Boon Cafe at Jarern Chai Grocer

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014

Like a gremlin doused with water, Chat Thai has been multiplying over the last few years – with locations popping up in shopping centres and food courts. While each new location has stayed true to the O.G.’s mantra of Thai classics done extremely fucking well, their latest venture breaks all the rules (and still does things extremely fucking well).

If you’ve ever eaten a Chat Thai curry and thought ‘this would be insanely good on a sandwich’, sing your praises to the Lord of Holy Basil, because Chat Thai has been reading your mind and has opened their take on a typical Australian cafe. It’s housed inside their brand new grocery store, Jarern Chai Grocer, itself worthy of a long review praising its colourful collection of produce, both local and imported. A stroll through the aisles is the perfect distraction as you wait for your bowl of crab pasta.

What’s that? Crab pasta? At a Thai joint? It’s all par for the course at Boon Cafe, nestled in the middle of the grocery store. By night the cafe offers a traditional Isaan Thai menu – beautiful soups, noodles and curries as good as you’ll find at the first Chat Thai around the corner – but breakfast and lunch is way more fun, when the mother/daughter team of Amy Chanta and Palisa Anderson present a selection of sandwiches, salads and pasta that feature Thai flavours while avoiding tacky fusion label.

Between thick slices of sourdough from Brickfields Bakery, you’ll find thai sausage, pork larb, fermented rice cakes, smoked eggplant relish and a shitload of chilli. These decadent sandwiches immediately stake their claim for the best in the city – and before you start uninviting your friend who pretends to have a gluten intolerance, don’t worry! The sandwiches can be served as rice bowls too!

Swing by for a sandwich at breakfast, then return for a few bowls of pasta at lunch. The pasta comes fresh from Porcorosso and provides a good chew, a nice contrast to the soft rice noodles typically used in Thai food. The kamut fusilli is a highlight, the yellow twists of pasta turning even yellower as they soak up the spicy oil from pork sausage and slide through raw egg yolks.

The level of heat in each dish is a welcome difference from your average cafe, and if you find it a bit much, suck down on one of the house made tisanes – a sweet herbal tea that changes flavour throughout the week. After trying one flavour, you’ll want to return a few times to make sure you get through them all. Add Boon Cafe to the top of the list of restaurants that we’d be perfectly happy eating at for breakfast, lunch and dinner – leaving with a bag of groceries to take home.

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