You enter Long Chim from a laneway called Angel Place, but you’ll actually be dining deep in bowels of a building full of bankers. It’s dark, moody, and - if your table happens to be in the long galley between bar and kitchen – enlivened by the crash of woks and the occasional cloud of chilli-related napalm. I’m dining with an all-star cast of more than a hundred chefs, brought together by Australian Pork Limited's PorkStar program. Beyond celebrating the versatility of pork, many attendees seem keen to take a gander at the dishes of David Thompson – a man touted as the father of Australia's contemporary Thai cuisine. It's understandable - you'd probably have to have hidden under a rock for the last two decades not to have heard of this chef’s achievements both onshore with Darley Street and Sailors Thai, and offshore with Nahm and the precursor Long Chims.
Thompson’s food is renowned for being hot; so I’m grateful we get a lining on our tummies with Grilled Pork ($18).
With just the right combination of char, fat and sweetness, these tender skewers of marinated pork are incredibly compelling; suiting the coriander and lime notes of Two Birds’s Taco Beer.
The fireworks start with Spicy Pork with Rice Cakes ($18), a crunchy mix of rice cakes, prawns, slivers of pork, peanuts and fresh herbs, dotted with dried whole chillies and spooned onto fresh betel leaves. The energy level at the whole table lifts with this dish. It's the kind of dish that makes you feel alive (especially if you bite into a dark red, dried chilli); and the clarity reminds me of what Thai cuisine in Sydney can be, when it's not relegated to being muddy and indistinct.
Even though some dishes - like this lime, roasted rice and grilled pork cheek salad - were definitely geared to show off the protein in question, Thompson, unlike some previous Porkstar hosts, resisted a staunchly all-pork menu.
The sour shock of Hot and Sour Seafood Soup ($35) and slippery relief of Stir Fried Glass Noodles ($32) topped with whole baked prawns, cleverly reset our palates for more intensely spicy pork.
Delivered by a quiet but efficient battalion of staff, our stir-fried minced pork with chilli and holy basil lulled me into a false sense of security with a chrysanthemum-like fried duck egg blooming on top. It’s another hot dish, even with the deep-fried protein to offset it, and I share a quiet moment of wonder with Nino Zoccali (Pendolino) marvelling at the beauty of cold slices of freshly cut cucumber, delivered by the smiling and slightly sadistic floor team.
I’m also further convinced of the place of pineapple in curry, after it provides a second window of sweet relief in a pineapple pork curry. It's oh-so-welcome in a meal that has definitely been skewed towards flaming hot.
My palate's pretty much done by the time our Stir Fried Cabbage ($18) lands, dressed with pork scratchings and crunchy dried prawns.
Even a soothing slab of coconut cream topped black sticky rice does little to change the feeling that that my body has done six rounds and the bruising will set in later. Maybe chalk this one up as one of those meals you've really got to be in the mood for - even as a chilli freak.
10 14 Martin Place, Sydney (enter Angel Place)
Ph: (02) 9223 7999