Tidlom Thai Antique

Shop C1, 550 Lonsdale street (Healeys Lane), Melbourne CBD
Phone: 9606 0991

Remember two summers ago, when the buzz was all about ‘secret Thai’ on twitter? Turned out that ‘secret Thai’ was a little courtyard restaurant called Appetizer Kub Klam run by a couple of Thai restauranteurs, catering mostly for a small Thai migrant student population, serving up Singha in beer towers, and unapologetically spicy Thai food. Well, due to licensing issues – probably noise restrictions, as it was at the base of an apartment building complex – Appetizer Kub Klam has closed down (or changed hands, I’m not sure) and chef and owner Veeraschit ‘Top’ Piyapanee has opened a new restaurant called Tidlom Thai Antique.


Antique is somewhat of a misnomer, or an inaccuracy, IMHO. The decor is plastered with retro Thai television and movie memorabilia, as well as a slightly ridiculous number of light fittings that, thankfully, aren’t all in operation. Nobody likes to be that well lit while they’re eating. Oh, and if you’re looking for the place and can’t find it from the address, it’s down the alleyway where Le Traiteur is on Lonsdale street. Conveniently close to Goldfingers, if you’re that way inclined.

One of the great things about Appetizer, and now Tidlom, is that you’ll fins items on the menu beyond the stir-fries and curries you get at most places. Top believes that ‘food should be served as the way we eat it in our country with no adaption’, which might prove challenging for some punters, but I think is an admirable ethos. It’s a great thing to try new dishes, and Tidlom’s certainly a place for you to do just that. For example, where else in Melbourne are you going to find entrees of ‘fried softened pork bone’ – it’s essentially fried bacon, with the cartilage-y bits, and it’s awesome – and crispy fried pork intestines?


OK, well, you might find the fried pork intestines at a number of Sichuan restaurants around town, but you get my drift.


Also, fried chicken joints! These are, I think, fried chicken’s feet. All three of these snacks would be great with beer, which is what we were drinking that night – Singhas by the long-neck. They also have Singha on tap, as well as the ubiquitous Carlton Draft. And yes, for those of you with the keen eyes, that IS sweet chilli sauce! I guess it’s ‘authentic’ after all.


One dish that I loved at Appetizer, and insisted that we order, was the calamari with salted egg sauce. It’s actually salted egg yolk, and it makes a lusciously rich sauce that pretty much steals the show. So it wouldn’t really matter if you ordered the pork version instead. I’d like to note at this point that you’ll need to bring your glasses to read the menu if you’re at all short or long-sighted. The font is comically small, which was part of the reason we had to delay twice when the waitress came to take our order. Hopefully when they reprint their menus, they’ll increase the font size next time!


But I digress. Next up was the soft-shell crab fried, with a yellow curry sauce. This was similarly amazing, with lots of textural contrast, between the soft flesh of the crab, the crunch of the fried shell, and the goopy curry sauce smothering the lot.


We were a little worried about having too heavy a meal, so we ordered a salad. Only this was a bit of a missed step, because the fish floss ‘salad’ isn’t quite the light, refreshing dish that we were envisaging. It’s basically flaked, shredded fish – mackerel, I think? – deep-fried into a huge crunchy net, accompanied with a delicious ajar dressing, sweet and tangy, laden with red onion, chillies and cucumber. While I’d order this dish again, there are arguably more refreshing salads on the menu. I totally take responsibility for ordering just about everything that was deep-fried on that menu. I would advise that you perhaps not do the same thing.


We did also had the pud moo gra pow (pork with Thai basil stir-fry), however. Nice chunky slices of pork belly, with ample heat from chilli, and loads of basil.


In case you were wondering what we thought of Tidlom, here’s a photo of @thatjessho of Chin Chin fame. It pretty much encapsulates how happy we were with Tidlom. Get thee down to that seedy end of town, marvel at the oddly spelled ‘Corean House’ restaurant across the lane, and resist the temptation of Gami Beer and Chicken. Do yourself a favour, and have some delicious Thai food, the way Thai people want you to eat it. They’ve got 10% off dinner until the end of July, so if you get in before the middle of this week, you’ll save yourself enough to spend about two minutes in Goldfingers!


