When something spicy is on the agenda, Parramatta has the goods. Not only is Thai cuisine well represented, its specific regions get a look-in too, as do its international neighbours. While local favourite Lao Der is all about the bold flavours of the northeast, recently-opened Ginger Tiger crosses borders into Laos and Cambodia. On a warm night, there's nothing quite like taking a mini-trip to Bangkok with a sizzling stir-fry and a cool cocktail at one of Parramatta's top-notch Thai restaurants.
Thai Garden House
In this cute, welcoming cottage in North Parramatta, head chef Salong Khammountry whips up delicious dishes based on traditional recipes. His cooking is so good, he scored Best Thai Restaurant in the Sydney Metropolitan Area at the 2013 Restaurant and Catering Industry Awards For Excellence. Among the creations not to be missed at the Thai Garden House are deep-fried barramundi salad with apple or mango, red onion, fresh herbs and hot chilli-lime dressing; and honey soy duck with onion, mushroom and steamed greens.
526 Church Street Parramatta 2150; Open Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 5:30pm - 9:30pm and Friday - Saturday 5:30pm - 10:00pm.
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After 13 years running Thai Garden House, Salong Khammountry decided to expand with the opening of sister restaurant, Lao Der, just down the road. Here, the focus is on the cuisine of Isaan, a northeastern region of Thailand, and neighbouring Laos. Refreshing, aromatic ingredients, such as coriander, kaffir lime and lemongrass dominate the menu, along with plenty of fresh coconut milk. On summer evenings, the place is packed. House specialties include tum koong (papaya salad with prawns), zeen dad deaw (sun-dried beef) and pad lao (stir-fried noodles with lightly scrambled egg).
277B Church Street Parramatta 2150; Open Tuesday - Thursday 11:30am - 2:30pm and 5:30pm - 9:30pm, Friday 11:30am - 2:30pm and 5:30pm - 10:00pm, Saturday 11:30am - 10:00pm and Sunday 11:30am - 9:30pm.
Strictly speaking, Ginger Tiger, which opened in May 2017, isn't just a Thai restaurant. The ever-changing menu, based on seasonal produce, covers Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia too. Restaurateur Tona Inthavong is an old hand at the hospitality game: he's been running Green Peppercorn in the Sydney CBD, Fairfield and Blacktown for years. Stand-out dishes include red duck curry with pineapple, lychees, chilli and basil; and Ginger Tiger, a signature stir fry with fresh ginger, mushroom, baby corn and snow peas. Ginger Tiger occupies a timber-floored room canopied with multi-coloured umbrellas in the Collector Hotel.
100 George Street Parramatta 2150; Open daily 11:30am - 9:00pm.
Walking into Sauté Thai feels like being transported to South-East Asia. Bright red banquettes, pendant lighting and wall hangings covered in hand-written Thai script create a warm, authentic feel. The dishes, inspired by Thai street food, are fresh, fragrant and quick to reach the table. It's always fun to try one of the 'in-season' offerings. Come springtime, for example, these might include scallops with XO sauce, snow peas and capsicum or kai jeaw, a crab-prawn omelette served with chilli sauce. Another option is designing your own dish, by choosing a meat, sauce and style.
18 Phillip Street Parramatta 2150; Open daily 11:00am - 3:00pm and 5:00pm - 10:30pm.
A couple of kilometres downstream from the Parramatta CBD, in the laid back suburb of Rydalmere, is Baan Chiang, an unpretentious, family-run restaurant, dotted with vases of fresh flowers and placemats embroidered with elephants. There's space for just 20 or so, which means it's a good idea to make a booking, especially on weekend nights. The menu is big on signature dishes, such as meang kham (betel leaf filled with prawns, ginger, apple, lemon, chilli, coriander, peanuts and house-made sauce), larb ped (roast duck salad with red onion, shallots, chilli, lemon, mint and coriander) and a distinctive take on spicy soft shell crab.
390 Victoria Road Rydalmere 2116; (02) 9638 6332; Open Monday - Saturday 11:00am - 3:30pm and 5:00pm - 9:30pm.