A bit after noon today, walking into the sun, nip in the air, smiling fondly at Asian food courts & promises of Noodle Night Markets, ignoring Gloria Jean’s & Starbucks … in the city of cafes after all ... sitting at one, sipping a cappuccino on the streets, getting lost in Amitav Ghosh’s 'The Shadow Lines', 'people watching', picking up a sushi box for lunch to balance out last night’s pork orgy...
I am not a fussy traveller.
In my world wandering down its streets is the best way to fall in love with a place. A nip in the air helps.
The script was perfect last evening.
Getting in at the Town Hall Station at Sydney. Getting off at Central. Trying to figure out which exit to take. The first one was wrong of course. The flipside of not following a woman’s intuition.
Landing up on a quiet kerb. Asking for directions at a seven eleven with an Indian at the counter, a pub where the staff was too busy for us to disturb, a Thai lady in another pub who got all excited at our choice of place to eat…another amble….stopping mid-way to check our bearings…a young man sitting on the pavement… butting in hearing our parlays and pointing us to the right path.
A bit more of a walk. A big sign. Jaipur Masala. And then a whiff of a familiar aroma. A second glance back.
We had just passed the object of our quest.
Sydney’s landmark Thai restaurant.
Spice I Am.
The one spot I couldn’t fit in in my last trip. Heavily recommended by all. The first place that featured in recommendations this time too.
And there it was. A #facepalm moment. This was was almost next door to where we were.
After the chase across train stations and zebra crossings, pubs and stores, we were back to where we started.
All one had to do was follow the flavours.
Or one’s Karma.
‘Cut the pop philosophy and tell us how the food was’?
To start with everyone including the enthusiastic Thai lady at the pub told us that we’d be lucky if we got a table. Well at close to 9 pm we got a table after a much shorter wait than one would at Colaba’s Churchill in its glory days.
The place was packed and reminded my of the bump and grind seating of Malvani Asvad. Seemed like it would be my sort of place.
I was right.
A Thai coconut water to start off the evening. Sweet shades of the Bangkok original.
The joy of ordering the right dishes. Without any debate at the table.
Pork belly stir fried with holy basil and chilli. The meat a nice balance of scrunchy skin and chubby tummy fat. Reminiscent of the pork belly I had had at a tiny Chinese place in my last night at Chiang Mai. Shades of the texture of siew yoke of the Chinese ‘restoraans’ of KL. Very different from the incredibly soft, bordering on squishy, pork belly at Ling’s at Colaba.
We had ordered this as a starter but they got our steamed rice with the belly. Well, if you ask me, the sticky rice was just what was needed to make this combination of great meat, lively herbs and fiery chillies celestial.
The green curry was everything that green curries serve in most Thai places at Mumbai isn’t.
Thank God for that.
The curry wasn’t a fluorescent green swamp. The consistency was that of thin fresh coconut milk. The flavours that of freshly ground spices. The way grandmoms used to cook in India.
The turmeric a bit over-powering but the balance was just right otherwise. There was a mild sweetness to the sauce with a deep seated heat of ground green chillies which left a warm glow inside later.
The pork sliced the way it would be at Thailand. The pork blood jelly a bit like liver. I finally knew what they had put in into the curry mee at Penang.
And no. No broccoli, carrots or beans. When will restauteurs at Mumbai learn that Thai curries should only have basil, chilli and green brinjals in them? It is not a Keralite ishtew for God’s sake. The Bombay version of it of course before I get all Malayalis agitated.
The food was the sort that you thought was too much to finish only to find your table bare a bit later.
My camera battery was exhausted but you can do with the BB pictures till then.
BB doesn’t work with local calling cards here. Not tweeting or fb’ing on BB all the time while in company made one realise how uncivil one had become.
I guess we live and learn.
They don’t accept credit cards at Spice I am.