Tidlom Thai Antique Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Appetizer Kub Klam

285 Spring St, Melbourne CBD
Phone: 9650 8838

The heart is a funny thing. If it comes from a chicken it’s pretty tasty when grilled, it’s arguably the least useful of the Planeteer powers, and if not physiologically, the heart in each of us is sentimentally responsible for the highs and lows we all experience in our lives. Not to get too philosophical on a food blog, but emotions have a large impact on our recollections of events and places. And food. Which is why dinner with D is always an interesting proposition.

To be blunt, D broke my heart about three years ago. The interceding years have taught me that, whether you view it as cliche or adage, it is true that time heals all wounds; but it’s also true that some wounds will always leave a scar. One of the bones of contention which always existed between us was who was more Asian. Which is patently ridiculous, because I’m a son of Vietnamese Chinese migrants, and his parents are Italian. But then, I did grow up in rural Victoria, and he has lived in South East Asia for four more years of his life than me. His Thai is arguably as fluent as my Mandarin, but I think I have the one up on him, because my Cantonese is even more fluent than that. And my eyes are slanty.

In any case, when D asked to catch up for dinner recently, I suggested Appetizer, because he hadn’t been before, and from all accounts – mine is apparently not to be trusted in these matters, according to D – it’s pretty authentically Thai. In that modern Bangkok way. Without the glitzy orientalist finery, but with some pumping Thai pop tunes. I had been once before with friends, having been introduced to it as that ‘secret Thai’ place which @jeroxie was keeping from the rest of Melbourne’s foodbloggers world for months.

I was in a particularly good mood, having just been offered a new job, so I was uncharacteristically nonplussed about what to order; D took the lead and surprised the waitress by ordering in Thai. Perhaps he does have a case to argue after all. He certainly does know his Thai food, too. Of course, we had the som tum Thai – green papaya salad – which was pretty fresh, but there was something a little off about the seasoning. It was a little too salty for me, and D thought there was something vaguely plasticky about the flavour. In hindsight, it might have been the inclusion of fried shallots? I’m not sure if there were fried shallots, really, but I’ve had experiences with Nhu Lan’s salad banh mi where the combination of fried shallots and fish sauce resulted in a strange, plasticky taste. The som tum also didn’t have any tomatoes. Maybe this was because it’s winter, and tomatoes are pricey, but som tum just isn’t right for me without tomato.
imageWe also had the tom yum goong – tom yum soup with prawns – because it was cold, and soup seemed appropriate. Funnily, D said it felt strange to be eating Thai food in Winter; I guess it’s a marked contrast to the humid warmth of Bangkok. One of the things I love about D is that he’s insightful in way that I’m not. We think in very different ways, but they’re in playfully complementary ways. In many ways, we had always balanced each other out, just as  the flavours in this tom yum soup did; a great balance of acidity, salt and umami. A touch on the spicy side, even for me, but I suspect that’s because D ordered in Thai. If you like your Thai food spicy, you won’t be disappointed at Appetizer.imageThe final dish we shared was squid with salted egg. I wasn’t sure what to make of this from the menu. I was kind of expecting dried, re-hydrated squid, like the Malaysian dish, and I thought it might be wedges of salted egg – maybe it was a salad? Nope. Thai food knowledge fail. It was much more subtle, being calamari in a salted egg yolk sauce. And it was delicious! The sauce had a touch of tamarind and chilli, and a nice whack of palm sugar. It was reminiscent of a satay sauce – minus the peanuts, if you can imagine it – in that it was creamy, rich, warm and earthy, and you just wanted more.imageSo three years on, D and I are still close friends. We always were, and I think we always will be. Because sometimes the heart matters less than the stomach and the head.

Appetizer - Thai Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Chin Chin

125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD
Phone: 8663 2000
Website: http://www.chinchinrestaurant.com.au/

Full disclosure: @thatjessho works at Chin Chin, and she’s a good friend of mine.

It might just be because of the makeup of my tweetstream, but twitter seems to be abuzz about Chin Chin. And why not? It’s just plain awesome.

