425 Pitt Street Haymarket, New South Wales 2000
|Opening hours||Breakfast 7am-11am; lunch 11am-4pm; dinner 4pm-midnight|
|Features||Cheap Eats, Family friendly, Vegetarian friendly, Breakfast-brunch|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||02 9281 2114|
Eating an entire day's worth of meals in Chat Thai's red-hot new venue is a delightful challenge.
White-tiled walls, webcast tunes, lightly roasted Single Origin coffee, cold-pressed juice, upcycled jars and bottles, light fittings appropriated from either a warehouse or a loft – it sounds like a pretty familiar picture for a Sydney cafe circa 2015.
Zoom out, though, and the larger picture is something much more interesting. The toast that couple are photographing is spread thickly with luminous-green pandan custard. The baked eggs the guy in the suit is hooking into come with smoked fish sausage, and that six-year-old is brandishing a skewer of grilled pork and a parcel of sticky rice.
Think of Boon as a sort of Thai-flavoured Cafe Sopra. Thai nannas charge through the doors into the massive glass-walled cool room at the front of the store, where owner Amy Chanta has set up a really impressive selection of mostly Thai fruit and vegetables – yellow dragonfruit, sawtooth herb and banana blossom.
Backpackers from lower Pitt Street's hostels slope in for instant noodles, lighters and Thai condoms. Hipster doofuses are here for the coffee and power juices. Food nerds are here for the breakfast congee. It's a party at any time of the day.
Push the boat out with a cold lemongrass drink (reminiscent of the flavour at the bottom of a bowl of Froot Loops) or brave a shot of turmeric juice, which tastes so much like dirt that it's bound to be very good for you.
Lunch introduces a whole menu of sandwiches with Thai fillings. A glossy toasted bun is filled with what is basically a nam khao tod – a thrillingly texture-rich carb-on-carb combination of coconutty fermented pork, chunks of rice cake and pickled cabbage, carrot and cucumber – oh, and a side of pork scratchings.
There's also chicken and cashew-nut butter, fresh chilli and an almost XOy chilli relish on Brickfields sourdough – a little more approachable but no less rich and squishy.
In the evening, the lights are dimmed, and out come the pickled crabs. The dinner menu takes the food of Isaan, a province in the north-east of Thailand, as its focus. It's strong stuff, and no punches are pulled. One part is given over to grills (skirt steak, say, or sticky pork sausage), neatly complemented by another section given over to variations on the theme of green papaya salad.
Som tum devotees will want to proceed directly to the dtum bpha (or as I like to call it, "the plate of funk"). Here the usual thin shreds of green papaya, chilli and bits of tomato are mixed with whole pickled crabs, snails, pork sausage and crackling, mustard greens and thin rice noodles.
A larb-like salad of and gelatinous red ant eggs, meanwhile, gives a slow burn, while the young jackfruit and pork-bone soup is all at once medicinal, savoury and fresh with acid.
This is a Sydney thing as much as it is a Thai thing – slick, with a faint whiff of durian. A boon any time of the day.
The challenge: To eat an entire day's worth of meals in Chat Thai's red-hot new venue.
The reason: I'm an idiot.
The result: Deliciousness.
Pro tip Order the pandan custard on toast for dessert – sweet, yielding scandalous goo.
Try this Naam khao tod, aka the pork and rice cake sandwich.
Like this? Pay House a visit for its sun-dried beef strips. 202 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills 2010.