Jurisdiction: Thai (Southern)
Outcome: Unanimous Verdict
Ratio decidendi: Overall it offers a welcome change of speed from most Sydney Thai menus which tend to be ‘same same…but (a little) different’.
Salient features: kanom jeem set ($16), cha kuay teow ($16)
Scope of discovery: gaeng het pho ($24), gai pae sa ($18), baked taro cake ($10), black sticky rice ($10).
Case Note: Solid on all counts with the mains but lacking the same blockbuster dessert as its cousin House.
kanom jeem set: fermented rice noodles served with two curries and condiments. The rice noodles taste like plumper, heavier versions of vermicelli. Their absorbent qualities come in very handy for soaking up the rich flavours of the ‘lemak’ style and satay-sauce-esque curries.
gaeng het pho: a creamy phuket-style fish curry that I will remember for the Thai black mushrooms. I’d describe them as savoury versions of the ‘popping bobba’ you find in Taiwanese desserts – little crunchy flavour bombs which explode with the curry they’ve absorbed when you bite into them.
gai pae sa: when the dish arrived we couldn’t help ourselves in faking confusion – telling the waitress we didn’t order Hainanese chicken. There’s an uncanny resemblance both appearance and taste-wise right down to the accompanying ginger chilli sauce. No complaints though, the chicken is cooked perfectly and would put many other Malaysian joints around town to shame.
Char kuey teow: the last main dish of the night is the one we’re looking forward to the most. We’re not disappointed – spicy and greasy goodness with a good hit of ‘wok hei’ to boot, this is the closest competition that Alice’s has had since it reopened in the CBD.
Having been suitably impressed by the mains, we were left underwhelmed by dessert. Even a durian coconut milk sauce wasn’t enough to overlook a dry and uninspiring taro cube. The black sticky rice pudding is a classic but the $10 price tag is much too steep – there are Cantonese restaurants which offer versions not all that dissimilar as part of the ‘complimentary’ dessert that follows a meal. Not the note we wanted to end the meal on, but adjourned downstairs for a beer very satisfied nonetheless. If you’re after something sweet to round out your meal, I’d suggest heading down the road to sister restaurant House for their BTS.
Obiter Dicta: To be honest I was quite skeptical as I took my seat. All the classic warning signs of a western-palate geared establishment were present – the entertainment of bookings, fancy decor and no Thai customers within earshot had me fearing a night of wasted calories. Making eye contact with the others, I could tell we were all thinking the same thing but we couldn’t have been happier to have been proven wrong.
Surry Hills Eating House is yet another offshoot of the benchmark-setting Spice I am, serving up southern Thai-style dishes. Phuket fare features a fair bit on the menu and you may be surprised to learn that the island shares close historic and cultural ties with Penang in Malaysia – hence why the presence of iconic Malaysian dishes on the menu isn’t all that random!
Hours: Dinner starts from 5.30pm, the big plus is that it takes bookings (02 9212 4092).