Chin Chin serves modern Thai food – executed exceedingly well by Andrew Gimber and his kitchen – in a comfortable, casual space. Think of it as Cumulus Inc., with a South East Asian twist, and less atttude. In fact, all of the staff have been friendly and great, and I’ve been in three times now. I daresay if I lived in the city, this would be my new local.

imageMy first visit there, Jess was telling me about the fitout, which I love, and how the place used to be the infamous Icon bar. Where the bar was often set alight, and all sorts of code violations happened on a regular basis, until they were shut down late last year. Take an impressive long marble bar, a theatrette commercial kitchen, and smartly re-configurable seating, and add a small modicum of quirky but warm finishes; you have a winning combination. Not really surprising, given the pedigree of Projects of Imagination (Cumulus, Golden Fields, Coda). And yes, they did remember to add hooks for the bar-stool seating areas. You’ll find them under the bar.

imageMore importantly, the relaxed but sophisticated feel of the place is not so much a facade, but a reflection of the menu. The first thing I tried was a Tamarind cocktail. Sort of like a less slushy margarita, the Sichuan pepper salt rim is the kicker which takes this cocktail out of the ordinary. I would have liked a touch more tamarind, but I like my sour cocktails really sour. I think it comes from eating warheads candies as a kid.

imageThe menu is broken up quite logically into starters, soups, salads, curries, bigger dishes, and desserts. You can work your way through it – I know I’m trying to – or you have the option of just saying “Feed me!” and the kitchen will send out a procession seven different items for $66 per head. Which is a good way to go, if you’re not adept at balancing a Thai menu. It was much like my experience at bo.lan in Bangkok, whose chefs, like Andrew Gimber, had also trained under David Thompson.

We started off with the Kingfish sashimi. Laced with coconut cream, lime and Thai basil, this is a deceptively simple dish, and probably a contender for the least spicy thing on the menu. The fish itself was wonderfully fresh – both times I tried it – and the flavour combination of the adornments works beautifully, especially the thin strips of kaffir lime garnish.

imageFried school prawns with nam prik pla gapi, basil, lemon and crudites. First of all, let’s clear one thing up. Crudite is just fancy French for raw vegetables. Which are a good foil for the deep fried prawns and the salt and spice in the nam prik, a Thai dipping sauce made of chilli, lemon, palm sugar and fermented shrimp paste. Especially the little witlof leaves, which are useful for making a little scoop and loading up a few of these little puppies for a mouthful of BAM, as Jess would say. I liked this dish, but I have to say, personally, I prefer my school prawns just a little bit larger, because that usually means they have bigger heads, which is where the flavour is!

imageNext, we had the spicy eggnet omelette rolls, filled with spanner crab and chilli jam. The spanner crab was wonderfully delicate, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the eggnet. This might have been an expectation thing, because when they arrived at the table, I expected them to be crunchy, but they were much softer, and a little bit chewy. Pro tip: they have enough structural integrity for you to pick them up and eat them like a spring roll. Don’t make the mistake I did of attacking it with a spoon and fork. It gets messy.

imageGrilled roti madtarbak. I thought this was more of a Malaysian dish than a Thai one, but there’s a lot of over-the-border cross-pollination between the two cuisines, I guess. These were filled with a tasty beef mince, and accompanied by a sweet and tangy cucumber relish. The roti itself was well made, with a super crispy top layer, that was super flaky.
imageInterlude: our entrees last night. We were seated in a slightly more dim part of the restaurant, hence the noticeably dodgier photography. But hey, we both know you don’t read this blog for the photos. We started with the oyster omelette.  Topped with a crispier version of the eggnet, this oyster omelette was fine, but I still prefer the super-crispy one at Four seasons in Hong Kong. The chilli sauce that came with it, however, was wicked!

imageSpicy corn and coriander fritters. Sorry, they look like little fried turds. But they were super tasty little fried turds! Eaten lettuce-wrap style, I quickly became a big fan of these. I could see myself polishing off a whole dish as a beer ‘snack’.

