order my main and get into it. It happened that the waitresses had a method to their abrupt madness, as within 15 minutes of ordering our mains all sixteen of them arrived, almost simultaneously.
One of the things I love about casual Asian dining is the sharing of dishes, but since I the daggy older sister was hanging with Little Tee’s group of fairly trendy early twenty something friends I didn’t want to start bossing them around and making them share their dinners with me. So Call me Jose scoured the menu carefully and settled on a soft shell crab salad and a duck dish to share.
The soft shell crab was a revelation. It was the best I’d had in the neighbourhood, and certainly from a Thai place. Call me Jose only discovered soft shell crab a few months ago (I blame living in Newcastle) and it has become a default order once we spot it on a menu. Sometimes it works (Sugarcane, Surry Hills) and sometimes it doesn’t as much (Sushi-Ya, Willoughby) but this time it ticked all of my soft shell crab boxes.
We got lots of crab. Tick. Nothing worse than stingy restaurants.
The crab was broken into small, two bite portions. Tick. Love that it was easy to politely eat without pulling apart with teeth/hands and fit nicely into the little bowls.
The batter was super crunchy. Super crunchy. Tick.
Look, I just loved it. I would come back just to eat this dish. Unfortunately I was so wrapt in it I forgot to write down the price or the official name of the dish! Bad food blogger. Bad food blogger.
I did a bit better with the similarly generously portioned Ped Nam Buoy, roast duck with shitake mushrooms and plum sauce. The sauce is flavoured with star anaise and cinnamon which balance the sweetness of the plum sauce. Its great, the sauce isn’t too gluggy and there is enough duck to feed both Call me Jose and I as well as give Little Tee and her friends a bit of a taste.
I got the sense, as I looked around the long table that those who went for more “traditional” Thai noodle dishes, stir fries and the like were a little disappointed with their meals. Indeed I’ve been there once before and tried the pad thai, it was good but only marginally better than those produced by the swathe of Thai restaurants in Kirribilli.
Even with the hit andmiss-ness of the dishes, there was barely a morsel of food left on our table at the end of the night.
It was the perfect place to take a big group and a big appetite… both I and my younger, trendier, and much more high heeled dining companions made impressive food babies. The only difference was that Call me Jose and I carried our food babies home whilst our dining companions took theirs out to various house parties, bars and traipsing around the city for a few extra hours.
Shop 3, 31 Fitzroy St