Lanna Thai

65 Flemington Rd, North Melbourne
Phone: 9329 2960

This is another of the restaurants near my work, which my colleagues and I visit semi-regularly, when someone has a birthday to celebrate. Every time we go there, they’re pretty busy, but I’m not sure if it’s the quality of the food or the paucity of options in the immediate area. The food’s not bad, but it’s not on my list of favourite Thai restaurants in town. I’ve also been warned to be skeptical of any restaurant that references itself as Northern Thai (lanna means North).

The last time we went, I got the ol’ iPhone out and snapped just about everyone’s food. Exhibits A and B: Thai beef salad, and chicken pad Thai.

I had the chicken pad Thai that day. I was feeling a little uninspired, so went for the safe option. Also, I think pad Thai is a good way to benchmark a Thai restaurant in Melbourne (even though the best pad Thai is almost always street food in Thailand). Lanna Thai’s version was disappointing. A little bland, and lacking in the wok hei (Cantonese for wok air, or wok breath, which essentially refers to smokiness and the aromas which come from slight charring of the ingredients when they hit the searing hot wok).

Exhibits C & D: Chicken wrapped in pandanus leaves, and chicken pad see-ewe.

Exhibits E & F: The curries. A prawn Massaman curry, and a green chicken curry. I had the green curry on a previous visit. It’s good, but lacks a kick. In their defence, I didn’t ask for it spicy (though neither did I ask for it mild). I do love the little ramekins, which come on matching porcelain stands.

Exhibit H: The birthday girl finished off her lunch with banana in sticky rice with ice cream.

Lanna Thai on Urbanspoon

Thaila Thai

82 Lygon St, East Brunswick
9387 0659

Thaila Thai’s been one of my favourites for going on a decade now, back when I used to live around the corner from it. Massive serves of delicious curries and stir fries, with vegetables on the crunchy side of cooked are a winner with me. As are the very reasonable prices, which have slowly crept up in recent years, but are still relatively cheap.

I went there with my family not so long ago, which was interesting, because my parents owned restaurants for about 20 years before retiring recently, and are nothing if not tough critics when dining out. I guess that’s where I get it from. This occasion we had Kai Pad Gra Pow(chicken stir-fried with basil and chilli), Yum Nuer Yang (a spicy beef salad), the Pad Thai Moo (with pork) and at dad’s behest, a Gang Lamb (slow-cooked lamb curry).

The stir fry was tasty, the salad refreshing, and the pad Thai particularly moreish. The lamb curry was a bit odd; not bad, just not particularly Thai style, and I’ve been informed by a friend who’s been a Thai ex-pat for 5 years that lamb isn’t a traditionally used meat in Thai food, by any means.

If you get the chance (or if you’re getting take away) watch the cooks in action – it’s an interesting assembly line process where one cook starts off the meat, one deals with the vegies, and one sauces the dish. Not unlike a Western kitchen, I guess, but sort of novel in an Asian restaurant.

Thaila Thai on Urbanspoon

Malina’s at Aspasia Resort

The Aspasia Phuket
1/3 Laem Sai Road, Kata Beach, Karon Sub-District,
Muang, Phuket 83100 – Thailand
Tel.: (66-76) 284 430, Fax: (66-76) 333 035

We stayed at this resort in Phuket a couple of weeks ago. Originally, we were booked in for three nights, after which we were thinking of going to another island, or over to Krabi, but the room and the service were just too good, so we extended our stay for another four nights. Tip: book through for the best rate.

As part of our booking, we received a voucher for a free dinner at the hotel restaurant. Initially, I was a little skeptical, because hotel/resort restaurants aren’t always the greatest, and when you’re in Thailand, there are so many opportunities for great food to be had! But after a tiring day at the beach and by the pool (it’s a hard-knock life for us) we decided to be lazy and just eat at the resort. The free dinner was comprised of a three course set menu, which had pretty much everything on the a la carte menu anyway, and which allowed you to choose dishes from each of the Thai or Western menus for each course. So it wasn’t really a set menu, it was more of a restricted a la carte.

To start with, Mr N chose the spring rolls, which were tasty enough, but nothing to write home about. I chose a seafood soup from the Western menu, which was rather bland, and not even worth photographing.

For mains, I chose the Massaman chicken drumstick, served with a curious half-white, half-blue steamed rice. There didn’t really seem to be any flavour to the blue rice, so I’m not sure exactly what the point of it was. The chicken itself was well cooked, and the Massaman sauce (not a curry) was sweet with hints of anise and cloves. I’m not sure if Massaman is supposed to be like that, but it was very good.

Mr N chose the Phanaeng curry pork, which similarly came with the strange bi-coloured rice. The curry was creamily coconut-ty, and not too challenging on the spice-meter. In my esitmation, it was a little bland, but Mr N enjoyed it, which is the important thing.

For dessert, we stuck to the Thai menu again. I chose the banana fritter with vanilla ice cream, which came out in small banana chunks, as opposed to a whole banana. I think this might have been because they were using smaller lady finger bananas, which taste better anyway, so I was happy. I was also happy because this upped the batter-to-banana ratio! Mr N chose the mango with sticky rice option, which was great (mangoes were right in season then) though sticky rice was a little heavy for dessert after two courses.

All in all, the food was fine, but not amazing. We also revisited the restaurant many times for breakfast (included with the room) and the buffet spread was consistently great. I love an egg station which does eggs any style you like. I also love substituting croissants for toast; a little thing I do when on holidays!

What do you go for at a breakfast buffet?

Krabi Thai

259 Keilor Road, Essendon North
Phone: (03) 9374 4488
Closed Mondays

A cute little suburban Thai restaurant with bright blue walls, Thai ornamentalia everywhere, colourful placemats and cheery, prompt service. You know it’s authentic because they have the requisite pictures of the King on the wall (my personal fave, Rama V, in this case).

We ordered the Gaeng Ped Yang (red duck curry) and the Pad Prik Gai (chicken stir-fried with ginger), along with some coconut rice. The curry was delicious – sweet, coconutty and spicy, with just thr right amount of chilli kick to keep you coming back for more. I’m always a fan of fruit in curries, so the lychees and pineapple were a winner. The chicken stir-fry wasn’t light on the ginger, and the vegetables were still on the crunchy side of cooked. Which are both awesome things. It was a touch oily, however. The coconut rice was also an epic WIN, sweet enough to eat on its own, and with shredded kaffir lime leaves throughout.

It’s no Longgrain, but thankfully so. Charming without being pretentious, like a real Thai restaurant should be.

Krabi Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thai dinner party at my house

Beef salad with cucumber and beanshoots, and a lemongrass and basil chicken stir fry. But wait, there’s more!

That’s right, punters! Red duck curry, with mini eggplants, pineapple and lychees. I’m going to add okra next time. Forgot to photograph the chicken satays and son-in-law eggs for entree. Oops!