Anyway, back to my original visit, and on to mains. Ordinarily, I don’t get excited by curry dishes in Thai restaurants, unless it’s a red duck curry. I have a soft spot for that one. But this green rockling curry has changed all of that. It’s quite simply the best Thai curry I’ve had in Melbourne. The flavours are balanced expertly, so that you’re not overwhelmed by any one flavour when you first taste it. Indeed, I was a little worried at my first bite that I wasn’t going to like this – it seemed somewhat timid in terms of the level of spiciness. However, ten seconds later, and the flavours have somehow miraculously developed in my mouth – a clever slow burn, rounded out by the rich sweetness of the coconut, while still tasting fresh and zingy thanks to the lemongrass, galangal and shredded kaffir lime leaf. The rockling was also an astute choice for this dish; present but not too fishy, and practically melting in your mouth. Also, big ups for including pea eggplants. Little semi-bitter nuggets of joy!

imageSoy marinated crispy quail, dusted with Sichuan salt. Served with a lemon wedge and Sriracha, this was a perfectly good rendition of a classic dish. The quail was juicy and plump, and it was well seasoned. Somehow, it just didn’t wow me, and I think it might be better as an starter than as a bigger dish. That’s a fair bit of quail to commit to if you’re eating on your own, or as a couple. As a shared dish, it was ok. But then again, I wouldn’t recommend eating quail on a date anyway. It’s fiddly and can easily get stuck between your teeth.

imageSteamed chicken with Chinese broccoli and Miss Michelle’s XO sauce. A take on khao man gai without the khao (rice). The house XO sauce here was a winner, but unfortunately, it was let down by the chicken, which was a little over-cooked for my liking.

imageSalad of crispy barramundi, pork belly and green apple. I maintain to this day that the first time I ate at Chat Thai in Sydney, they served me a ‘green mango’ salad that had substituted granny smith apple for green mango. I lived in Viet Nam for a year, I know what green mango tastes like. But I digress. I like the fact Chin Chin’s making no pretensions about their ingredients. Because when it comes down to it, the green apple works really well in this salad. As instructed by Jess, it’s important to balance each mouthful of this salad, making sure you get a little pork and a little barramundi. The barramundi is quite salty, and the pork belly is sweet and luxuriously rich. Both texturally and flavour-wise, the two are an amazing match. Definitely try this dish – you won’t be disappointed. Winner.

imageInterlude II: last night we tried the tripe salad, a special on the menu at the moment. The tricky thing about ‘the specials’ is that they’re not marked on the menu at all, and as the menus/placemats are printed daily (I think) dishes have a potential to come and go pretty quickly. Let’s hope this one doesn’t go anywhere anytime soon! Essentially, this is larb, but take out the minced chicken or pork, and substitute some soft-yet-springy tripe. If you’re at all into offal, as I am, or even just as long as you’re not put off by tripe, you’re going to love this dish. A hefty whack of chilli and toasted ground rice sealed the deal for me, and @eatnik pronounced it better than the tripe at Chinese Spicy Barbie Kitchen, which is a big call, but she’s right. To be fair, they are serving different parts of the anatomy, but let’s not get into the specifics of omasums.

imageWe also had a Massaman beef curry, which was a little too sweet, and heavy on the cinnamon, but I didn’t manage to get a shot of that one. The beef was wonderfully tender, it was just the style of curry wasn’t quite to my liking. I did manage to get a picture of the wild boar, stir-fried in red curry paste with snake beans. But as you can see below, it wasn’t really a good picture!

imageWhich is a shame, because the dish is superb. A good level of spice, and yet the flavour of the boar still manages to shine through. You can tell it’s not just pork. It’s somehow more flavoursome, and has a touch of a gamey flavour to it.

Anyway, back to my first visit, and onto desserts. Ms S decided on the three colour pudding, a re-interpretation of the Vietnamese che ba mau or Malaysian cendol. For me, this was a bit too sweet.

imageOn Jess’ recommendation, I ordered the ‘floating gem’ dessert. And it was A-MAZ-ING. An island of mango granita is surrounded by a sea of jasmine syrup, which has judiciously been lightly salted, and around it float the gems of lychees, lime segments and toddy palm. The toddy palm was something new to me; it’s a sort of jelly, not unlike a soft agar. What I loved about this dessert was that it wasn’t too sweet. There was a potential for that – granita, syrup, fruit, jelly – but the salt in the syrup, and the little chunks of lime, make it interesting, tasty and refreshing. There’s another part of me, the wanky part, that likes the concept behind this dessert, because it’s something of a metaphor for a tropical island! Anyway, I highly recommend this dessert.

imageSo my impression of Chin Chin overall? Destined to be one of my favourite places in Melbourne. Aside from the problem I have with kerning in some of the branding – is it Chin Chin, or is it chinchin? – the food is amazing, the service is good (and handsome), and I feel comfortable eating there. They’re already packed out almost every night, and they don’t take bookings generally, unless you’ve got a group of more than eight, so RUN DON’T WALK people.

