Melbourne diners could be forgiven for being a bit miffed with David Thompson. The Australian chef with his finger on the racing pulse of Thai food has bestowed his love on Sydney (where he started his career in the 1990s with Darley Street Thai and Sailors Thai), then London (were he first opened the acclaimed Nahm in 2001) and Bangkok (Nahm again, since 2010). More recently it's been Singapore, then Perth and Sydney again, chosen to experience the full fire of Thompson's uncompromising Thai cooking with his diffusion label Long Chim.
As of today (Monday 16 January), however, the sulking can end. Opening a branch of Long Chim at Crown is, Thompson says, the culmination of a long-held ambition to plant his flag in Melbourne: "It's been very remiss of me, but I'm a late bloomer."
No stranger to the scud chilli, the street food-inspired Long Chim is a different creature to Nahm, currently rated number eight on Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list. "My food at Nahm is so rooted in the sea and anchored in the products… it's why I closed Nahm London when the quality was hard to guarantee. But Long Chim travels as well as the people who walk along the streets.
"Really, I've lost the pretence of my erstwhile self," he says. "Ten years ago I couldn't have imagined cooking a pad Thai, but as you get older you get more relaxed about things. Long Chim is all about easy, happy street food without the grand provenance and intellectual conceits of Nahm."
Thompson now has a factory in Thailand that supplies his drygoods, and "the best Sriracha in the world" which will be used at the canteen-like Long Chim, along with Australian seafood and local organic garlic ("I can't stand that Chinese rubbish").
Melbourne's Long Chim - which is opening in partnership with Crown - will not be the last. Next cab off the rank is Hong Kong, although the site at the former Central Police Station just above Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan suffered a recent setback when a building collapsed.
During Thompson's 17-year absence from Australia, Thai food has come along in leaps and bounds from limp, milky green curries to something approximating the real deal, although he claims he's in no position to comment: "I'm sure there's competition but I just want to do what we do. My intention is to be as faithful, robust and casual as possible."
And as for the renowned firepower of the Long Chim dishes? "When it's meant to have chilli it does have chilli. One or two dishes are mightily hot but there are also gentler things such as fried rice with crab, and simple grilled pork skewers you'd give to your grandmother on her deathbed."
Long Chim Melbourne, Riverside at Crown, Melbourne; (03) 8582 3082, open seven days for dinner; lunch commences in early February, crownmelbourne.com.au/restaurants/premium/long-chim.