Saturday, 2 March 2013

Yim Yam Thai Laos (Yarraville)

40, Ballarat Street, Yarraville, VIC 3013

Yim Yam Thai Laos on Urbanspoon
Scoring 84% on Urbanspoon, this is one of the stronger performing branches of Yim Yam. I have been here a number of times from the takeaway beginnings to the recent changes in the expansion of hte space. There I think there are teething problems with the latest changes and the food has become somewhat sweeter over the years and less spicy.

Nice Communcal Dining Space
The Place
The pokey little place with shared communal tables of yesteryears is gone. With the latest expansion, while the big long tables are still there, you also have smaller tables for 2 - 4. I believe they are still trying to figure out how to make it all work. It needs better sound insulation - at its peak - the noise level is incredible and bounces around like a high school mess hall. This needs to be fixed urgently or it's going to drive some customers nuts eventually.

I also have a comment about the smaller tables. They are too small and cannot fit the dishes ordered especially if there are more than 2 dining at the same time. With 4 dining, we had to put glasses on the side bench and eventually a main dish on the side bench just to be able to all sit around the little table.

Things to do nearby: Set in the Yarraville Village - quaint shops, cinema and friendly atmosphere.

Small table for 4 - barely enough space for 2 small entrees and eating plates

With the mains, there wasn't enough space, so we started using the side bench
The Food
The food is still very good and of great quality. There's a good range of dishes both traditional and innovative. The best chefs and cooks of this region pride themselves on the balance of saltiness, sweetness, tanginess, spiciness and freshness. Has Yim Yam got it right? In the past, I used to think so but more recently, I am beginning to think that there's a greater use of sweetness than anything other flavour in the dishes here. Some highlights for me here include:

Spicy Sausages (shown on the right) - great flavours and should be eaten with the side serve of lettuce. Because it uses low-fat lean meat, it is a bit drier than what you might expect and so, you might want to ask for a side sauce. Nevertheless, I like them.

Crispy Calamari - please do not expect Chinese salt and pepper calamari - this is not a Chinese restaurant. Instead, be prepared to be surprised by the tenderness and crispiness of this dish. Really good and recommended to all who don't mind a bit of batter.

Goy Guy - similar to the more common larb gai (warm chicken salad) served at most Thai restaurants but with small chunks of chicken (rather than mince). Don't worry about asking for less chilli here because when you do, they really give you almost no chilli. Needs better balance...

Generally, the curries here have been good (if a bit sweet for me), the salads are unfailingly fresh (but I prefer more tanginess), and the food here is never overly greasy which is a good thing. One thing I did find is that the food here is not very spicy, on the menu - they represent spiciness with 1,2, 3 chillies. I find that unlike their Collingwood branch, even 2 chillies here is barely a kick. Interesting as it didn't used to be like that during the takeaway early days. Have they really adjusted to the tastebuds of Yarraville over the years perhaps? Certainly, they seem to have a more Western clientale these days - which makes the adjustments understandable (if disappointing for me).

Goy Guy and Calamari

The Service
They were struggling with the new configuration of the restaurant. Though still unfailingly courteous, their ability to be effective and efficient is stretched because of the more than doubling in size and with that, more people and greater expectations.

I put this down to teething problems which I hope they will serve in the near future and with experience. However, even with teething problems, at least they are still friendly and welcoming.

I find the taste not as authentic and rich as the Collingwood branch. It's still good food, but I prefer the richness of the other branch. The noise levels were quite unbearable and the size of the tables frustrating. So, I'd stick to takeaway from here for now, till sound insulation improves (I must be getting old!).

Cultural Moment
Communal dining is a very Southeast Asian thing. Most of the main dishes here are suitable for sharing and the set up at Yim Yam encourages this. The food here works best when your you agree on a number of dishes to share and everyone has some rice, and then tries a little bit of this and a little bit of that. The main reason and logic for this seems so clear and natural to me. Yet, I see people ordering curry and have the whole bowl of curry in front of them with a little bit of rice on the side! I don't get it.

Think about having warm steam rice, and a bit of curry on the side, together with some nice tangy fresh salad to counter the richness of the curry, and a bit of stir fry with strong garlic to set off the taste buds. That's true Southeast Asian dining. Not a whole bowl of curry by yourself, people. Learn to share - it makes for a better dining experience - trust me - do it, and you'll thank me.


  1. Too cramped, too frantic. As well, in our pre-blog days we visited. My son was very young and a chilli beginner. So we chose a dish graded one chilli. It was so hot even I couldn't eat it. When I mentioned this to the manager, she blew me off with a dismissive shrug. Never been back despite the fact we're locals.

  2. This place has doubled in size since those days, so it's no longer as cramped as before. I agree that in the past, the dishes included really hot spicy ones but more recently - it's been watered down a lot more... I was actually surprised how little chilli there was last night.