Chin Chin on Urbanspoon

Siam 1

65 Koornang Road, Carnegie
Phone: 9571 7334

Second dates are an interesting proposition. The awkwardness of the first date is gone, and conversation feels like just that, a conversation, rather than a job interview. Things are more casual, and I feel, enjoyable. Second restaurants, I imagine, would be a similar proposition.

When @msihua suggest I have my second date at Siam 1, I did a little research. It’s the younger sibling restaurant of Little Thai Princess, which seemed a little formal for me, as far as suburban Thai restaurants go. Still, Little Thai Princess’ menu looked good, and with many items also included in Siam 1’s menu, as well as @msihua’s assurance that the ambiance of Siam 1 was appropriate for a second date, I made a booking.

She was right. Flattering (read dim) lighting, and a warm, intimate atmosphere was pretty spot on for date setting. However, the constant staring of the waiter named ‘Trainee’ (well, that’s what his name badge said) at my date, to the point of making my date uneasy; and the proximity of the couple next to us having a mild domestic, these things were not so great. Still, I digress. This is a food blog, yes?

We started off with the son-in-law eggs. I recounted both versions of the story behind the name of this dish, and my date preferred the more, um, bawdy version. You can see why a second date was on the cards, right? Anyway, a son-in-law egg is one which has been boiled, then deep fried.

The eggs were nicely cooked, and the tamarind sauce had a nice balance of sweet and sour. I liked the copious forest of herbs which covered the dish, as the herbs brought a freshness to the dish which can sometimes be a little heavy, with the sugary sauce and the dense yolk. I’ve seen these in Thailand with a runny yolk, but haven’t tried them that way. I imagine it would be a different experience, though something tells me not necessarily better. I do like a hard boiled egg, though.

Next, we had the ‘Crying Tiger beef salad’. The rare beef was a little on the medium side for me, but the marriage of the toasted rice, fiery chilli and tart fish sauce dressing worked perfectly.

We also had a fish salad (it was barramundi, I think?) which was quite similar in ingredients – with a meat substitution, of course! – but without as much heat from the chilli, and a slightly sweeter dressing. Again, nicely done.
We rounded out the meal with a red duck curry, which was good, but probably a little too mild, and a little too sweet, for my taste. I did like the fact there were lots of vegetables along with the sizeable chunks of duck.
Overall, I had a great night at Siam 1. Part of this was definitely to do with the company, but the food also played a large part. I’d definitely go back again, even if the prices are a little on the high side.

Siam 1 on Urbanspoon

Yim Yam Thai

40 Ballarat St, Yarraville
Phone: 9687 8585

There’s something about Yarraville which is instantly charming. It might be the fact that the little village is wedged between a train line and a highway, and is pretty much a cul de sac neighbourhood that goes nowhere. As a result, there’s not a lot of traffic, and walking through the streets at night feels like you’ve stepped back a few decades in time and you’re traipsing through a little country town. So for me, it’s kind of nostalgic.

Anyway, I recently visited the Sun Theatre to go see the latest Harry Potter movie; which frankly, was something of a disappointment. Bryan came along with me, as my substitute date, after my date had rescheduled on me due to a bout of tonsillitis. In hindsight, after having had that postponed date with said gentleman, Bryan was better company anyway. But I digress. As usual.

Yim Yam is a cute little restaurant up the far end of Ballarat Street. The retro Thai paintings and album covers adorning the bright walls set a convivial tone. There’s a couple of long communal tables with benches, around which are wedged smaller tables for two. There are a couple of tables on the footpath outside as well, which would be good for summer.

The staff were a little harried throughout the whole night, but that’s more to do with the fact the place was constantly bustling while we were there.

We started off with some Thai sausage.

It was not bad, but I was expecting something less sweet and a bit spicier.

