9 37 Ultimo Rd Haymarket, NSW 2000
|Opening hours||Mon-Sun 11am-1am|
|Features||Cheap Eats, BYO|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||02 8065 3827|
There are very few places you can utter the words "I'm going to eat the spiciest soup imaginable this evening, hopefully I won't die. Would anyone like to join me?" and be greeted by a wave of very enthusiastic "hell, yeahs". The Good Food office is one of them.
And so it is we find ourselves in the dimly lit end of Chinatown hunkered down over a scratched-up wooden table accessorised with a chilli-packed cruet set, half-empty box of tissues, a metal casket of spoons and chopsticks and very little else.
The draw here is the tom yum - a series of soups each more deadly than the last, numbered from one to seven in order of face-melting-osity. This isn't so much the hot and sour Thai menu staple you might recognise from your local. It's field surgery broth. Spicy penicillin. Firey Mersyndol. Fragrant and radioactive with two types of noodles (crunchy egg and slippery rice), soft pork sausage and firm fish balls, redolent with chilli.
For the purposes of science (it is science, right?) we order the versions with a number next to them from the mild tingle of the "Do Dee monster" to the persistent burn of the "Do Dee lava" to the fierce but strangely pleasurable "super volcano".
The thing is, they're all delicious. And though we go in fully prepared for them to not let us order the seven (that'd be the one labelled "super nova") they don't even blink. In fact, it's a conversation starter. The two floor staff we talk to don't go beyond the burning lava that is a level three. There again, maybe they enjoy tasting their food.
Other pleasures on the menu may not provide the same burn, but they'll have your palate snapping to attention all the same. A larb sees crisp curls of duck skin adding crunch to rich and sour duck mince. Snake beans, pea eggplant and cucumber slices do their best to cool things off, but deep-fried betel leaves filled with sweet pork and prawn do an even better job.
Just snacking? BYO a sixer of Singha and go for a bag of pork crackling for just $2, and some of their sun-dried beef strips and pork neck - northern Thailand's answer to jerky. And if that's not enough, there's a bright dessert bar offering the usual flavoured ices and sticky rice, as well as fried bread and sweet, nutty and vanilla-y pandan custard.
Admittedly, there's very little going on here beyond what's on the plate. Service is friendly enough but really, they're just curious about what we're doing ordering so much soup.
Our prescription? Order the number three (or five if you think you can take it), take two Singhas and please don't call us in the morning.
Pro tip The tom yum may not be for the faint of heart, but there's plenty of non-spicy gear elsewhere on the menu
Try this The deep-fried betel leaves are succour for the spice-dented
Like this? Give Green Peppercorn a tilt. All the joys of a legit Thai menu, set in a pub. 1 Hamilton Road, Fairfield.