Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Home Thai, Sydney

When I was recently in Sydney, I ate a lot of thai food.  I love thai cuisine, but, San Francisco has never really impressed me in this area.  But Sydney?  Now, that is another story.  While Sydney surely isn't the place to go fine dining, proximity to Thailand serves it well, and there are many choices of thai restaurants.  We were determined to try as many as possible.

When you ask Sydneysiders to recommend thai restaurants, two names come up over and over: Home Thai, and Chat Thai, which I reviewed a few days ago.  The two restaurants are shockingly similar, although completely unrelated.  They are located only a few blocks apart.  They are both crazy popular, and always have lines out front.  The servers at both take orders on ipods/ipads.  The menus are fairly similar, although Home Thai has a more extensive savory menu, Chat Thai a more extensive sweet menu.

The food was fine, but I definitely do not recommend the dumplings (which, makes sense, as this is a Thai restaurant).  Prices are good, service is fast, but I don't really see a reason to return here, when there are so many other great thai choices in Sydney (stay tuned!).
Queues outside.
Just like Chat Thai, Home Thai is known for the lines.  Even arriving on the earlier side at 6pm we had to wait.  The system is very efficient, identical to Chat Thai - you put your name on the list, take a number, and wait on the sidewalk.  Good thing the weather is nice in Sydney!
Open Kitchen.
I didn't mind the wait, since I loved watching the chefs.  Chat Thai has just the dessert kitchen in front, and the main kitchen is in the back, but at Home Thai, the whole kitchen is in front, and is open, so you can watch all the fun.

It was crazy busy.  Watching the staff here was incredibly impressive.  They were constantly moving.  When they had a moment of downtime, they started drying dishware.  Seriously, no one ever stopped moving.

Service was fine, efficient beyond belief, but no extra attention was given.  Order taken, food delivered, and that was that.
Inside is rather small, with basic wooden tables and chairs.  Crammed in as close together as possible, since they clearly always have a wait.

On the table was a bottle of tap water, so we could help ourselves to water throughout, and staff weren't ever needed to serve us.

Our order was taken quickly, on an ipad.
Longan Juice. $4.
Ojan decided to be adventurous and order a longan juice.  We weren't really sure what longan was.  When he received it, we thought "wait, is longan just another word for lychee?"  Floating in the drink were certainly things that looked like lychee.

But, the taste wasn't sweet like lychee.  It was slightly smoky even.  It turns out, lychee and longan are in the same family of fruits, but no, longan is not lychee.

Ojan enjoyed the drink, and found it to be quite refreshing, particularly alongside spicy Thai food.
Kui Chay (Garlic Chive Dumplings). $6.90.
"Steamed dumpling stuffed with garlic chive."

Our first dish arrived within what seemed like at most 3 minutes of placing our order.  Like I said, these folks were busy and efficient!  It also seems like having the ordering system on ipads allows orders to go to the kitchen immediately, so there is no delay in having a server bring the order to the kitchen before it starts getting prepared.

Dumplings seemed a bit strange for us to order at a Thai restaurant, but the menu had many different types of dumplings, so I figured they might be good.  Plus, I was just really craving dumplings for some reason.

The wrappers of these dumplings were not very good.  They were pasty, and somewhat disintegrated.  There were four dumplings, two slightly darker than the other two, but the taste wasn't distinct.

The filling was generous, garlic chives, which were crazy garlicky.  The sauce was a sweet sauce.

I wanted to love these, but between the pasty wrapper and the too strong garlic flavor, I just didn't.  Price of $6.90 was fine for 4 dumplings.
Kao Kreab Pak Mhor, Vegetarian. $6.90.
"Steamed rice flour with sweet peanuts, palm sugar and pork minced."

Our second type of dumpling arrived about 30 seconds later.

Since we had a vegetarian dining with us, we ordered these vegetarian, so in place of the minced pork was tofu.

The wrappers were really slimy, but not chalky and pasty like the previous ones.  The flavor of the filling was really quite strange.  I can't describe it.  I really disliked it.  There were a few crushed nuts on top, and a very sweet sauce underneath.

The textures were bad, the flavors were bad, and I pretty much hated this dish.