In the mood for some seafood, we ordered the pineapple seafood curry. It was certainly quite flavourful, but fell dismally short of the two chillies which the menu promised. It was really quite sweet, too. Still, not unpleasant by any means, but next time I’ll remember to ask for it to be extra hot. 

Bryan had steamed rice, but I like to have sticky rice whenever it’s available – I like the way it sticks to your ribs and leaves you full for ages – but rather disconcertingly, it arrived freshly microwaved (?) still in its plastic container!
But never mind, it’s not too hard to remove it myself. It makes you wonder, though; would it have been so hard for them to remove it in the kitchen?
We also ordered the Lao chicken salad. Now I don’t know anything about Lao food, but this looks suspiciously like a Thai Larb Gai. In any case, it was tasty and wonderfully fresh. Again, I would have preferred a little more chilli heat. Perhaps it’s just me and the way I like my Thai food.
As you can see, we enjoyed the food enough to polish it all off between the two of us (but you could hardly expect less from two such prodigious eaters, hey?).
Yim Yam has a cute little loyalty card program too, cleverly named the Khop Khun Card. (‘Khop khun kaa/krub‘ means ‘thank you’ in Thai.)

Yim Yam Thai Laos on Urbanspoon

Tom Toon Thai Noodle Cafe

241 Victoria Parade, Abbotsford
Phone: 9417 7447

Opening up a Thai restaurant a couple of doors up from the institution that is Ying Thai is either a gutsy or a foolhardy move. A move, however, which seems to have paid off for the owners of Tom Toon Thai Noodle Cafe, and has also further cemented tiny stretch at the Hoddle street end of Victoria St as a little Thai enclave, next to its much more sprawling Vietnamese cousin.

I’d been to Tom Toon once before, when Mr B and I had feasted ourselves silly on Larb Moo, Som Tum – not on the menu, but on the board on the wall above the counter – and pad Thai. It being a noodle cafe, I wanted to return to try more noodles. Though I was immediately distracted by the promise of “BBQ Chicken skin skewer”. Chicken skin? Hell yes, please!
Unfortunately, either I had been deemed not capable/worthy of eating the chicken skin, ordered incorrectly, or the chicken skin had been mystically transubstantiated, because what arrived were skewers of skinless chicken. Disappointment city: population me.
To be fair, the skewers were well marinated, and quite tasty, if a little overcooked. The dipping sauce was an interesting tamarind-based sauce, with a hint of chilli, and the ground roasted rice gave it a great aroma.
The disappointment started to fade when the Pork Noodle Gravy Soup (Kuitiw Nur Toon) arrived. There were four different types of pork in the bowl! From top right, working clockwise: boiled pork, braised pork shoulder, pork ‘balls’ – reconstituted meat is quite common in South East Asia, more pork shoulder, and the tan/orange-y things at the top are FRIED LARDONS. Oh yeah. Also in the noodles were some kangkung, bean shoots and coriander.
Check out the superfine rice vermicelli! Such an amazing texture. While it’s actually quite a pedestrian dish – it’s essentially street food in Thailand – the soup was so evocative of the late night cart noodles I’d had in Phuket earlier this year. When food so clearly brings up memories of great holidays, it scores bonus points. Bonus points also get given for things being cheap. While no match for the 45THB I paid for noodles in Phuket, Tom Toon’s noodles are still pretty cheap at $9.90.

Tom Toon does pretty authentic Thai food, but be warned: there are no curries at this Thai restaurant. Somewhat incongruous, but what they do, they do well.

Tom Toon Thai Noodle Cafe on Urbanspoon

Khao San Road

696 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds
Phone: 9372 9113

I was a bit bummed I missed the outing with @jeroxie and @eatnik to this Thai restaurant, even though I’m not a great fan of Khao San Road in Bangkok. There’s far too much reggae and touting going on there for my liking! Mr N and I dropped in a couple of weeks ago for dinner before a show nearby. It was pretty bustling for a Thursday night, but they managed to squeeze us in without a booking. Throughout the whole night, theservice was friendly, quick and generally impeccable, even though they were busy.

