Long Chim: it means "come and taste" in Thai. It's also the name
of David Thompson's new casual eatery, which opens in Singapore at
the end of the year. The plan is for more branches around Asia, but
the first is at Marina Bay Sands, right next door to Tetsuya
Wakuda's Waku Ghin.
Thompson is best known for the refined, focused Thai cuisine he serves at his Bangkok fine-diner, Nahm. At Long Chim, he's turning down the glam-factor significantly to focus on a smart-casual menu of about 40 dishes inspired by Thailand's street eats. Kanom jin noodles with shredded chicken and a punchy ginger sauce, fermented pork sausages from Thailand's north-east, fiery larb Chiang Mai rich with heat and spice, and Indian-accented pilaf with turmeric and cardamom are among the savoury highlights, banana roti and durian ice-cream among the sweet.
"It's food of the streets," says Thompson, "easy-going, accessible, affordable, casual - the way that people want to eat."
Nahm London alumnus Matthew Albert heads the kitchen, ably assisted by Annita Potter, who used to head the kitchen at Kitsch in Perth.
The drinks department has good form, too, with local bar group Proof - proprietors of one of Singapore's hottest bars, 28 Hong Kong Street - in charge of the cocktails.
The fit-out will be suitably relaxed. "The crockery will be a little bit old, the cutlery will be mismatched and rather eclectic," says Thompson. "It'll be as casual as that."
We caught up with Thompson in Singapore for a taste of what's to come.
GT: Why street food, David?
DT: I am, by nature, a street urchin, perhaps. I've always enjoyed eating street food, but as a cook it's always been far more of a challenge to deal with a more complex cuisine. As I'm getting older, though, I'm dropping that pretence and cooking food that I like cooking.
Just how casual are we talking?
It means that instead of sitting on a plastic bucket you'll be sitting on a nice chair. While the recipes will be firmly based in the streets, the execution will be a little bit more elegant and I don't mean pretentious or ridiculous presentation; I just mean simply better-sourced ingredients.
What kinds of dishes can we expect?
There'll be some durian ice-cream, which I've never put on the menu before and I'd never put on at Nahm. There's some kanom jin noodles, some sai grok and a whole raft of different dishes that belong on the streets, that belong with Long Chim, but have nothing to do with Nahm.
Which do you think are destined for signature status?
Our Thai laksa will be delicious, the roast duck will be aromatic, the kanom jin noodles will be a welcome addition to the Singaporean diet, and the durian ice-cream will be a killer. Our banana roti will be as good as the best of the best in Bangkok itself.
It must have been a fun project to research.
It's a happy, agreeable type of research; a cook's type of research. After cooking Thai food for so very long it's rather easy for me to analyse and to work out what those bloody canny cooks are doing on the streets, in the stalls and in the markets, and pull it together.
There's a strong drinks focus too, right?
We've got a bar group called Proof who are fantastic and will be looking after the cocktails, so it'll be a bar as well. Unlike the restaurants I've run in the past, there's less formality about it. It's more relaxed. It's just about sitting down and enjoying yourself, which is indeed what Long Chim means.
What will the pricing be like?
It will be affordable and appropriate. The average spend per person should be around $35 Singapore dollars ($31).
What makes Thai street food so special?
It's bloody delicious. I'm biased. The longer I stay in Thailand the more I feel that Thai food is the best in South East Asia, but it's a matter of being accustomed to it. So whether in fact it's better than any other cuisine, it's probably unfair to say, but to my taste I know which is best, and one can only rely upon one's own taste.
What advice do you have for people looking for quality street food in Bangkok?
Go to the busiest-looking stall because they're busy for a reason.
You've got a TV series, Thai Street Food, airing on SBS this month. What are some of the highlights?
Make-up. I loved the make-up. Going around town, talking to a few fish-sauce manufacturers, visiting a few of the Muslim areas, looking for squid and not screaming too hard before I fell in the ocean.
Why should we watch it?
Because you can watch me humiliate myself, perhaps. Well, people can follow how Thais eat, how they change their eating habits as the day progresses.
Where else are you planning to open?
We're looking at Hong Kong and a few other places, too.
I go back there quite often - who can say?
Long Chim, Atrium 2, Level 2-02, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Ave, Singapore
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