The only thing I liked was the fact that there were two different colored wrappers, the purple ones were quite pretty.

No one really liked these, but the others found them better once wrapped with some lettuce.  Again, price was good, this time for 6 dumplings.
Pad Thai Woon Sen (Glass Noodle Pad Thai), Vegetarian.  $11.50.
"Wok tossed glass noodles with tofu, egg, pickled radish, garlic chives, bean sprouts, chilli powder,
tamarind sauce, palm sugar and fish sauce."

Next up, more of a classic Thai noodle dish: pad thai.

Our vegetarian diner selected this.  I'm quite familiar with pad thai, but had never actually had glass noodle pad thai before (Home That has regular pad thai, and a wonton noodle pad thai, on the menu as well).  The flavors were all similar to what I'm used to with pad thai, but it used smaller, thinner glass noodles instead.  Not what I'd pick, but, it was interesting to try something new.  Loaded up with lots of assorted veggies, including mushrooms, snow peas, and baby corn, garnished with all the traditional accompaniments of fresh bean sprouts, chives, and chopped peanuts.

Overall, this was fine, and the $11.50 was good for the large portion.
Gang Dang Ped (Red Curry With Duck), Medium.  $14.90.
"Roast duck in red curry paste with coconut milk, cherry eggplant, apple eggplant, basil, lime
leaves, long red chilli, pineapple and lychee."

Ojan and another diner selected the red curry with duck.  I tried a few bites, stealing their token lychee and a crunchy cherry eggplant.  While I don't like duck, I loved the sauce.  It was definitely a bit spicy, just the right amount to really feel it and feel alive, but not kill you or make the experience unpleasant.  It was balanced by coconut milk and a sweetness from the fruit in the mix.  I gladly finished off all of their sauce, eating it by the spoonful like a soup.

The priciest dish we got, but still reasonable.
Mango and Sticky Rice.
Well, you know me and dessert.  We obviously needed desserts.  Home Thai only had 6 desserts on the menu, a stark contrast to the extensive selection of 32 at Chat Thai, but totally normal for a regular restaurant.

We started with the classic thai dessert: mango and sticky rice.  While perhaps a bit boring, mango in Australia is just so much better than in the US.  We really wanted to get as much mango in while we were in Sydney as possible, and ate it at least once a day (including as part of the stunning breakfast buffet at the Sheraton on the Park).

The mango was ripe and clearly sliced to order.  A generous serving, a full half of a large mango.

Home Thai really seems to like serving multiple colors of things, just like the wrappers of the dumplings, this time the color came in the rice.  There were three types of rice: one was green and I think pandan infused, one was just regular white sticky rice, and the other was purple, I think taro?  The purple one was my favorite, but all were just basic sticky rice.

Everything was drizzled with coconut cream, sweet, good, and I thought at first that there was too much, but it somehow ran out.  We would have preferred to just have this on the side.

We all tasted a few crunchy bites.  I think the orange things on top might have been the crunch?  Or maybe some rice was just crispy?  Not sure.

Overall, this was fine, and we appreciated the fresh mango, but, it wasn't particularly interesting.
Par Tuhng Go (Fried Bread Sticks) with Pandan Coconut Sauce. $5.
Since we couldn't possibly be satisfied with just one dessert, we also got the fried dough.  Because, um, fried dough!  This is only available in the evening, although Home Thai is open for lunch as well.

The dough was clearly fried fresh to order, delivered piping hot.  There were 4 pieces, but each was made up of two sticks attached in the center.  The dough was basic fried dough, although Ojan thought it was more like a donut, since it wasn't as greasy as fried dough.  Others said it was like funnel cake.  I still thought it was like state fair fried dough.  Anyway, hot and fresh, with a crispy exterior, doughy interior.  I really wanted it to be sugar coated though!

The sauce on the side was a creamy pandan sauce, plus some coconut milk.  It was super sweet, it reminded me of icing actually.  I like icing, so this wasn't a bad thing exactly, but a bit strange to put on my fried dough.

Overall, nothing was wrong here, but the components didn't go together exactly as I was hoping.  Fried dough is good, but I wanted a different topping.  The pandan cream sauce was good, but I wanted it on something else.
Home Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon
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