We started off with a little entree of chicken and tapoica dumplings, which were an interesting mixture of textures, with the chewy, gelatinous tapioca contrasting with the crunch of water chestnuts in the filling inside, and the crisp juiciness of hte lettuce used to wrap the dumpling. Flavour-wise, however, I thought the dish could have benefited from a dipping sauce.

Next, we had the lamb fillet curry and grilled chicken salad. Now I wouldn’t consider either of these dishes traditional Thai, but they were both certainly good!

The lamb was well cooked, but still juicy and tender. It was a slightly odd take on a curry; huge chunks of potato, eggplant and pumpkin are hidden beneath the lamb, and it came on a plate. The ‘medium’ curry was probably too mild for me, but still pleasant.

The grilled chicken was well marinated, and the judicious use of thigh fillets meant the chicken stayed juicy. I’m not sure about the use of more Western salad leaves, but overall, the dish was refreshing and tasty.

I really liked the cute little ceramic ramekins the rice came in, too. I’d highly recommend the trip to Khao San Road – it’s even better than the real thing.

Khao San Road on Urbanspoon

Sip in the city

A rather innocuous looking cafe/restaurant at the top (seedy) end of Thanon Suriyawong, opposite the alleyway where the ‘boy shows’ take place. The menu offers both Thai and Western dishes, like a fettucini carbonara.

Not the sort of place you’d expect to find Pad Thai greatness, but let me just repeat what it said in the menu: Pad Thai with soft-shell crab, wrapped in Thai omelette. For the record: win, win, WIN.

Banana Leaf

Basement level, Silom Complex, Silom Rd, Bangkok

One of the things about Bangkok that is a little hard to believe if you haven’t been there before is that there is good food to be found in shopping centres. I guess it’s that way in a lot of Asian metropolises, really. My friends took me to this place when we met up in Bangkok.

We had a few dishes to share, starting off with an oyster omelette and some stir-fried vegies. The omelette was alright, but really did need that sweet sauce which accompanied it. There seemed to be some concoction of cornflour mixed through the egg too, which left it teeling a little gluey. The actual oysters were good, though. I love a country where oysters aren’t considered a total luxury. The mixed vegetables were a bit boring, and far too oily.

We also had the Penang chicken curry, which was aromatic and spicy, but not overly so. It was what I would call a modest curry; it didn’t bowl you over, but was pleasantly satisfying.
The star of the show, however, was the twice-cooked pork hock. Roasted, and then braised, topped with chinese mushrooms, bamboo shoots and chives, the flavour of this dish was rich and deep, without being overly salty. The accompanying green sauce (something vaguely raita-esque) wasn’t really necessary.

Pum Thai Cooking School

Patong, Phuket, Thailand.

We stopped in at this cooking school on the main road through Patong (the back road, not the beach drag) because we had an hour and a half to kill before the movie we were going to see, and needed to get dinner anyway. Seeing as they had express classes, where you cook two dishes in 45 minutes, it was pretty serendipitous.

I have to say up front, the express classes probably aren’t the best, especially if you want to learn more than a process. All of the prep work is done for you, which speeds things up, but takes away the learning opportunities – asking questions about ingredients and learning prep tricks is half the fun of a cooking class I think – and it wasn’t much more than a hands-on version of watching a cooking show. That being said, it was still fun.

Mr N (seen above) cooked a green chicken curry, which was tasty, but a little too sweet for my liking. I should stress here that it wasn’t his fault, as you’re pretty much coached through exactly how much of each ingredient to use, so the result is pretty uniform. The recipes are just need some refining. The pad Thai Mr N also made was OK, but surprisingly had no tamarind in it at all, and the egg was fried separately to the rest of the dish, and not incorporated into the noodles. Weird. Mr N was also quite sure that the green curry was the source of his gastrointestinal problems for the next couple of days, but we ate a lot of stuff on holiday, so it’s hard to be sure.

I made the tom yum goong, which was pretty uninspired – we just used a tom yum paste, and the prawns weren’t of great quality – to the point I didn’t even take a photo of it. I also made a pad see-ewe, which was not bad, but again, I followed the recipe, and it was a bit too sweet for me.

I think that the longer classes would be more educational, as one includes a market visit, so I’d presume you get to do all the prep yourself. I think next time I do a Thai cooking class, I’m definitely going to learn to make curry paste from scratch.