80 Telok Ayer Street #01-01
Far East Square
T: +65 6636 3696
Opens Mondays to Saturdays 1100~1430hrs & 1730hrs~2130hrs
(Closed on Sundays & PH)
It’s not every day that we, review contributors on HungryGoWhere, get to sit in for a tasting session with this many people. The last time we communed in such numbers was eons ago. A great pleasure to be in the company of the brainchild & co-founder of HungryGoWhere, fellow review contributors, Weighty Man and Caleb Lim, blog-spotters Purple Taste, Chubby Botak Koala and Ivan Teh-Running Man.Cha Thai has recently just celebrated their 2nd Anniversary in Singapore. For those who have yet to visit, you can spot them once u emerge from Telok Ayer MRT Station (DT18) – Exit B. Cha Thai has 2 fronts; one for dining in, and another, for takeaways.
At the main entrance to the restaurant (just next to Amoy Hotel), I couldn’t help but pause to marvel at the collaborations they have with different service providers; like a boy scout wearing his badges of achievements.
Where Thai dining is concerned, it can either be a quickie, or a feast of successive dishes. So, if you’re dining in (and have an entourage), it’s best to place reservation in advance. A quick visual survey of the premise, I estimate can seat about 50pax comfortably.
Upon arrival, I was quite smitten by the interior setup & décor. The back lit pop art lines of the walls conceal the boring white walls, the furniture lined up neat & with ample spacing, contrasting cool & warm white lighting, static motifs of nostalgic collapsible gates, as well as science lab droppers for table sauces, and contemporary Thai hits aired for ambience. It was as if, I was instantly teleported to the Land of Smiles, without need for my passport & return ticket.
Where service is concerned, it is as close as it gets to an authentic Thai kitchen diners concept. 1-2 service staff who manages & runs the floor; from greeting, to ushering, to taking orders, making recommendation, processing order, to service, and eventually… table clearing & cashiering. I don’t know about the rest, but for me, I’m tempted to exclaim กลับมาเมืองไทยแล้ว~!!
From what I understood, Chef Leah combines her western culinary craft with authentic hand-me-down recipes from the Royal Palace’s kitchen, coupled with her stringent standards of curating fresh & best ingredients; from different corners of the archipelago, and other continents for some meat sources. Her crew prides itself in conjuring their own pastes/ seasonings/ curries from scratch (I guess there’s no instant mixes for the Royalties, an assurance of freshness & authenticity).
Word has it, that the Thai people had fantastic complexion & model-like figures, owing to the generous employment of anti-oxidative ingredients in their recipes.
We had a round of chilled beverages shortly after we were seated, Iced Thai Milk Tea, Iced Thai Coffee with Milk, Iced Lemongrass, Iced Butterfly Pea Tea and Honey Mango Smoothie. Personally, I was feeling a bit under the weather, and I found the Iced Lemongrass to be really refreshing. In fact, it’s probably 1 of my all-time must have, whenever available.
Appetizers, Creamy Crab Roll, Crispy Prawn Cake and Pork Paste Toast
Creamy Crab Roll – in-house concocted creamy crab meat laced dip, akin to a silky smooth textured ห่อหมก (hor-mok), spice fragrant, sweet & savory all-in-one, laced with fresh pouched crab meat. Accompanied with paper thin pastry rolled into straws & deep fried to a golden brown crisp. If it wasn’t for a tasting event as such, I’d be happily double dipping & polishing the cream off.
Thought: I would order the toasts to dip in this as well.
Crispy Prawn Cake ทอดมันกุ้ง (tohd mun goong) – crispy crumbly golden brown, spring in the bite juicy prawn patties. Visually, they could be mistaken for croquettes, due to the size. They’re served with a sweet plum sauce dip, but I reckon they’re good on their own.
Pork Toasty – spice fragrant pork jam spread on toasts. Evidently, it takes quite a while to cook the pork jam, leading to a crispy hard toast. Break the bread and use the tangy vinaigrette for dip to soften things up. Add some crunch to your bite, with the diced cucumbers & chilies found in the dip.
For starters, Grilled Pork Salad, Pomelo Salad and Mango Salad with Fried Fish
Grilled Pork Salad – I would consider this an upmarket rendition of the คอหมูย่าง (korh moo yahng). The portion & cut is a lot bigger than usual, and because the cuts are thick enough, you get to enjoy the juicy tenderness, full flavor and light smoky hues. It’s also accompanied with a mix of fresh cut tomatoes, leeks, cucumber, chilies & parsley, drizzled with a nice fish sauce base dressing.
Pomelo Salad ยำส้มโอ (yahm sohm oh) – this to me is a rare find, in Singapore. There’s fresh mounds of citrus sweet pomelo sacks, stirred in a mix of poached spring-in-the-bite prawns, chopped galangal, shallots, ginger flower and lemongrass, all bathing in a citrus sweet spicy concoction. Chewing on the sacks gives you little bursts of zest.
