A Sydney stalwart stands the test of time
A decade and a half since its arrival transformed Sydney's understanding of high-end Thai cuisine, Longrain remains a buzzing destination stalwart on the local dining scene. It isn’t hard to see why. The interior is fun but fancy enough, the service warm and accommodating. And the food? Well, after a long-overdue return visit, we can tell you Longrain is still kicking ass in that department, too.
Longrain was originally the brainchild of chef Martin Boetz and restaurateur Sam Christie, who has since gone on to open Cho Cho San, the Apollo and Subcontinental (plus Longrain in Melbourne). These days, the chef on the pass is Victor Chung. The man knows how to run a kitchen. It’s open to the restaurant so you can see everyone inside milling about – like worker bees, they stay busy steaming and frying and running around each other. They do it with such composure, it’s like a military operation.
The Cherry Pop cocktail is testament to Christie’s skills with booze. It's a clever combo of cherry liqueur, lemon juice and rose syrup that seriously packs a punch. The wine list, too, is expansive and intelligently curated. Go with the pinot gris – it’s mineral-like and dry, matching nicely with all the spice on the menu.
Food-wise, you should stick with tradition and start with the betel leaves. We like the smoked river trout option – it’s sweet with grated green papaya, hot with chilli and fresh from the mint. The egg net starter is legendary, though the egg itself is probably the least interesting thing on the plate. Shaped like a spider-web, it’s basically an omelette folded over a massive serve of crunchy bean sprouts, pork mince, and big, fat, juicy prawns, all tossed together in a sweet, zingy dressing with a cooling cucumber relish on the side. It’s perfect for sharing, and if you've got younger eaters at the table, it's a good choice – the heat won't overwhelm their palate.
The whole crisp market fish of the day – snapper on our visit – arrives with sour, mouth-puckering tamarind sauce. The entire thing is deep fried, but they remove the fillets beforehand. So they're cooked to soft, flaky perfection, and the rest of the beast can be picked and prodded at your leisure. Be sure and dig out the cheeks – they’re the best bit. The caramelised pork belly is sweet, sticky and gnaw-worthy, but if you have to limit your dishes, go for the Penang curry with duck Maryland. It’s deeply perfumed with kaffir lime, spiced just right with lip-tingling chilli and the meat literally falls off the bone into the aromatic sauce.
For dessert, the duck egg custard puts the toffee-like flavour of palm sugar on a pedestal. It’s a sweet and silky set custard that wears a crown of sour yoghurt ice cream on its golden top. It looks small, but is so rich that even if there are three of you sharing a table, you’ll really need just a spoonful each.
Longrain has its reputation for a reason. They know their bases, and they have them covered. Carefully prepared food; a considered drinks list and service that makes you feel a bit special have helped it endure in a fickle market. Its spacious share table set-up makes it fantastic for groups, families and one-on-ones, so no matter how you rock up, they’ll cater to you right. Popularity has its perks.
Read more about Sydney's best Thai restaurants.