Travelling along Oxford Street in Paddington, inching towards or away from Centennial Park, there is every chance one might blink and miss the carefree logo of Chubby Cheeks. The roly-poly faced logo of this Thai restaurant slim-fitted between Paddo Pets and the verdure of Strong Memorial Reserve, though congruent with its moniker, masks the intensity of culinary pursuits underway inside. Interestingly, in stark contrast to what I had expected from its jolly name, Chubby Cheeks evinced more modern angles than a mere take of linearity on contemporary Thai cuisine.
Stepping into the restaurant, I was instantly enraptured by the tastefully done interior. Earthy colours on the walls, subdued lighting and soft music rendered a calming undertone and completely obscured the bustle beyond the door. Wall mounted mirrors and glassware gleaming smartly on tables oozed the feel of a full moon being reflected from the stillness of a lake. Songpol and Jan artfully navigated that lake surface waiting tables with cheer and care. An extensive drinks menu, a food menu that seemed to have been crafted with much precision and a carefully set tasting menu (highly recommended to us) were served immediately. Most dishes are priced between $18-35 except for those that can be ordered by number. The tasting menu is $49pp. We went with the tasting menu and ordered juices to go with it.
Sipping on our juices, mine a pineapple one and my bother's that of an orange, I couldn't help but notice the dexterity with which action occurred in the kitchen. Before I forget, full points for the tall glasses of refreshing juices.
The first item on the tasting menu is the seared Hokkaido scallops. The scallops had been rendered soft and juicy with betel leaf and cashew nuts adding crunch, and coconut and lime imparting complexity to the flavour of the dish.
Seared Hokkaido scallop betel leaf(Image copyright of writer)
Second to be served was the Chubby Cheeks eggplant bao (eggplant was a replacement for crackling pork keeping with our preference). Both the bao and the previously served scallops had been prepped for two persons and thus, came in pairs. The pillowy fluff of the steamed bao bread stuffed with crispy battered eggplant was as soothing on the eyes as it was on the palate. Full marks for the bao bash!!
Chubby Cheeks bao with egg plants (instead of crackling pork) - Image copyright of writer
Next, in accordance with the menu, arrived Tea-smoked Duck breast and Banana blossom salad. Well, to say the least, this was a beautifully textured dish - medium rare duck breast held by a bouquet of pickled vegetables, fresh herbs and tamarind lime dressing presented on a bract of the banana blossom. The salad broke the bounds of elegance and donned a characteristic garb of cheery colours and healthy crunch. Points for the same - 10/10.
Tea-smoked Duck breast and Banana blossom salad(Image copyright of writer)
The last of the starters was Tiger Prawn and Sweet Potato fritter. This was a happy, hurrahing dish. The deep-fried prawn heads with sweet potato fritters which befittingly looked like prawn legs went crunch-crackle-crunch-crackle in our mouths. Though we had been advised to wrap them in the accompanying greens and dip in the sweet chilli-tamarind and peanut nam jhim, we couldn't resist popping a few bits as is. Full points to you too frittery prawns for the crunchy-munchy fun!
Tiger Prawn and Sweet Potato Fritters (Image copyright of writer)
The main courses were fish and chicken. Complementing them were a bowl sesame flavoured rice and wok-tossed water spinach in oyster sauce. Before passing on the brightly decorated green rice flakes battered fish fillets topped with herbs and green apple salad to its rightful owner, I took a spoonful. Ha Ha! Chubby Cheeks, you got me hitched to your crunchy treats (winking). Main for me was the orange-hued, silky satay sauce surrounded "crispy skin master stock free range chook." Chicken cooked to tender perfection, crackling skin, a crown of fresh crispy greens and that rich satay sauce, how could one complain. It was a flawless tasting menu.
Green Rice flake battered Fish fillets(Image copyright of writer)
Chubby Cheeks might be the shy little new boy in town, but it sure has got a firm foot jammed in the doorway of the Sydney food empire with bold imprints already making their presence felt in Paddington. From within composed interiors, its flavoursome food shines loud and clear with confidence and determination. And for all that, in addition to the pile of points, both thumbs up too.
(N.B.: Given the city traffic and the busy Eastern suburbs, parking could be a bit tricky even though there is street side parking all along Oxford Street. My advice would be to take the bus if you plan on visiting Chubby Cheeks as the bus stops right outside its door.)