Mango Salad ส้มตำมะม่วง (somtum mahmuang) with Fried Fish – the mango salad is no stranger to most folks, tangy sweet & crunchy. The Fried Fish fillets is lightly battered, deep fried, and not oily; tender & moist. Combine the mango salad & a bite of the fish, and together, it tastes good.
Soups & Curries, there were Tom Yam Soup – Seafood (Thick), Signature Tiger Prawn Panang Curry and Tom Kha (Chicken)
Tom Yam ทอมแยม – Seafood – needs no introduction, but be advised that traditionally, there’s the clear version, and the red version. We took the spice factor test & tried the Thick version. Give it a little stir and bowled over by the generous amount of chopped/ cut/ diced garden ingredients in the base, while the huge unshelled prawns are accompanied with springy fish balls.
Signature Tiger Prawn Panang พะแนง Curry – this is a creamy & viscous curry that’s loaded with fragrances from plant spices & anti-oxidants. Already somewhat nutty sweet, you can find pitted fresh lychee in the concoction too. Like the Tom Yam, there huge unshelled prawns have good spring-in-the-bite
Note: sadly, the prawns in the Tom Yam & Panang are overdone; by popular local demand. If I had a choice, I would prefer them done the authentic way
Tom Kha ต้มข่า – Chicken – is one of my all-time favorite, over & above all other Thai soups/ curries. This is somewhat similar to the Tom Yam, except not sour, but mildly sweet & very fragrant, in lieu of the coconut milk. The chicken chunks are nicely done, juicy & light spring in the bite, without flaking away. Be surprised with stalks of bouncy crunchy straw mushrooms.
Simmer Pork – is a special Thai rendition of the ขาหมู (kaah moo), and best of all, they only use the leg & trotters. Neatly cut, and served on a bed of stir fried crunchy sweet kalian, drizzled with the braised sauce. Accompanied with a zesty chili blend for dips. On any given day, I’d be walking into a Thai joint for this on rice. Tender juicy savory, mildly sweet & fragrant after taste, and the fat melts away like butter in the mouth.
The Signature Baked Tiger Prawn Glass Noodle Claypot กุ้งอบวุ้นเส้น (goong powh woon sen) – is to me a hallmark of Thai Chinese culinary. It’s the marriage of awesome Baked Tiger Prawns เผากุ้ง (powh goong) on a bed of delicious; bouncy, broth+ fish sauce+ soy sauce infused glass noodles วุ้นเส้นซีอิ๊ว (woon-sen see-yew). All of it served in a piping hot claypot. What amazes me most, there’s hardly any glass noodles smelted & stuck to the insides of the claypot.
Note: The flagship Baked Crab on Glass Noodles ปูอบวุ้นเส้น (bpoo ob woonsen) and Casseroled Tiger Prawn Glass Noodles กุ้งอบวุ้นเส้น (goong ob woonsen) come at a premium and must be pre-ordered, to ensure freshness & best outcome for the dish.
Not to worry about not having an entourage, solo eaters & small eaters can also indulge in some of their staples, we tried the Pad Thai and Boat Noodles.
Pad Thai ผัดไทย – touted to be a national dish, is an ensemble of ingredients from the far flung corners of the kingdom. there rice noodles are stir fried in tangy tamarind, sweetened off with palm sugar, accompanied with shreded young mangoes, sprouts & drizzled with crushed peanuts. here, they top things off with 2 succulent bouncy prawns.
Boat Noodles ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเรือ – is also another trademark dish derived from the original floating markets, except, here, its up-sized by 9 times that of the original. The original portion of the Boat Noodles can be finished off in 1 slurp, or perhaps 2 gulps. Here, the portion is comparative with some mainstream ramen/ ramyun portions, and enough to be shared by 2 grown men, or, 1 famished grown man.
If you’re not looking for a meal, the Cha Thai Toast should be quite a fun & filling snack. We were introduced a combination of the Butter Toast and Charcoal Toast, accompanied with house blended Thai Milk Tea dip and the Pandan dip. I’m not much of a sweet tooth person, I reckon this should go well with their Thai Coffee, which happens to be somewhat sweeter than normal too. Perhaps, you can request ไม่ใส่น้ำตาล (omit sugar).
For the finale, desserts to call it a day: Bua Loy Pueuk and Tub Tim Krob
Bua Loy Pueuk บัวลอยเผือก – served hot, is akin to our local Bubur-Chacha, but the combination of chewy sago, salted taro balls & black beans, swimming in mildly sweetened coconut milk makes it very enjoyable (somewhat addictive).
Tub Tim Krob ทับทิมกรอบ – the original version of our Red Ruby, uses lesser coloring for the starch coating on the water chestnut, larger, crunchier, accompanied with sweet crunchy coconut flesh, on a bed of shaved ice & mildly sweetened coconut milk.
All in all, I have to complement the owner & chef for making me reminisce the land of smiles, so dearly. The quality & portion of the food is good, and so, don’t expect the price tags to be that of what you would find in Golden Mile Complex (GMC), because you will not find anything close to this.