Directory

CAYSORN

Cuisine: Thai

Eureka! Up the stairs and into this happy room with a glowing pink wall, orange flying saucer light fittings and full of happy Thai couples and families. This is, we believe, Sydney’s only Southern Thai restaurant. The food of the south is hotter, bolder — and rich. One side of the menu is southern, the other all the pads you know so well. Service is friendly and helpful and leads us to gaeng som fish $12.50, a hot-and-sour curry that cleverly balances ferocious and delicate; the signature and sensational had yai fried chicken $6.90; and the curious but moreish kao yum $8.90 — a do-it-yourself unfried rice. Desserts, mostly Western, include a very good pannacotta $6.90. A refreshing variation on Sydney’s well-worn Thai theme.
 

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CHAT THAI

Cuisine: Thai,Thai

In this noisy, loft-style space of bare brick and rafters, good luck with the chat. But if it’s Thai you want, you’re in luck. Far from your average suburban Siamese with its sweet, creamy curries, this is up-country street fare pungent with chilli, galangal, shrimp paste and tamarind. While there is good old massaman $12, you’ll enjoy exploring the obscure delights of khanom jeeb (chicken and prawn dumplings) $5, aromatic khao mok gai (poached marinated chicken) $9.90 or barbecued lamb marinated in lemongrass and served with bitter nahm jim jeaw sauce $14. At night (after 5pm), add $1 to entrees and $2 or more for mains. That’s when the seafood dishes come out, climbing to $28 for lemongrass snapper. Be prepared to queue — but while you wait the dessert chefs in the front window provide entertaining colour and movement.

 

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CHINESE NOODLE RESTAURANT

Cuisine: Thai,Thai,Chinese

The Quay Street end of the Prince Centre is Dumpling Alley, with two butchers and four noodle joints all closer together than hanging ducks. The one with the hordes at the door is Chinese Noodle Restaurant, confusingly also known as Chinatown Noodle Restaurant. Anyway, CNR has wallhangings of central Asian scenes and plastic grapevines that promise succulent northwestern-style noodles, buns and dumplings — the ladies are pulling them fresh out the back right now — as well as other regional fare such as Szechuan pork fillets, Xianjiang barbecued lamb and shallots, fragrant with cumin and chilli, and glazed crispy braised eggplant. You can even take home frozen dumplings $5.90–$6.50. And be warned: the pancakes are massive, so buy to share. At $8.50–$14.80 for noodles and “chef’s selections”, no wonder CNR is a student favourite.

 

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CROCODILE SENIOR THAI

Cuisine: Thai,Thai,Chinese,Thai

Yes, kids, there is a Crocodile Junior (in Bondi Junction). And apparently there are crocs in Thailand, too, which explains the profusion of stuffed, mounted or lacquered reptiles in every corner of this long, busy bar — but not on the menu. No kangaroo anymore, either. What you do get is the flavours of Isan in the northeast — which means sticky rice and chilli — as well as sweeter, more familiar fare from Bangkok, home of the pop music videos blaring from the TV screens. We still love the stewed pork leg and rice with a chilli, garlic and fish sauce dip $10 and the savoury king prawn yellow curry $18.90. Also worth a punt are catfish salad with lemon juice and mint $14 and the good-value noodle soups, from $10 clear to $17 for prawn or salmon. Open most nights till 2am.

 

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EAST OCEAN

Cuisine: Thai,Thai,Chinese,Thai,Chinese

All beige and brown with soothing pink hidden lighting, East Ocean occupies a discreet middle ground between the brightly lit yum cha barns and a finer diner like Zilver. If you want yum cha, they surely do it, from steamed pork siu mai to prawn and veg dumplings $3.80–$7.80, with some crab dishes up to $28.80. But beyond the dim sum is a la carte from every region of China, seafood a speciality, whether you want crunchy salt-and-pepper whitebait $28.80 or succulent ginger crab $88 apiece (order two days ahead). But East Ocean’s pride and joy is its Peking duck, half $46.80, full $68.80. Unlike some places, they do it without food colouring, and the kitchen prepares 60 birds a day. The leftovers end up as staff breakfasts the next morning.

