Chim’s Thai Restaurant
There are a lot of restaurants that can serve THAI FOOD, but most of it is kind of a watered down approach. I mean, I ate in Busaba about ten years ago when it was one of the first THAI Chains, and it was nothing special, but maybe if you’ve never been to Thailand, you’d enjoy it.
A lot of food in Thailand is eaten by roadsides, because the weather is so hot, people crowd around plastic tables and sit around for hours drinking and piling tables high with plates and bowls. Even when it comes to street food, you can get some really amazing food from vendors selling pork broths and skewers. Usually, it’s just one dish that they have been cooking for years and years.
Now you can find some good Thai food if you go to Giggling Squid , but if you want something that is reminiscent of the food they actually eat in Thailand, you can go to a wonderful Surrey restaurant. Chim’s avoids the cliched image of Thai restaurants, there are no plastic buddhas or elephant sculptures. It’s just a bare restaurant with minimal design, but everything has been carefully set up for you to really experience Thai food in it’s totality.
The first thing you notice when you get the menu is how varied the food is. Most people are familiar with Pad THAI and curries. And if you want them, you can get them here. I first tasted their food when I odered their Massaman curry over the grim lockdown period. It came studded with tender pieces of sweet potato that I at first ssumed to be lumps of fat. The curry had been simmered for hours to create a velvety smooth broth.
When I came to eat last Saturday, I was looking for the kind of food I wouldn’t be able to make at home.
A common idea about Thai food is that it is very spicy, but many of the dishes here are more subtle. Take the Isaan sausage, which is fermented and served with peanuts. It’s not fatty but it was still juicy, and it turned on its head the idea that sausages are cheaply made and processed.
I ordered Tofu Larb, because in the right hands it can be excellent. Rather than the overused Thai basil, it came with fresh mint, and red onions – a deliciously summery salad. I remembered that larb is a popular dish in some parts of northern Thailand and I meant to ask why they had used tofu instead of beef or pork, but I forgot to ask the server. After this healthy opener, I needed something richer to follow it. I ordered deep fried squid, because you have to order at least one seafood dish when eating Thai food. The squid came in some insanely sweet tamarind marinade that nearly broke out of the batter, but was awesome anyway. And I think this one had some grapefruit segments in, maybe because they couldn’t get any pomelo (it is a challenge to find the correct ingredients). By this point I was buzzing from the Italian chardonnay and the huge array of flavours, but I wanted more.
After reading the list of curries available, I was most interested in the Hinlay from Burma. It came in a blue china bowl decorated with roasted peanuts and fronds of coriander; I inhaled the fragrance of fish sauce and turmeric and my heart pounded in anticipation.
The curry itself was gloriously thick, but what stood out were the slices of caramelised plantain that studded the dish. Beside it I had a bowl of virgin white coconut rice that I used to soak up the curry…. One glass of Singha beer on draft and that was me done, in just under two hours I had tasted the real heart of thai cuisine and I had only tried a small section of the menu. I was going to have to return.
In the end, I went back two more times. Like a film that you re-watch to get more meaning, I wanted to see what else the kitchens could offer, and it turned out there were more surprises. Street food often means food that is drunk with alcohol, so I wanted to try one of their cocktails.
Tamarind Whisky sour put a spin on the classic and made an excellent accompaniment to my deep fried tofu. But on the third visit, I was most taken with the Thai Tea-rimasu. Not enough people appreciate how good Thai tea can be. Redder than Chinese tea, it’s often drunk in sweetened form with condensed milk and sugar. But here, they use it’s bright flavour in a truly brilliant dish that is in many ways nicer than a standard tiramasu dessert.
If you go to Chim’s, you get the sense of dishes that have evolved over time. But it’s nothing serious or boring, like a dish that people are too scared to adapt. The basic ingredients may not change, but each time you try the dishes you will get something new from them.