Long Chim

Terry Durack
Working the wok: owner David Thompson.
Working the wok: owner David Thompson. Photo: Nigel Harper

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Opening hours Daily 5.30-11pm; Mon-Fri 11.30am-2.30pm
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Phone +65 6688 7299

Finally, Nahm's David Thompson has done what he has threatened to do for years – take Thai food back to the streets where it belongs.

The only trouble is he's done it in Singapore. And in a casino.

Before I can even get to Long Chim (Thai for "come and taste"), along comes the news that a second branch will open later this year in Perth. Then I hear rumours that Sydney and Hong Kong are next. That's it – I'm off to do what the name says: come and taste.

Thoroughly delicious: the Pad Thai.
Thoroughly delicious: the Pad Thai. Photo: Supplied

It's not easy to find in the behemoth that is Marina Bay Sands, so listen up. You either turn left at Prada and go past Balenciaga, or turn right at Gucci and go past Hermes then take the discreetly tucked-away express elevator to the restaurant floor.

Long Chim has its own discreetly tucked-away, casino-denial entrance, all neon back alley images and tiny red street stools. You emerge into a long bar lined with booths facing a broad expanse of a 150-seater restaurant. It's bare-tabled, cutlery-in-a-can stuff, with a flurry of chefs in the background pounding away in mortars, and wok-frying noodles.

There is something rather wonderful about settling down to a Thompson-inspired dinner devoted to the sort of dishes Thai people take home from the market in little plastic bags for 50 baht.

Long Chim seats 150 with its bare-tabled, cutlery-in-a-can style.
Long Chim seats 150 with its bare-tabled, cutlery-in-a-can style. Photo: Supplied

Chiang mai curry noodles, salt-grilled tilapia (fish), sour orange snakehead fish curry, hot-and-sour soup of chicken wings and feet, green papaya som tum – the scholarly, Australian-born, Thai-obsessed Thompson wrote the book on this sort of food (literally).

Little prawns strung into crunchy fritters with minimal batter and tossed with longleaf coriander ($15) are pure street food, as are innocent-looking deep-fried pork nuggets ($17), a three-day cure leaving them with a lightly sour lactic tang. In the mix are the tiniest peanuts and a scary amount of those small but deadly chillies that Thompson famously dubbed "scuds".

Charred, fresh, floppy rice noodles ($24) are dark and heavy, smoky and scorched, studded with tender pork and yellow beans.

Pork stir-fried with Chinese broccoli.
Pork stir-fried with Chinese broccoli. Photo: Supplied

A Neanderthal-looking stir-fry of tiny, crisp, dried baby squid ($24) comes with strings of Thai peppercorns, garlic, wild ginger and at least three kinds of chilli that run from spookily spicy to blow-your-head-off.

More chilli – pickled, dried and in nam pla – is on hand, along with the ubiquitous white sugar, for adding to a thoroughly delicious, eggy pad Thai of rice noodles, prawns, and bean shoots ($28).

The big order at night is grilled lamb rib curry ($29) – meaty, so-soft chunks in a rich, reduced sauce, cleverly counter-punched with tongue-tingling pickles.

Chiang Mai curry noodles.
Chiang Mai curry noodles. Photo: Supplied

At lunch, it's more about skinny white kanom jin noodles and curries, with a business-like $35 two-course option.

Take a couple of mates and you can cover the table with a variety of hot, cold, wet and dry dishes very satisfactorily.

The fun, informal vibe and the full-frontal raw power and wild flavours make this rewarding dining, even if Singapore's sizeable import duty on alcohol means a chilled Chang beer at $14 from the Old World/New World list is more accessible than a crisp, balanced 2012 Heggies Chardonnay at $105. And even if the scuds set noses streaming on every table.

The menu isn't especially helpful, so enlist the aid of manager Aom Orawan to get a balanced meal.

But if the food is this good in a casino in Singapore, then Perth, Sydney and Hong Kong have a lot to look forward to.

THE LOW-DOWN
Best bit:
 Ridgy-didge Thai street food
Worst bit: 
It's in a casino. And it's in Singapore.
Go-to dish:
 Pad thai of prawns, peanuts and bean sprouts, $28

Terry Durack is chief restaurant critic for The Sydney Morning Herald and senior reviewer for the Good Food Guide. This rating is based on the Good Food Guide scoring system.

http://www.longchim.com.sg