Cha Thai: an Air of Confidence

Leah, business owner and head chef strides out of the kitchen, aromatic wafts of Thai Basil following in her wake. With a firm handshake exchanged, she proceeds to vouch for the quality of the menu, stopping briefly to evaluate our likes and dislikes before pushing out her recommendations . "People who don't go the wet markets to shop wouldn't understand why our food is so expensive," She laments, "but we only use the freshest of ingredients that we pick personally that's why the price." I shrug in contention at her unsettling air of confidence. However, the instant she dropped the French Culinary Institute background training, I was sold on her promise that her clear Tom Yum Goong would be "nothing like you've tried in Singapore before."

Sure enough.

The Crispy Prawn Cakes ($15) were the first of many dishes that night that made me shudder in delight. Definitely dishing out the sweet tender prawn meat in large quantities, this treat was both heartfelt homage and its own, craveable thing. Following closely in its footsteps is the Signature Tiger Prawn Panang Curry ($28), its texture and flavor leaving strong and lasting impressions. Littered with the the unconventional lychee which Leah explains, lends sweetness to the curry without the unnecessary addition of sugar. Spoon this with reckless abandon on brown rice and you've got a treat suitable for all ages. Then of course, you would want in on the huge-ass tiger prawns which have soaked in the intrinsic flavors of the curry so beautifully. 

Top L: Chicken Satay with Peanut Sace; Top R: Grilled Kurobuta Pork
Bottom: Simmer Pork 

Cha Thai strengths lie in its command of flavor balance and infusion whereas fissures surface in its ability to handle the dishes that require a bit more 'wok-hei'. The Pineapple Fried Rice ($18) was rather pedestrian with slightly moistened and wet innards that were atypical of the conventional street side version you would get. The Pad Thai ($22) presented a feast to the eye but also craved a bit of smoky breath to its one-dimensional existence.

Among the pork dishes that graced our table, I preferred the Grilled Kurobuta Pork ($28), charcoal grilled, the caramelised pork jowl melts like butter on a hot slate in the mouth. Ignore the sticky rice that flanks the protein, its dry and hard mouthful, hardly attractive at all. Then there's the Simmer Pork ($22), a Thai style pork knuckle which had been painstakingly sous vide till fall of the bone tender. I know it grosses some out, but that unctuous pig skin and fats were the best part!

Signature Tiger Prawn Panang Curry 
Top L: Crispy Prawn Cakes
Bottom L: Sauteed Eggplant with Sweet Basil; Bottom R: Tom Yum Soup
Other noteworthy dishes are the Sauteed Eggplant with Sweet Basil ($16) with purple-hued eggplant demonstrating a certain prowess in the kitchen. It's glistening hide spinning the other way to reveal tender innards, perfumed with a heavy hand of sweet basil; pork mince and the quintessential breaths of fish sauce cutting through the dish like a searchlight.  If you've got a weakness for the spicy stuff, prepare to sweat it out with Cha Thai's Tom Yum Soup ($28), it's clear conscious presenting quite the opposite fiery demeanor. Sweet, sour, spicy and salty.. this bowlful was quite the epitome of Thai cuisine.

Pad Thai
Wash it all down with their signature Thai Iced Milk Tea ($3.90) and make a move on to their nicest surprise. The Golden Brown Toasted Cubes ($8) served with either Pandan or Thai Tea flavoured dip is democratically priced considering the fact that both dips are made from scratch with minimal sugar added to the mix; its slightly broken eggy consistency providing evidence of its pledge. I adored the playful sweetness of the toasted bread cubes on its own, its' uniform golden crust hiding milky fluffed up cores. Dunk this into the pandan custard and this dessert takes you all the way home.

Cha Thai is a breath of fresh air in a linear community that dishes out way too much coffee and Korean food. Should you be in the CBD area and yearning for some Thai food, then this would be your best choice. It's warm, white washed walls and cosy space, coupled with even more earnest service, is particularly suitable for large gatherings.

Golden Brown Toasted Cubes with Pandan or Thai Tea flavored dip
Cha Thai
80 Telok Ayer Street

Operating Hours: 
Daily: 11am - 10pm
(last order 9.30pm)

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