David Thompson’s Thai Food is the most used, splattered and stained cookbook in my collection. It never makes it back onto the bookshelf. Large, hot pink and as complicated as it is rewarding, Thompson’s commitment to recording authentic Thai food is an inspiration. Safe to say, as soon as news of Long Chim Perth broke, I was pretty excited. I’m a shameless fan and booked as soon as reservations opened. (I was even too shy to say hello to the chef himself!) (You know what they say, never meet your heroes…)
In the basement of the new State Treasury Buildings, Long Chim is a den of eclectic Thai colour. Garland bearing garudas, piles of limes and vintage ice shavers surround a casual restaurant and bar. Outside, the courtyard is lit with an animation by Thai street artist Alex Face. It’s rustic, down to earth and reminiscent of David Thompson’s other paper ode to Thai cuisine: Thai Street Food.
First up is the Chiang Mai chicken larb. Served northern Thai style, the larb is a sticky salad that’s hot, sweet and savoury. It’s the only dish on the menu to which no alteration to the heat is allowed, because simply put, larb is meant to eaten spicy. The warm heat of the dried chillies really opens up the sweetness of the spices and crispy onions and puts the lemongrass right up your nose. All wrapped up in a cooling cabbage leaf, it’s simultaneously pungent, hot and cool.
Chiang Mai chicken larb, $18.
Grilled beef skewers, $18.
Rubbed with cumin, coriander and turmeric, the beef skewers were fantastic. Fresh off the grill, the wagyu fat melted into a mouth watering, charred glaze. With a strip of fat that had burned and curled in the heat, each nubbin of beef was fragrant and so more-ish, I contemplated ordering another serving.
With the skewers gone, our mains arrived almost immediately. With an hour and a half allocated to each seating, there was no time to waste. The grilled beef salad was fragrant with rare, smoky beef folded through sawtooth coriander and mint. However, the acidic dressing of lime juice and chilli powder is not for the faint of heart and should be eaten with lots of the supplied snake beans and cabbage.
The minced prawn and pork soup was a surprise hit. Punctuated with chunks of prawn, shiitake mushrooms and celery-like chinese broccoli, it’s a mild soup with hearty texture that’s more sophisticated than it looks.
Beef salad, $30.
Prin’s noodles with pork and prawns, $34.
The sour orange curry of fish is an intense stew of tamarind and hot chillies – definitely one for the fish curry fanatics. The sparkling fresh snapper fell away in thick chunks, sinking through the thick gravy of endless ground chilli. Salty and funky from shrimp paste, it was excellent piled onto steamed rice.
At this point in the meal, I was thinking we’d over ordered. Hell no! We’d ordered noodles too! A markedly larger serving than the gap kao shared main dishes, the aaharn jahn dtiaw are meant to be eaten as a single dish for one. Prin’s noodles – named after Thompson’s partner who has a predilection for oyster sauce – is a rather sweet rendition of fried kuay teow rice noodles. Worked in a blazingly hot wok, the pillowy soft rice noodles had smoky wok hei. The noodles were studded with the crunchy choy sum, tender pork and stunningly fresh prawns. But I guess at $34, you’d expect that.
Palm sugar pudding, $13.
Banana roti, $13.
We marched on – in the name of research – towards dessert.
The palm sugar pudding was a disappointment. Well, at first sight anyway, because it’s a fairly small serve. But after eating one of the dumplings it’s clear why. The caramelised palm sugar – eerily similar to Malaysian dodol – is incredibly rich. It’s bubble gum sticky, malleable in the mouth and then melts to nothing. The dumplings are tempered by a pool of silky coconut cream and strands of coconut flesh, ending each mouthful on a striking sweet-bland contrast.
When the banana roti arrived, it looked so good I did a happy dance. (Seriously.) (I then got asked by the next table what we ordered.) Tissue thin roti dough is wrapped around slices of banana and griddled in, what I imagine to be, a pool of luscious ghee. Dusted liberally with sugar and lavished with condensed milk, it was eff-ing brilliant. I had a moment with this dessert.
You can have your freak shakes, I’ll have the banana roti, thanks.
On a second visit, we also had the stupidly good durian ice cream. If you’re a durian lover, order it! (I’m hoping that one day, they’ll do a durian roti. That would be my last-meal-on-earth scenario.)
Hot, our, sweet and seasoned to the hilt, Long Chim’s food is Thai food at its most arresting, balanced and elegant best. It was easily one of our best meals of 2015 and we look forward to many more, especially when the full menu is out.
Long Chim | Corner of St Georges Terrace & Barrack Street, Perth
7 days noon till late
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