When Longrain's new head chef Louis Tikaram won the SMH Good Food Guide's 2014 Young Chef of the Year Award, he described his kitchen philosophy in one word: 'tastiness'. It's a philosophy that reigns supreme at Longrain, where the drinks are dazzling and Tikaram's creative South-East Asian cuisine delivers consistent knockouts from your first bite of betel leaf to your final spoonful of dessert.
Begin with a tipple at the downstairs Bunker, a striking bar housed in what used to be Longrain's basement storage room. The cocktail list is colourful and creative, spanning from vivacious favourites like the Ping Pong — which muddles vodka and lychee liqueur with passionfruit, whole lychees and lime ($16) — to clever seasonal creations like the Opposing Pair, which marries Thai spiced poached pears with Jack Daniels and cherry heering ($18).
With your tastebuds tickled, make your way into the spacious, low-lit communal dining room, which taps into the Asian shared food philosophy in an eye-catching warehouse space. The aromatic stack of fresh pomelo, coconut, chilli and mint bundled into a little betel leaf ($6) makes for a vibrant introduction.
The menu turns traditional Thai favourites into dynamite: tender stir-fried beef with snake beans, Thai basil and chilli jam ($34) is anything but ordinary; a fragrant red curry laced with fennel and ginger cuts through a gorgeous fillet of fleshy salmon ($34); and the clever combination of braised mushrooms with sharkfin melon and Asian greens ($16) brings balance to the feast.
A treasure trove of interesting wines and a broad, international beer list mean you'll have no trouble finding the ideal accompaniment to your meal. The Longplonk Gewurztraminer Riesling ($11/$46) is made exclusively for Longrain by Jamsheed Wines and provides a perfect counterbalance to the spiciness in the food.
After basking in the rich flavours of Tikaram's menu, it can be difficult to fathom dessert, but we recommend digging deep and finding that second stomach. The simply named Longrain layered dessert is a textural reverie, combining sago pearls, black sticky rice, pineapple sorbet and a cloud of pandan foam with berries and toasted coconut.
Lovers of Longrain gasped collectively when founding chef Martin Boetz announced his departure last year, but they clearly had nothing to worry about. The clarity of Tikaram's vision and the finesse of his execution make clear that Longrain will continue to impress for a long time yet.