Chubby Cheeks is the newest Thai and South East Asian restaurant to open in Sydney's Oxford Street in Paddington. There are dishes like a crispy skin master stock free range chook and an aromatic lamb shank curry and moreish drunken noodles.
And as someone who has always felt that she has chubby cheeks it's a very memorable name. And when I suggested it as a venue for dinner with Queen Viv and Miss America it was an easy one to say yes to. "I didn't go via Croydon but I did go past Bondi Junction!" exclaims Queen Viv when she and Miss America arrive from St Peters via Bondi to Paddington. The joke is that she usually drives everywhere via Croydon as her destinations often prove elusive because of her own unique sense of direction.
Chubby Cheeks is located at the former Max Brenner cafe near Paddington Markets. The atmosphere is dark and it is very busy this Saturday night. It's even quite dark to read the menu and Miss America isn't the only one to take out his phone light to read the menu (as do our table neighbours). Service is friendly and well informed but they could probably use one more person on the floor because once it gets busy it can be hard to get their attention. The fitout is pretty and shiny with exposed brick and lots of mirrors. It is owned by the same people that own Armchair Collective in Mona Vale and the chefs are Em Meechai (formerly of Red Lantern) and David Claesson (formerly of Glass Brasserie).
Clockwise from front: Thai Spiced Negroni $19, Prosecco, Lemongrass and Lychee Caprioska $18 Kaffir Lime Daiquiri $18
Because it's a Saturday night and we haven't seen each other in ages we order cocktails. It's a glass of Prosecco for Queen Viv and a Thai Spiced Negroni for Miss America made with Spice infused Fords Gin, Regal Rouge Red and Campari. For me I go for a Lemongrass and Lychee Caprioska with Aylesbury Duck vodka, lemongrass syrup, lychee liqueur, lime and soda which I really enjoy and for Mr NQN it's a Kaffir Lime Daiquiri with Flor De Cana 4yr Rum, kaffir lime syrup and lime.
We start with some nibblies-Queen Viv and Miss America love duck so we go for the roasted duck with toasted ground rice, sawtooth coriander and plum sauce on a squid ink rice cracker. There's just a little bit of filling in this but it's a tasty morsel.
Perhaps it's odd but I do like to see my food to see which bits I am getting and in the dark it is hard to see what is what. The tea smoked duck has a good amount of smokiness to it with a distinct tea smoke flavour. Along with sliced banana blossom there are pickled vegetables, fresh herbs and a tamari lime chilli dressing that is a refreshing counterpoint to the rich duck.
While the starters were pleasant enough, the mains are where the food really shines. The crispy skin master stock free range chicken is chicken pieces on the bone that are super crispy but still moist. These sit on a bed of silky satay sauce. You definitely want a bowl of plain jasmine rice to go with this dish and the sauce is very moreish.
Another favourite is the rich, nutty lamb shank curry which is meltingly soft. It comes with charred kipfler potatoes, cashew nuts, pickled garlic and escahallots. And yes this is another one for the rice. We're all murmuring how good it is when we're eating this.
I didn't expect this dish to be my favourite but it was one of those dishes I couldn't stop eating. It's stir-fried large flat rice noodles with the 12 hour wagyu smoked beef brisket, green beans, egg, chilli and plenty of Thai basil. It's the slippery soft noodles and fresh herbs punctuated with slices of soft, smoked wagyu beef brisket and wok char that does the trick very nicely.
There are just two desserts on the menu and we share both although they're such a hit at the table I think we could have almost ordered one each. The black sticky rice has that wonderfully nutty texture and is topped with an eggy, sweet pandan custard and a scoop of coconut ice cream. This disappears in a flash with Queen Viv declaring it her favourite ever black sticky rice dessert.
Although not strictly a Thai dish, the deep fried salted caramel ice cream comes as a large bronzed orb of crumbed ice cream with popcorn and a rich salted caramel sauce on the side. Memories of childhood ice cream abound in our heads and we take to this with vigour.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you like to see your food when you eat it or does it not bother you? What is the most memorable name of a restaurant that you have come across? Did you have deep fried ice cream as a child (or adult)?
This meal was independently paid for.
437 Oxford St, Paddington NSW 2021
Tuesday to Thursday 5:30–10pm
Friday, Saturday, Sunday 12–3pm, 5:30–10pm
Phone: (02) 9332 1886