Chat Thai is the worst kept secret amongst us Thai people living in Sydney. With a focus on Thai street food and dishes that are meant to be for Thai palates only, Chat Thai was meant to be a Thai person's Thai restaurant. But when you do the mainstay favorites pretty well, and at very, very reasonable prices, it's inevitable that the cat will get out of the bag.
If you want to try something new, sample the yen ta for ($10.90, lunch menu only), a radioactively pink vinegary soup, served with very thick rice noodles, garnished with fried wonton triangles, fried soft tofu, blood jelly and your choice of animal (pork, chicken, beef, seafood). For those who are less adventurous, the chilli fried rice ($14), padt si-ew ($13) or ki mao ($13) are excellent.
Chat Thai has 5 varieties of som dtum (green papaya salad), which personifies the balance between the salty, sweet, sour and spicy elements Thai cuisine has become known for. This dish is often the yard stick for how Thai people rate a restaurant as the authentically complex flavors require expert mortar and pestle technique, knowing how to obtain a balance from the strong flavours. For the uninitiated start with the som dtum thai ($12) and venture onto the pickled crab or fermented fish variants ($13) when feeling brave. Also remember to specify your level of spiciness because the default is often too hot for most.
To drink, it would be hard not have Thai milk tea ($4), but Chat Thai has turned Thai people's love of Yakult (yes, the probiotic drink) into an ice blend ($5) which is embarrassingly hard to resist.
Located across from the Capitol Theatre, the open desert kitchen welcomes you in, with the bare brick walls covered with crayon artwork by a famous Thai comedian. If you've arrived during the dinner rush hour expect to be waiting at least 45 minutes or longer for a table; try and get in early and they might be able to offer you dishes still made from the lunch menu as well.