You don’t fancy a sarnie by any chance do you? Well if you do, Boon Cafe has just the sandwich for you, along with rice, noodles and even pasta dishes. It’s an intriguing mashup of contemporary cafe offerings infused with Thai flavours from the Chat Thai team . Boon Cafe’s setup is unique, being co-located within a Thai grocery store Jarern Chai. The location? In the middle of Thai town, midway between Central Station and Town Hall on Pitt Street.
I for one love the atmosphere of the cafe. Retro design elements are dotted around the cafe along with a smattering of butcher tiles and pendant lights. An intricately stenciled front glass facade is a standout against the dull, older styled shopfronts on this end of Pitt St. There’s an energy as customers mill around looking for their condiments and stocking up on fresh produce that are a hallmark of Thai cuisine. Seating is a premium but is no problem for us on the wettest day of the day of the year, but I can imagine on any other Saturday, that the cafe would fill pretty quickly.
On Boon Café’s website, one of their promises is to provide customers a place where we can “…find the comfort of familiar ingredients combined in completely new ways with artisanal goods from the best local purveyors they know…”
For me, there is no dish in their menu that reflects this promise more than their duck noodles. When I was impressionable little person growing up in Singapore, next to my childhood house, there used to be a hawker stall that sold duck noodles. Hence when I say I grew up eating duck noodles, I do mean it literally. Who would have thought that many decades later, I would find those familiar flavours here in Sydney.
Duck Noodles Soup is a simple dish comprising fresh egg noodles with roasted duck and five spice broth. But it’s the five spice broth which elevates the dish. It is a dark broth, infused with flavours of soya sauce and Chinese five spice which is a blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechwan peppercorns. Some recipes also contain ginger, nutmeg, and licorice. Done well, like in the case of Boon Café’s duck noodle, the broth is not oily, yet packed full of intoxicating flavours and aromas, allowing you to happily slurp the soup guilt-free. The roast duck provides a smoky sweet meaty component to this dish. Other garnishes to the dish includes bean sprouts, basil, coriander, chopped green onions and a teaspoonful of special chilli jam. The addition of the wedge of lime by Boon Café is probably what sets their version of duck noodles apart from the rest, as that is not normally found in other version of duck noodles that I have tasted. When you combine everything in the bowl together, it just blends together is a harmonious manner, with a fiery kick from the chilli jam and slight tartness from the lime. If you’re feeling under the weather or simply craving comfort food, give their duck noodles a try.
From Italy to Sydney via Bangkok is a dish of sai ouah kamut pasta. This is what Boon Cafe is all about, with fusili pasta which is fashioned out of an ancient grain which is termed kamut. The pasta is tender with the slightest bit of bite, it’s accompanied with a spicy pork sausage. The egg binds the dish together nicely and the cabbage tames the spice as well adding texture to the plate. Basil, chilli flakes and caramelised onions continue to build flavour through each spoonful. Fusili isn’t just a novelty as the twirls traps the garnishes and the egg. Overall an inspired creation which packed flavour. While traditional Asian noodle dishes are robustly constructed, Boon’s creation is put together with a defter touch. I will be telling folks about this fusili dish for a while to come!
Boon Cafe doesn’t shirk its responsibility in providing patrons with a burger, and it does so with a som dtum gai todt aka green papaya salad with fried chicken. I have always been a fan of green papaya salad. It’s a salad that is the epitome of Thai cuisine. It’s fresh, tangy and feisty. At Boon Cafe, they pare back the heat and combine it with supremely crispy chicken which is cooked through perfectly. The balance of flavours are a highlight. I am particularly impressed that the chicken remains crispy despite a wet salad wedged between the two soft buns. Usually burgers need lashings of mayo and tomato sauce to lift the flavour, but not so with the som dtum gai todt. The sourness of the green papaya is like any good pickle and fresh tomatoes, combined with a little chilli are perfect partners to the chicken.
If you feel like a warm drink, but don’t feel like a hot chocolate, tea or coffee, the next best option is usually a latte. There are many kinds of lattes, like an Espresso Latte, Chai Latte, or even just a normal Coffee Latte. My personal favourite is matcha latte. A good match latte is not easy to make, as you have to be able to strike a balance between the milk and green tea powder. Too much milk and it would be like drinking bland warm milk. Too much green tea powder and it would be too sweet and the whole drink would be overpowered by green tea flavours. In addition, the type of green tea powder used, plays a huge part in ensuring that each matcha latte comes out perfect. If the green tea powder blend is not fine enough, it would not dissolve properly in the warm milk, causing the drink to develop a chalky unpleasant texture. Boon Café is one of the few places that have nailed their matcha latte offering! It is not sweet, and you get the frothy milk flavours with green tea flavours permeating through perfectly. To top it all off, they gave me a cute bear coffee art in my latte, which is the icing on a perfect cake. On a cold winter’s day, few things are as comforting as cupping a beautifully crafted matcha latte!
To round out a great bunch, I finished with a cappuccino. I had sampled a coffee the previous day and came away impressed, so I knew what to expect. The coffee is Single Origin Killerbee blend. It’s a blend of beans from Ethopia, India and Mexico. I enjoyed the sweet honey notes with a milk chocolate finish. Textures are creamy, and while not overly acidic, there’s enough strength to cut through the milk and deliver a well rounded coffee. So not only can the kitchen deliver, the coffee is on equal footing!
I walked away from Boon Cafe thoroughly impressed with their Thai-Euro-Australian cafe offerings. The bonus is, the menu is so extensive that I need to come back for breakfast AND of an evening, the cafe transforms to an Isaan eatery. Boon has you covered morning, noon and night!