In Short: Spice I Am have been feeding Sydneysiders for over 2 decades, with dishes packing the flavours of Thailand. You have to try a whole fish dish like the whole snapper fried and served with sweet and sour sauce.
While the foodies clamour to be first to gram the latest food find that continues to define Australia’s culinary landscape (and I’ll be honest, we don’t mind sampling the latest innovative cuisine either!), there are some restaurants that endure. One of my absolute favourite restaurants in Sydney is Spice I Am. Before the Home and Chat Thai empires took a stronghold in the city, Spice I Am, was one of the hottest tables in town.
Fast forward to 2017, and by 6:30pm the love continues unabated as there isn’t a spare seat in sight. If you’re a trifle claustrophobic, perhaps it’s best to come midweek as the team at Spice I Am pack diners in pretty tight.
There’s no pomp or fuss with the fit-out. It’s functional, with a splash of colour to contrast the blacks and whites that keep it clean and minimalistic. All the energy is funnelled into creating delicious, flavour-packed food, fast!
Speaking of the food, it was a spur of the moment decision to return to Spice I Am, with the inspiration coming from a crispy fried fish I have enjoyed on each and every visit over the past decade. The dish that keeps bringing me back is Pla Sam Rot (deep fried snapper) with a sweet and sour sauce. It’s served whole and is spectacular. We take joy in removing crispy shards of the skin that reveal sweet, soft, perfectly cooked flesh. It tastes of the sea, yet, is elevated with the sauce of sweet and sour flavours. There’s almost a jam like consistency to the sauce, and it alone with plain rice is a treat. There’s a nice level of heat from the chilli and it’s balanced with the acidity of the tomatoes. It’s also a joy to watch fellow Coco and Viner Mavis dissect the fish ensuring every piece of flesh is consumed. Mavis was never a big fish eater, and I recall that the first time she had snapper was with me and at that time she wasn’t the biggest fan of the flavour, though I scratched my head at the time wondering how one could enjoy one of the best tasting fish. Yet, there’s no such issue with Spice I Am’s snapper, as she enjoys every last morsel of the fish.
A great supporting act to the snapper is the yellow curry. Thigh chicken fillets are cooked with potatoes, coconut milk and curry powder. A thick gravy, that is sweet and thick at first, and then builds to a nuanced heat in the background. There are beautiful aromatic flavours of galangal and lemongrass that come through in layers. Both the chicken and potatoes are soft and cooked long enough to absorb the flavours of the curry paste. A curry of astounding complexity and depth of flavour.
For little Coco and Viner Sammi there’s not much on the menu that her palate can handle, a Thai fried rice of chicken is perfect for her, and for us too! I appreciate the char of the wok that’s imparted on each grain of the rice. A bit of fish sauce and soy sauce gives it that salty, fishy hit. It’s light and fluffy and a perfect accompaniment to our mains.
Few restaurants can compete with the efficiency of Spice I Am. Our three dishes arrived within 10 minutes and we were tucking into our food, barely 15 minutes from sitting down. Flavour is not compromised and servings are generous. Spice I Am is the perfect little diner to stop in for meal on any night, and you will leave completely satisfied; well I did at least for about the 12th time. One of the city’s best Thai restaurants really does continue to endure!