I had suggested a few places to Idol and Mistress before they dropped by and dutifully rang ahead for reservations only to be told that each place was booked out until at least 8:30pm. And with the days getting shorter and the seasons cooler, it really is quite hard to hold out until a late dinner unless there is some forethought towards pre-snacking (or unexpected late lunches and over-eating, hmmm).
We wander into several places along Pacific Highway, skipping a few that don’t appeal to our appetites that evening and those which are worryingly empty. We finally settle on Khacha Thai due to its colourful interior and encouragingly almost full capacity.
The lighting is dim and the furniture is dark, but there are elephants and fresh floral touches everywhere as well as a waterfall wall feature. We notice this carries over to the food presentation when our starters arrive, with orchid and carnation decorations. The stuffed chicken wings are my choice – the last time I had something similar was in the Chinese restaurant where I worked part-time through university. Mum tells me stuffed wings used to be a popular banquet item on Chinese menus but fell out of favour due to their fiddliness to make. The bones from the wingette and mid-wing are removed before the resultant cavities are stuffed, usually, with a minced pork mixture as they are here. Khacha Thai has mung bean vermicelli (cellophane/glass noodles) and wood ear fungus incorporated into their stuffing mixture and the wings are deep-fried before being served sliced and drizzled with sweet chilli sauce.
Our other starter is the standard fare of fish cakes which have a herby flavour and smooth yet bouncy texture. The dipping sauce is sprinkled with plenty of peanuts and is sweet, but what I silently long for is something with a bit more of a heat kick. We all agree the same can be said for the ‘Green papaya salad with prawns’ and possibly more papaya to balance out the shredded carrot. Prawns are a-plenty but what we’re wanting is that flavour equilibrium for which Thai cuisine is so well-known.
Red duck curry is one of those things that seems to always be ordered when we visit Thai restaurants. There must be a universal appeal about roast duck which has been stewed in the creamy, fragrant sauce in amongst the jumble of lychees, pineapple and vegetables. Of course curry is the perfect foil for a rice accompaniment and this is Monsieur Poisson’s downfall – it is just too easy to over-indulge on rice when there is sauce facilitating it to almost effortlessly slide down the throat.
The chilli chicken stir-fry is crisp with the crunch of cashews but unfortunately the chicken is a little bland and dry, however it offers respite from the richness of the red duck curry.
The dessert menus offer more colour being presented in wooden frames with double covers which open like French windows.
Not surprisingly my banana-loving husband, Monsieur Poisson, orders the ‘Banana fritter with caramel sauce’. Two curved nuggets of golden battered banana are presented up one end of a rectangular plate with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream balanced on top. The caramel sauce is thin and not overly sugary.
Idol chooses the ‘Sticky rice with coconut custard’ which thankfully has only a thin coconut sauce but is quite filling due to the glutinous texture of the rice.
Mistress orders the ‘Coconut ice-cream with palm seeds, black sticky rice and peanuts’ which gives me a chance to try palm seeds. Roughly the size of almonds, the palm seeds have a firm jelly-like textured outer – think firmer than agar – and a solid, almost crunchy, centre. Taste-wise it doesn’t possess much flavour but there is a bed of black sticky rice underneath as well as a generous scoop and a half of coconut ice-cream on top.
So while the food doesn’t wow us entirely, the desserts are definitely something special here. Our quest to eat locally continues, as well as my search for some Thai which is not too far away from home.
308a Pacific Hwy, Crows Nest NSW
Tel: (02) 9966 8444, 9966 8333
Opening Hours: 7 days 12pm-3pm