Thursday, 21 February 2013

Inthanon Thai - Northcote

182, High Street, Northcote, VIC 3070

Inthanon Thai on Urbanspoon

This 88% scorer on Urbanspoon is quietly understated. They produce consistently good food at quite reasonable prices. It is more than a suburban restaurant, and should not be overlooked as a simple takeaway place. It is ideal for a weekday celebration where you don't want to go too wild but want a tiny little treat with one or two close friends on a school night. The one word that keeps coming to mind with this gem is that it is understated.

The Place
This is really a small place that in total sits no more than about 30. It is quietly intimate and no loud music, loud punters, or loud waiters. It has dim lights and is not really a place for big parties. They do have a wine bar.

Things to do nearby: At the top of Rucker's Hill in Northcote near the townhall - sometimes, there are special events happening at the townhall or you could explore the shops along High Street if they are opened.

The Food
The Thai food here is generally good, mostly authentic but not very spicy. If your average Thai joint in Bangkok was a 10 on the level of spiciness, Inthanon Thai would be about 5. Despite that, I quite enjoy the tastiness of the blend of tanginess, touch of spice, rich flavours and fresh ingredients. Highlights for me here include:
Larb - I love Larb and tend to order this dish when I try out Thai restaurants. My complaint with the one served here is that there's never enough! It's not crazy hot like some other places and you could even enjoy it on it's own without having to have copious amounts of rice to take away the heat.
Pad Thai - this dish is pretty good here and a slight hint of tanginess rather than many other places where it is too sweet (yuck).
Red Duck Curry - I like this though again the same complaint about wanting more.
The one thing that could be inconsistent sometimes is the Gai Yang (Barbequed Chicken) which could sometimes be a bit dry if overcooked. Mostly though, it's quite food and really well marinated.
Thai Tea - with a hint of kaffir lime - I really don't know anything about this and will have to ask next time I am there.

So, a Thai person would likely criticise this place as being a bit too westernised and not spicy/hot (and therefore, not authentic) enough. But for those of us who do not have asbestos tongues and like to enjoy the Thai taste without battling the Level 10 chilli - this is pretty good food. Trust me, I had authentic Tom Yum soup recently and one spoonful nearly burned my entire lips and tongue off. That's not going to happen here.

The Service
The service is always polite and lovely. The problem is when the restaurant is full and sometimes, there's still just the one wait person - she's not Superwoman - and you can see it's stressful and only so much she can do. Otherwise, it's all good. I always enjoy coming here because I always feel welcomed.

I would go here anytime I want a small dinner that I know to be a reliable place. There's another thing - this place attracts a really pleasant crowd. Something about the atmosphere perhaps inspires whispered conversations, ocassional laughs, and a sense of good will. Therefore, dining here is usually a quiet experience and quite pleasant.

Cultural Moment
Thai culture is simply beautiful and inspires one of the best levels of service anywhere in Asia (together with Japan). Service in Thailand and especially their restaurants are unfailingly attentive, delightful and welcoming. Therefore, I am a firm believer that a good Thai restaurant even in Melbourne should replicate that level of service - ok I might be stereotyping but certainly found that to be true in my experience.

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