Saturday, 25 May 2013

Paladarr Thai Issan

7 Rowe St, Alphington, VIC 3078

Paladarr Thai Issan on Urbanspoon
Upmarket Dining in the suburbs is rare but when it is done right, is always a treat. Paladarr Thai has all the trappings of a potentially good restaurant other than its relatively obscure location. It has some really lovely offerings which is topped with attentive and friendly service. While it is not perfect in all things, there is a lot to like about Paladarr Thai Issan.

The Place
This is a very nicely decorated restaurant with the right balance of traditional Thai paraphernalia and contemporary sensibilities. This is a really well set up space with heaps of room between groups of diners. There are also private dining rooms here for larger groups. It is a fully carpeted and curtained restaurant, which means that you are very likely to get a nice quiet meal and be able to hear the conversation without having to raise your voice. They also don't feel the need to play loud distracting music, which is nice. Parking is usually ok in the evenings around the restaurant and where the Alphington Train Station is.

Things to do Nearby: This is a first so far - there's NOTHING to do nearby.

The Food
There is a lot to like about the freshly cooked dishes here. The ingredients are really lovely and the only issue for me is the portion size - they tend towards the smaller size. Otherwise, most of the dishes are really quite lovely and meant to be shared. There are not a lot of very spicy chilli offerings on the menu. They have gone for the lightly spiced range of Thai dishes. The one real disappointment for me here is that they don't serve Thai tea! Here are some of the highlights for me;

Creamy Crumbled Pork in Coconut Milk (pictured above) is a lovely starter and really delicate, great with the pieces of roti, and fresh vegetables.

Northern Thai (Lean) Pork Sausages (pictured below) here have a really lovely taste but because of the use of only lean meat, it tends to be a bit dry. However, I am happy to put up with a little bit of driness for health because the flavours are atill there.

They also do a spectacular Deep Fried Whole Fish with a salad. It's simply beautifully balanced in terms of both flavours and textures. The green apple, green mango and cashew salad is completely refreshing but tangy, to balance out wiht the savoury crispy fish. So Yummy!

Their range of curries are never over spicy and may not have enough kick for the diehard Thai chilli fans. However, even for the diehard fans, the Mussaman Curry (pictured left) is a hard to criticise, as the curry which usually has the least chilli. The Mussaman here is really tasty and the beef is close to melting in your mouth. They tend to add the nuts in at the end so that they are still crunchy.

I have to say though that they do serve a range of 'Thai inspired' desserts which do not necessarily appeal to me. I prefer my Thai desserts more traditional but the ones here are completely contemporary, including Rickett's Point icecreams, coconut panacottas and of course the lemon tart pictured here.

The Service
Basic flavoursome Pork Belly and Chinese Broccoli
The service here is what you would expect from a fine dining restaurant. They are very attentive, friendly and most willing to explain how things work and what the dishes are. The food comes out in a timely manner and different courses are very well timed. The hot towels at the very end is such a lovely touch.

When I feel like a nice relaxed meal where I won't be hurried and can expect great service and am happy to pay a little bit more, but can't be bothered going into town, this would be my go to place. For a bit of a special meal, without worrying about having really spicy food, this is not a bad place to go back to.

One of the few places in Melbourne that serves Betel Leaves
Cultural Moment
There is a range of Thai curries and I am going to be talking about them here. In many Thai places in Melbourne, you could have any of the styles of curries with any protein. I just don't think that's quite right because each of the curries have quite a specific flavour that does go better with a particular protein.

Gang Keow Wan (Green Curry), green from the additional coriander, green chillies, basil and kaffir lime, this is probably the most famous ad popular curry. Usually meant to be a bit sweeter and less hot than the red curry. The best meat for this is chicken pieces (not necessarily breast meat only).

Gang Phet (Red Curry), is supposed to be a whole lot hotter with red chillies (fresh and dried) being the main event of the paste. The paste here is also used for Tod Mun Pla (Thai fishcakes). This strong curry tends to be good with red meats, especially roast duck or sliced beef. Sometimes, fruit is added here for natural sweetness to tamper the hotness of the chillies.

Gang Pa (Jungle Curry) from northern Thailand, with no coconut milk to tame the chillies here. This is a watery curry and it's like chilli soup, perfect with wild boar or pork.

Gang Mussamun (Peanut Curry), is introduced by the Muslims to Thailand, and is a less chilli hot curry, but uses quite a bit of cumin, coriander seeds and usually includes star anise. This curry is mild and works really well in combination with potato, nuts and chunky pieces of beef, or tofu.

Gang Som (Sour Curry) is another curry which generally doesn't use coconut milk, but fish stock and some tamarind would be perfect, as well as pineapple in the soup. You can probably guess that this would be great with talay (seafood) and any number of fish.

Gang Kari (Yellow Curry) uses tumeric and both coconut cream and coconut milk, making it a very rich curry - not always thick like mussamun but the coconut milk does make it rich. It's also usually a bit less spicy than the other curries. Chicken on the bone goes really well with this.

Gang Panang (Penang Curry) is influenced by the northern Malaysian Penang region, and uses coconut milk It also uses cumin and is a lot less sweet than Mussamun curry. Usually suits chicken pieces.

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