Long Chim is a name that is about to get much more familiar. It’s the new street food restaurant of Thai food maestro David Thompson, the Australian who has done more than almost anyone to elevate and refine the breathtaking flavours of Thailand into serious global cuisine at Naam in Bangkok’s Metropolitan Hotel.
Long Chim – it means ‘come and taste’ – is cheaper and more casual but still retains the fiery heat and layered dishes that have made him famous. I visited Long Chim in Singapore at the Marina Bay Sands, the Hotel which keeps upping its dining game even further with amazing regularity. The good news is that Long Chim is also set to open in Hong Kong in the old Police Station on Wyndham St/Hollywood Road, while it has further iterations around the region. One notable branch is open at the jaw-dropping Como Hotel in Perth, a revitalized 19th century building which has become a model for urban renewal and cool aesthetics. Trust me, if you’re ever in that part of the world, you will not want to stay anywhere else.
But back to Singapore. Past the long bar and open kitchen and into the dining room decked with colourful Thai images and artefacts. As a fluent Thai speaker and unrivalled flag waver for the country’s culture (at least for a farang), you can rest assured that Thompson’s tastes are finely-tuned and it makes for a convivial spot with views over the Bay outside.
What Thompson does is, as far as I can tell, pretty simple. He takes the unvarnished explosions of flavour seen in street food, small restaurants and markets across the country and marries them with first class produce. Critically, he doesn’t turn the volume down on any of them.
So grilled pork skewers are just some of the best you’ll ever eat. The smoky char usually bought on by furious streetside wafting is replicated here via a kitchen grill, a baste of God knows how many ingredients igniting a furious fight to the death for your tastebuds. (SGD$14)
Fish cakes bring deep fried basil and mahogany brown misshapen slivers of flesh $16
Two mains show that Thompson isn’t afraid to take one classics. While Issaya Siamese Club in Hong Kong was borderline offended when I enquired about a vegetarian Pad Thai, harrumphing how they don’t serve it, no such issue at Long Chim. The hallmarks of a good one should be freshness in constituent parts, the snap of the bean sprout and crunch of herbs. Here Thompson’s team delivers but also ensures the prawns are beauties by themselves, the egg is warm, not a shriveled afterthought. Of course the beauty comes in the personalization, the mix as you choose your tones of volcanic chilli, nuts or a squeeze of lime. It’s difficult to imagine a finer rendition anywhere – the sort of dish a street hawker would be proud to call their own. At $30 it’s not the cheapest you’ll find, but look at the venue, the ingredients and the execution and it’s worth it.
Another Thai favourite, the old standby of stir fried minced Beef with chillies, basil and fried egg ($25) again underscored why it is such a classic, while the accompanying sauce was so fiery with green chilli that it risked spontaneous combustion.
No such problems with the durian ice cream with sesame wafer ($16). I can still feel the rasp on the roof of my mouth three months later. As always with durio zibenthius, it’s an acquired taste.
So Long Chim may well be coming to a street near you. When it does, seek it out. You can’t go wrong.
Long Chim, Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue
Singapore 018956 https://www.marinabaysands.com/restaurants/celebrity-chefs/long-chim.html
Long Chim, COMO The Treasury
1 Cathedral Avenue,
Perth, WA 6000 Australia http://www.comohotels.com/thetreasury/