 

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GOLDEN SICHUAN

Cuisine: Thai,Thai,Chinese,Thai,Chinese,Chinese,Szechuan

Next door to the heavily queued — and touted — Mamak, this place is a treasure trove of fine Szechuan food, minus the queues. Don’t be put off because it’s half empty and a bit gaudy, or by the huge pictures of the dishes in the window (and on the menu). Just go in, sit down and prepare for blasts of chilli, garlic and full-on flavour. We had a simple lunch here — spicy dried tofu $5 — wonderfully hot and numbing with Szechuan pepper; chicken sesame paste with spicy sauce $13.80, a great cold dish with a multitude of flavours; and stir-fried eggplant with spicy garlic $14.80, which will have us coming back again and again. Service is brisk and friendly.

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MOTHER CHU'S TAIWANESE GOURMET

Cuisine: Thai,Thai,Chinese,Thai,Chinese,Chinese,Szechuan,Taiwanese,Chinese

Chinatown’s early bird is still open for breakfast. The ladies in the front window are already teasing and folding pastry for today’s beef shallot pancakes, chicken and pork buns and fried or steamed dumplings as workers breeze into the long, L-shaped room — housed in a miniature pagoda at the entrance to an arcade — to order soybean jelly soup $4.50 with yu tiao (dough fritters) $2.20 each or superior broth with egg $4.50. At lunch and dinner, things heat up with seriously spicy Szechuan beef noodle soup $8, kung pao chicken with rice $9.50 and the full range of congee, from sliced pork $7.50 to seafood combo $10. And most of the day the beverage bar does a roaring trade in instant hits: a takeaway fruit crush or house-made taro bubble tea with big pearls of tapioca.

 

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RAMEN KAN

Cuisine: Thai,Thai,Chinese,Thai,Chinese,Chinese,Szechuan,Taiwanese,Chinese,Japanese

It’s a bit like finding a speakeasy but it seems half of Sydney has been through the shabby door on Hay Street, taken the rickety goods lift to the first floor and joined the crowd in an airy brown and beige room, its ceiling festooned with ropes and its walls with dried rice stalks, the massive EntCent visible from the window seats. Let’s start with ramen (fat noodles) — mostly with pork $10.90 to $14.50 for seafood — and a few entrees such as gyoza (pan-fried pork dumplings) $5.90, edamame (salted soybeans) $5.20 or a splendid agedashi tofu $6.50. Or you could go the lunch set, such as miso and shio ramen with a main $14.50, a good way to get the hang of things. Or just order what they’re having at the next table.

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RED CHILLI

Cuisine: Thai,Thai,Chinese,Thai,Chinese,Chinese,Szechuan,Taiwanese,Chinese,Japanese,Chinese,Szechuan

Call it truth in advertising. The original Red Chilli (there’s now a fancier RC2 in Haymarket and other outposts in Chatswood and Glebe) is upfront about the searing heat of its brasher Szechuan offerings and even provides helpful chilli ratings: one pepper for “Mmm, spicy”; two for “More water, please”; and three for “Call the fire brigade!” In category one are salt-and-pepper calamari $19.80 and deepfried whole barramundi with pork mince $28.80, while stirfried chilli mudcrab $68.80 and beef hotpot $18.80 well and truly earn their two and three chillies respectively. As for the mapo tofu $14.80, it’s napalm in a bowl, but you can tone it down with zesty pork mince green beans $14.80, something of a palate cleanser with no chilli at all. Well, maybe a bit. Lunch specials $10.80–$12.80 are also worth a look.

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SHANCHENG HOTPOT KING

Cuisine: Thai,Thai,Chinese,Thai,Chinese,Chinese,Szechuan,Taiwanese,Chinese,Japanese,Chinese,Szechuan,Chinese

At the end of a drab arcade, you pass through a brightly illuminated doorway into ... a drab room, flatly lit by those undimmed downlights beloved of Chinese restaurants everywhere. Guess they like to see what they’re eating, which in this case is a northwest cuisine, called huo guo or fire pot. It’s a communal thing, best done in family-sized groups, where you order a twin-tub tureen of broth: say, half chicken stock/half spicy (quite spicy, actually) $15. Once that boils you start to add your makings $4–$16— chicken, various meats, crab, prawns, mushrooms and, if you like, offal — fish ’em out, dunk ’em in the dipping sauces and eat. Of course, you could just order Szechuan braised dishes from the menu — smoked pork $10, duck $13–$22— but how much fun would that be?

 

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