With its exterior looking like another cafe-wannabe, one wouldn’t equate Cha Thai to be an outlet serving quality Thai cuisine that would leave you wow-ed.
But Cha Thai is exactly that – an outlet that offers authentic, delicious Thai meals in a unassuming bare space.
Some of you will leave wow-ed, some may grumble about the price (a quick google will tell) but I am of opinion that you get what you pay for here.
Owner Chef Leah Sirijindapan heads the kitchen with her capable Thai local team. In addition to her culinary training in France and at Le Cordon Bleu London, she had paid her dues in her younger years honing her skills back home.
As a result Cha Thai’s menu offers her best family recipes and more; with some not so common Thai ingredients and preparations thrown in.
Modern culinary education has opened her mind to incorporating the best of technology in food preparation.
Based on online reviews, Chef Leah went as far as investing in a sugar detector to ensure the balance between sweetness and acidity in her dishes. The detector helps in maintaining consistency as well – I’ve read.
For other purposes, a sous vide machine came in handy.
However, rest assured that Leaf resolutely retains the philosophy of preparing the spices, pastes, stock and curries from scratch with no shortcuts.
Fabulous food, though at a price.
The Thai chatter from the inner kitchen was a good sign.
Boasting a majority of kitchen staff with Thai background, you can be assure of the “hand-skills” of the cooks as the very hands trained by Chef Leah is familiar with their home cuisine.
But the test is in the taste, so let’s get on to my tasting meal here a few weeks back.
Chef Leah sources locally farmed seafood and one of Cha Thai’s USP is the use of jumbo freshwater prawns in some of her seafood dishes.
I was wary at first, for big prawns tends to be a mixed bag of extremes – the size may impress, but more often than not, you will have to grapple with resilient and tough meat.
Thankfully these colossal sea creatures were treated with deserving respect, for they were skilfully cooked to a crunchy and tender bite, yet retaining its oceanic sweetness.
As the first of many dishes were served, we settled ourselves in this dining space which was comfortable but bears no inkling of the colorful Thailand that we are accustomed to.
Missing were the overboard use of elephants, Buddha statues, gauzy decor and the lotus flowers. In its place is a clean and simple space that is comfortable and well, uncluttered.
Perhaps the most eye-catching item to photograph in Cha Thai is their sauce bottles, which is so legit-ly Thai, but presented in dainty drop bottles!
In general Malaysians and Singaporeans are influenced by their visits to Bangkok and have had good authentic Thai food hawker-priced on its vibrant streets.
The popular belief has stuck – Thai food is not – and should not – be anywhere close to pricey.
Well, in Cha Thai, that certainly wasn’t the case; though easily justified by the quality, taste and portions of the dishes.
Heck, if you do visit, come in a group; because good food are meant to be shared, which then translates to sharing the cost!
Drinks: Thai Green Tea Smoothie (SGD4.50), Thai Milk Tea (SGD2.90), Thai Milk Coffee (SGD2.90)
Order a rich, full bodied Thai beverage while waiting to tuck into your meal.
Personally I enjoyed the Thai Green Smoothie for its floral aroma and smooth taste.
Thai Crispy Prawn Cake ($15)
For starters we began with thick and freshly fried prawn cakes. This reminded me of the softest and bounciest fishcakes, albeit made with prawn meat.
I happily ate two on its own, but a side bowl of sweet plum sauce provides a dip of sweetness if required.
Creamy Crab Roll ($15)
Long deep-fried spring roll sticks were next. Eat this as you would with your Pocky, but dipped in creamy crab sauce!
Tom Yum Vegetarian Dumplings $18
It is never fair that vegans are not given a thought on restaurant menus.
At Cha Thai, there were a few non-meat options, one of which is their piquant tom yum with plump soy dumplings and mushrooms.
I actually ate two because they were so good!
The Signature Tiger Prawn ‘Panang’ Curry ($28)
Good isn’t suitable to describe this dish.
This, I would describe as remarkable.
For curries, I’ve always loved the luscious, thick kind that are robust with coconut cream and spices.
Chef Leah spurned the use of sugar and favoured lychees for its natural, floral sweetness.
The prawns were cooked to the perfect doneness and bathed in the rich curry which was just finger licking good!
The Pad Thai ($22)
Choices of one meal dish are plenty here, but the pad thai was perhaps the most popular of them all.
This isn’t your regular hawker variant though, for the 2 tiger prawns alone had elevated the dish beyond that category.
It is also worthy to note that the rice noodles are imported from Thailand and renders a smoother texture.
Squeeze the lime over the noodles and tossed it with the raw beansprouts, roasted nuts and julienned mangoes for added crunch and zest.
Trust me, the 4 ingredients at each corner should not be ignored!
Baked Tiger Prawns Glass Noodle Claypot ($159 or $55 for 4 pax)
Another fantastic dish for prawn lovers would be this.
Despite my small appetite, I found myself having servings after servings of the vermicelli. Each strand absorbed the stock generously and thus was delicious.
But of course, do not forget the Tiger Prawns and its slurp-worthy roes.
Pork and Egg Noodles ($18)
I love this. Mildly sweet soup, generous slices of tender, sweet pork and bouncy meatballs, this is the answer to all porcine lovers.
Garlic Pork with Bird’s Chilli ($28)
If you are here for a sharing feast with friends or family, you can order dishes separately like kai lan with roasted pork, the pork knuckle, the lemongrass prawns and the garlic pork (among others on the menu) to enjoy with rice.
For rice, I’ll recommend the nutty, high-fibre brown rice over the white.
Sauteed Kai Lan with Roasted Pork ($18)
Simmered Pork Knuckled ($22)
Lemongrass Prawn Salad $28
Golded Brown Toasted Cubes ($8) with Pandan or Thai Tea Flavour
Desserts are a must here, specifically these toasted, fragrant cubes dipped in Cha Thai’s pandan or Thai Tea spreads.
Creamy yet not overly sweet, this could be a snack on its own. So do head over to Cha Thai if you are feeling peckish as the extensive menu is suitable for single diner, group dining, lunch, dinner or teatime.
Other lighter and icy desserts include Emerald Jade (green ruby) SGD8, Red Ruby SGD8, Sweet Corn Herbal Jelly SGD8 and Milo Dinosaur SGD8, all refreshing and not overly sweet.
I want to be critical about the food but the food was faultless even for my picky tastebuds.
Granted it was an invited tasting but if you were to do a quick Google, you will find pretty much the same comments, generally positive with some grumbles of the price.
All in all, you can expect a satisfying and authentic Thai meal here which I think is justifiable for the price.
80 Ayer Street
Tel: + 65 6636 3696
Waze: “Cha Thai”
Daily : 11am – 10pm (Last Order 9.30pm)