"Crocodile what-what?" Tuulikki asks when I tell her the odd name of the restaurant we plan to eat at. It takes her a few goes to get the name right and even then, I'm certain she's not convinced. But from the number of seated patrons enjoying meals, we aren't the only ones to have noticed this oddly crocodiled theme Thai restaurant on a strip of town bursting with eateries. The decor is full of dark brown wooden tables, square stools, large sprays of tiger lilies, delicate spun straw orbed lights and ...crocodiles. Everywhere. And in every incarnation you could possibly think of. Even our waitress takes our order using a Crocodile pen. We don't know what crocodiles have to do with Thailand but they have an awful lot to do with this place.
A quick glance of the menu shows that prices are rather low, from $8.50-$12.00 for the most part. There are 8 different varieties of Som Tum (Green Papaya salad) which I adore so I know I shall have to choose one of these. Apparently the difference in each is the topping which ranges from tiny mud crabs (which I've ordered) to grilled scampi, soft shell crab and deep fried salmon. I had also read that the BBQ pork with rice although dull sounding, was good. And of course the crocodile chef on the menu just beckons you to order the Noodles Senior style where you choose the type of noodle (hokkien, egg, rice) then choose the sauce (thai basil, chili, chinese, malay or cashew nut) and then choose the topping (tofu, veges, chicken, beef, pork, roast duck, prawn or seafood). We choose the thin rice noodles with malay peanut sauce with tofu.
Looking around at the signs, there are specials that are written in Thai only so there must be a fair amount of Thai patronage. And should you want to call friends in Bangkok, they have two clocks, one set on Sydney time and one set on Bangkok time. The music is pumping and loud, especially towards the middle and back of the restaurant and the plasma screens show Thai singers singing various pop and disco songs like "I Will Survive".
Som Tum Pu (with small mud crabs) $8
Five minutes after we've ordered, our square plate of Som Tum Pu (with mud crab) arrives. Its a small but pungent dish. I personally love it but know that people are usually divided by it, only being swayed when being told how healthy it is. It is indeed tangy and pungent with fish sauce and packed with tiny dried prawns, shredded carrot and green papaya and very salty tiny black mud crabs. Some crab pieces are a little too big and when you're trying to chew them, it takes a good crunching with your teeth of the larger pieces. The salad itself is good although I must admit I find Sailors Thai Canteen's Som Tum better (and its not just because it comes with gorgeous caramelised BBQ pork sitting on top).
BBQ Pork with rice $8.50
Our BBQ pork with rice arrives next and its a huge plate with two types of BBQ pork. One the fatty belly pork crunchy and fried to a crisp, and another like thinly sliced Char Siu. The sauce coating the dish is unusual and strong with sweet cinnamon and star anise. I don't know if I love it as much with the sauce. One of my greatest pleasures is eating Char Siu with plain rice. To me the sauce is too mysterious and a little unbalanced and almost powdery.
Noodle Senior: thin rice noodles with malay peanut sauce and tofu $9
Our Noodle Senior arrive last and its an impressive tangle of rice noodles. Its packed with coarsely ground peanut pieces and vegetables with three fat triangular chunks of deep fried tofu and stir fried egg. I didn't expect to like this very much as I've found most satay noodles drowning in the sauce but this is subtle and nicely flavours giving the right hint of Malay satay sauce but not drowning or overpowering it. Its soft noodles and crunchy peanut and vegetables are perfectly seasoned and its easily the best dish of the night.
We're stuffed by the end of our meal and still no wiser as to what Crocodiles have to do with Thailand!
Crocodile Senior Thai
768 George Street
Haymarket (opposite Marigold Citymark)
+61 (02) 9211 6300
No split bills
Open 7 days from 11.30am until 10pm