The opening of Bangkok-based chef David Thompson's restaurant at Marina Bay Sands has been keenly anticipated for the past six months. That is largely because the Australian-born chef's Thai restaurant in Bangkok, Nahm, was voted No. 1 on the Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list last year.
It dropped to No. 7 this year but, as the list was announced barely a week before Long Chim's opening last month, it did not dampen expectations very much.
But the fact is, Long Chim - Thai for "come and taste" - is very different from Nahm.
Unlike the fine-dining Thai restaurant, this one serves Thai street fare, albeit in stylish surroundings that boast floor tiles with beautiful patterns, woodpanelled walls and ceilings, as well as bathrooms painted with quirky murals.
Despite the chef's celebrity status and the eatery's location next to top-end celebrity restaurant Waku Ghin, Long Chim's prices are pleasantly affordable.
They are much higher than what you pay at Bangkok street stalls, certainly, but lower than what some of the five-star hotel cafes here charge.
For example, a serving of three chunky beef skewers - the Thai version of satay - costs $12. When I turn up in a group of four at one dinner, the restaurant serves four skewers instead and charges me $15.
And noodle dishes, such as pad thai, a popular fried rice noodle in Bangkok, cost from $20 to $25.
I generally find the seasonings a bit heavy, although that was not always so during my three visits over the past three weeks. The food was salty during the first and last visit, but perfect the second time. I can only surmise that the cooks are still tweaking the seasonings to suit Singapore palates.
One thing that has been consistent on each visit is the spice level. Many of the dishes are fiery hot.
That is how the Thais like it, so I am glad Long Chim is not compromising on the authenticity of the cooking. But the chilli level may be higher than what many Singaporeans can handle, so be warned.
To make it easier, I will split my recommended dishes into spicy and non-spicy ones.
Those who like it hot should order the Dried Prawns With Ginger, Toasted Coconut And Betel Leaves ($6). This is more commonly known as Miang Kham in Thai and consists of ingredients including dried shrimp, ginger, toasted coconut, chopped nuts and shallots wrapped in a fresh betel leaf. Binding everything is a thick, sweet-and-spicy paste that causes a slow burn in the mouth. As you chew, different tastes pop up and your palate sends out one pleasure signal after another.
I like Miang Kham and the version here is certainly one of the best I have eaten.
The Grilled Long Eggplant Salad And Steamed Egg ($21) is excellent too. Long strips of steamed eggplant are dressed in a sour and spicy dressing that is irresistible. The egg is there to balance the sharp flavours. When the sour and hot flavours get too much for you, take a bite of it and you will find the acidity and flames quickly doused.
Another spicy dish not to be missed is the Sour Orange Curry Of Snakehead Fish With Water Mimosa ($22). The fiery and sour flavours complement the fish very well and while the water mimosa - what we call watercress here - may be an odd ingredient in a curry, it does no harm.
The Stir-fried Squid With Chillies, Green Peppercorns And Basil ($20) is another dish I cannot resist. The baby squid is delicious, but look out for the bunches of peppercorn. Under the dim lighting, I mistakenly put a bunch in my mouth and the next minute sees me spitting out peppercorns in quick succession.
Those who do not enjoy spicy food have fewer choices. If you have strong jaws, go for the Grilled Squid - Southern Style ($16). It is delicious, though the dried squid requires a good amount of chewing.
The Grilled Chicken With Sweet Chilli Sauce ($16) is a safe bet. It is not very exciting, but is well-marinated and the chicken is moist and tender. The chilli sauce comes on the side, so disregard it as you wish.
The noodle dishes are also good choices. My favourite is the Charred Rice Noodles With Pork And Yellow Beans ($20), a very tasty version of Cantonese hor fun. It boasts a lovely smokey aroma.
The desserts are not very impressive here. I like only one: Coconut Cake ($10). The slightly charred kueh has a pleasant soft texture and a lovely aroma of coconut. It is not too sweet either.
Follow Wong Ah Yoke on Twitter @STahyoke
SundayLife! paid for its meals at the eatery reviewed here.
Atrium 2, L2-02
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, tel: 6688-7299
Open: 5 to 11pm daily. It will open for lunch in a few months.
Price: Budget about $50 a person. Less if you order just a plate of noodles for yourself
Dried Prawns With Ginger, Toasted Coconut And Betel Leaves ($6)
The fragrance of the toasted coconut makes this more memorable than other versions of Miang Kham I have eaten.
This article was first published on April 3, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.