Continuing on from our culinary debauchery at Kansai a craving for sweets prompted us to pay up and head downtown to Haymarket in search of some sugar. Where we ended up was a place I've wanted to try out since first reading about it several weeks ago in the SMH. Tacked onto the gritty Triple Ace Bar on the corner of Elizabeth and Campbell across from where the trains enter and exit the bowels of the underground, House is all about street food from northeast Thailand, a welcomed newcomer from the defunct Soprano's that unsuccessfully occupied this space for quite some time. It seems Sydney's Thainatown needs room to expand and this is a perfect place to do just that.
When it comes to sweets the offerings are quite slim on the House-front with just two options on the printed menu as well as two others on the verbal specials. kati num kang dai (5) is a chilling concoction of taro, ruby chestnut and lod chong in a slush of crushed ice with coconut sauce. Who cares if it's winter and raining outside, this style of dessert makes me happy regardless of season and had the lack of ruby chestnut not been pointed out I wouldn't have noticed. Although I think I scored the only piece of (not-so-ruby) chestnut.
The bread & ice cream (5) is much like the stuff you pick up from those congested laneways in urban Thailand, consisting of a scoop of heavenly coconut icecream sandwiched in a soft white bread roll. A little more suited to high-humidity climates but let's just pretend it's 30°C outside, shall we?
Our third dessert choice is one that sharpened my attention, one that has something to do with sex and one that I just had to come back for sloppy seconds. More on that later.
Trying out a new restaurant just with desserts isn't enough for me, especially when I noticed a menu abundant of things I wanted to get stuck into. It's also refreshing to see a Thai menu that isn't a clone of those unspiced local neighbourhood varieties that we've all had to endure. My desire to get back to House was so strong that I announced to Mr K the following morning that we were having lunch there. Spontaneity - something I'm not all that used to. The rain had cleared, the sun was out and it almost felt like spring ... it's a perfect day for a Thai lunch!
Surprisingly the restaurant was quiet when we arrived. Somehow I was expecting a place bustling with people getting their fill on real Thai food without the buffer of watered down flavours most of this town is used to. Early days I suppose. Not that it takes long for word to get out in this city. Two or three positive reviews in mainstream media and you'll have half the eastern suburbs and north shore on your door-step.
First cab tuk tuk off the menu rank is the delicious sounding mok gai hua plee (12). A wonderful banana leaf parcel of steamed curry chicken with banana flower strips, eschallot, fragrant lemongrass, galangal and chilli. The chilli content was lower than expected but all the other flavours made up for that. With the touch of a fork the compound pyramid of ingredients crumbled into a tasty mess of colours and is perfect with wodges of sticky rice (5).
Moo ping (10) ... how much I love thee! Tender, charred and caramelized pork bits glazed in sweetness and soaked in copious amounts of garlic. This one will definitely give you the breath of a Thai dragon and somehow the jim-jaew dipping sauce was lacking the slap of pepper and chilli I'm used to. Bloody good nonetheless.
Thai + Mr K = gai yang (16). It's a given. This is the barometer of worthyness and authenticity for Thai restaurants, in his eyes. The serving here is generous and on-the-bone and not quite half and not quite a full chicken. It's packed with the traditional flavours of turmeric, garlic, coriander and fish sauce (plus a few more) and is delicious and tender and screams to be eaten with the fingers. This one gets a big red tick from Mr K, and me for that matter. I haven't had gai yang this good for a long time. Loved the side of spicy tomato relish.
Just look at that pink, tender meat (above). It's smoky, it's caramelized around the edges and it requires very little chewing. Dipped into the mildly spiced jim-jaew it's even better. What is it? Ping lin (10) - grilled marinated ox tongue. An absolute knicker-wetter for any offal lover and if you didn't know what you were eating, you'd probably like it as well. Sensational.
There was almost no more room after our light lunch but I insisted on ordering the BTS (15). No need for dessert menu's as they don't really exist in this House so I confidently requested the Better Than Sex as a final sweet share-plate. Time for sloppy seconds! A delightfully-thick slice of brioche, toasted, with a healthy scoop of coconut & pandan icecream drizzled with dark and rusty palm sugar syrup. If you've ever had the urge to lick a plate clean, you'll get that urge after this one. Simply a must-have!
If I was a glutton (don't say anything) then I'd have ordered the Thai sausages as well. Not necessarily after the dessert-sex, but before. Actually I would have liked to try a couple of the som tum dishes but with just two of us it would have been a struggle. I guess we just have to come back ... soon ... before the rest of Sydney does.
Sunday 8 August 2010 update
It appears we just can't keep away. After a failed attempt at a dumpling lunch in Chinatown thanks to it being closed, we decided to head back to House for some street food snackage.
The tenderly charred moo ping (10) had to be re-ordered and it was just as good, if not a little better than the first time. This really is a must-have.
Something on the menu that I had my eye on previously is the sai kook isaan (10), otherwise known as traditional pork sausages fragrant with garlic, coriander, pepper and cooked rice. The tasty little morsels come plated with thin slices of young ginger, dried chillies, peanuts, pickled ginger and tiny green chillies that will knock your head off. The smokiness of the sausage is beautiful and the fresh young ginger is mild and sweet just like an apple.
The pork liver salad (12) comes out a little smaller than expected but the flavours really do pack a punch. The liver is soft and tender and carries a strong flavour of pork and the chilli content reminds you that you're eating Thai food. I really like this one.
Khao kar moo (braised pork leg 10) has a very Chinese flavour of star anise. The strings of pork are delicious with the wilted greens and the promise of soft-boiled egg is sadly broken with two halves of a hard boiled egg. It's not the end of the world as the flavours are beautifully rich, especially as the juices soak into the steamed rice. The small bowl of broth is delicious and nourishing and the side of dipping sauce may blow your head off.
The pla tord teim (18) is simply deep-fried whole snapper with garlic and pepper served with a tomato chilli dipping sauce. It is a little dry in some parts but overall it's a tasty dish.House202 Elizabeth StreetSurry Hills 20109280 0364Open 7 days 12pm-2am