Thai food maestro David Thompson returns to the Sydney restaurant scene with the opening of Long Chim, a standard-bearer for Thailand's robust street food. Fiery som dtum is just the beginning.
Perhaps you saw it coming. Talking to this magazine in October 2009, around the time his book Street Food was published, David Thompson remarked that the food of Thailand's streets was not as well represented in the restaurants of the world as it might be. And there was a gleam in his eye as he said it. Fast-forward to today, and in addition to Nahm, the fine-diner in Bangkok that is now the most famous Thai restaurant in the world, he operates branches of Long Chim, his large-format street eatery, in Singapore and Perth and now Sydney and has announced plans to open another in Melbourne in early 2017.
Though he won acclaim with his interpretation of royal Thai cuisine in Sydney and in London, Thompson says he'll never open another restaurant like Nahm outside Thailand.
"The longer I'm in Bangkok the more I realise the impossibility of doing such an arcane and rarefied type of cooking outside the realms of the kingdom. It's the convenience, the ingredients, it's the staffing, it's those things we need to produce a finediner. Or at least a fine-cookin' and fine-eatin' place. I don't like the folderol that surrounds fine dining in hotels."
Street food, on the other hand, he says, is by its nature transportable. "Long Chim's food is of that ilk. It has the robustness and taste that you'd find on the streets with perhaps a small refinement in that we want to use quality ingredients; sometimes the ingredients that are employed on the streets belong on the streets."
It's been 17 years since Thompson closed the doors on Darley Street Thai and ceased to be a resident of Sydney, the city of his birth. Bangkok is home now, no question, but he is excited to be back in Sydney for the opening of Long Chim, just off Martin Place in the CBD. Though Sydney's Thai scene has grown by leaps and bounds in the years he's been away, he has confidence in Long Chim. It's been a big success in Singapore and Perth, and though he originally envisaged having the same menu everywhere, the concept has evolved since the doors were first thrown open in Singapore in 2014. Sydney, for one thing, will get more noodle soups. "It's the one area I haven't really developed at Long Chim," he says. "Roast duck and egg noodle soup, the laksas, the khao sois, beef dumpling soups."
The intention is straightforward, says Thompson: it's simply to bring here the things people eat in Thailand. "I don't want to offer any pastiche or variation or anything more than a direct replication of dishes that work. We'll make our dumplings and we'll make our own coconut milk, so it won't be quite like the streets in that respect, but it'll be faithful. That's what it's all about."
Recipes by David Thompson
Long Chim, 14 Martin Pl (access via Angel Pl), Sydney, NSW, longchim.com