Satang Thai Exclusive, Chinatown
Unless it’s Chat Thai, Spice I am or a handful of other restaurants in Sydney from the land of smiles, Thai food is no longer flavour of the month, long overtaken by a flurry of Chinese (dumplings, noodles, Peking ducks, hot pot, north-west, shanghai…), countless Malaysian and an emerging, in-your-face crop of Korean restaurants. Satang Thai Exclusive has an odd name, but this double storey restaurant is classy – dark raw brick walls and solid wooden furniture gives the place a substantial footprint while large expanses of glass ensure a welcoming openness as well as capture as much natural light as possible between the surrounding high rises.
There are quite a few fans from local businesses especially at lunch, but it’s young students living in high rise apartments nearby that keep Satang Thai’s register ringing… and it’s just the register – cash only here. It might have been Thai students that helped kick start the place, but these days it’s a broad range of cultures; this Monday night, noodlies, Sydney food blog hears Mandarin, Vietnamese, Korean, Hindi and English (of course).
Two things distinguish this place (and is the case with other highly successful Thais in Sydney). Service is genuinely warm but also manages to be ultra efficient. We were immediately acknowledged with smiles and taken to a table, within seconds glasses of water and menus appeared at our table. Our three courses arrives quickly, within a few minutes of each other (thought it’s easier at 6pm when the restaurant’s not at capacity). A nice touch too, after we leave money at the table, the waiter clears all our plates and dishes but waits for us to leave before collecting the money; remarkably subtle, but we leave feeling like a valued customers rather than an open wallet.
The second is food, of course. It’s not Chat Thai’s authentic, street food fabulousness – food here feels a tad more formal but definitely not stuffy – there’s enough baseline grunt to delight.
This is my type of tom yum goong, clean, tart broth that’s grounded with dusty, crisp mushroom halves. The prawns are bouncy in consistency and brilliant coloured, reds are bright and whites glow. The serving is generous, the light aluminium dish is wide and deep.
Where the tom yum is clear, this duck curry is coconut milk murky, though mercifully this curry is not too thick nor too sweet, tempered by fish sauce and the tropicana zing of pineapple pieces and lychees. Somehow this symphony works with gamey, slightly fatty duck strips which manages to just dominate.
Fried chicken (not pictured but shown in noodlies’ featured video above) looks and tastes similar to the Korean version; moreish glossy, shinny strips of chicken in golden batter. It starts off crispy but immediately turns chewy in your mouth and that’s about when the garlic overload hits. By then it’s too late, you’re addicted.
This Thai really hums.. but what I remembered most is the little, subtle things – I still can’t get over that they wait until we leave before collecting the money. This is glorious, smile-inducing service.
Satang Thai Exclusive (there’s a takeaway sister store across the road)
203-204/107-121 Quay Street, Haymarket
Ph: 9212 5885