Spice I Am, Surry Hills

I have eaten at this favourite Thai restaurant so many times I thought it was about time I blogged about it. It’s become our default option every time we go to Belvoir St Theatre which is a brisk 10 minute walk further up Elizabeth Street. Everything we have eaten here is so fantastically full of flavour – and we try to sample new things every time – that we never tire of it.

Small, low-key, bustling and spilling out of its open frontage onto the street, this place at 90 Wentworth Avenue is the original of what is now a stable of four Thai eateries watched over by co-owner and Head Chef Sujet Saenkham. There’s also House (literally around the corner) which specialises in cuisine from Isaan in North Eastern Thailand, packing quite a punch with predominantly salty, sour and chili flavours; a much larger and fancier Spice I Am in Darlinghurst; and the newest member of the family, Spice I Am Balmain.

As is usual on approach to the Surry Hills joint, there’s a queue of people waiting for a table. The friendly, efficient, T-shirt-clad Thai girls who staff the restaurant will add your name to the list and take a phone number in case you want to go and have a drink nearby. While you’re at it, pick up a bottle of wine or some beers (there’s a bottlo at Triple Ace Bar on the opposite corner) as the restaurant is BYO only. Fortunately we’re early enough (6.15pm!) that we don’t need to wait too long.

This time we go for yum woon saen, a mung bean vermicelli salad with minced pork, cuttlefish, prawns, dried shrimp and peanuts. The key flavours are lime juice, fish sauce and lots of chilli (as could be said of many Thai dishes!) but it’s so much more than that, and the textures of slippery noodles, nuggets of meat and seafood, and crunchy peanuts are just fabulous.

Mung bean vermicelli salad with pork, prawns, dried shrimp and peanuts

Mung bean vermicelli salad with pork, cuttlefish, prawns, dried shrimp and peanuts, Spice I Am

We also get the deep-fried whole fish topped with tamarind sauce which is so yummy that we pick the bones clean and scoop up every morsel of the sweet-sour, fruity, jammy sauce.

Whole deep fried fish with tamarind sauce

Whole deep fried fish with tamarind sauce, Spice I Am

On previous trips here we’ve eaten the red duck curry with lychees and pineapple; pad prik king with crispy pork belly; crispy pork belly stir fried with Chinese brocoli, chilli and oyster sauce (yes, we really like pork belly!); green papaya salad with dried shrimp, peanuts and chilli; and the chu chee curry which is the most decadent combination of deep-fried protein in a rich, creamy sauce infused with kaffir lime leaves.

There are very few places we’ve tasted Thai as good as this, even in Thailand. And you’ll likely come away with change from $50 for two. According to their website, even Thai travellers to Sydney say you can’t get Thai food as authentic as this even in Bangkok anymore. So, if you love Thai food and you haven’t yet been to Spice I Am… well, what the heck are you waiting for?!

Spice I Am
90 Wentworth Avenue, Surry Hills
Visited 28 August 2012