110, Lygon Street, Carlton, VIC 3053
There are so many Thai restaurants in Melbourne and so many Aussies are now 'experts' in Thai cuisine, with their own preferences in terms of flavours. This is not surprising as other than Chinese Cantonese cuisine, Thai cuisine is probably one of the most familiar to Aussies.
Ying Thai 2, in many ways satisfies a broad range of tastes, and is one of the increasing number of non-Italian places on Lygon Street, which seem to congregate in the section south of Grattan Street.
This 2-storey restaurant is really comfortable and also has seating outside on the foot path. The multicoloured plastic chairs and table complement the murals of kids playing traditional games. The dominant colour is bright green and it does get very busy at lunch and dinner time. It does feel a bit like a student hang out at night, though it attracts a large number of office workers around lunch time. It's not exactly kid-friendly because of the limited space.
This is Thai food the way I like it - intense flavours with a kick. This is really authentic Thai street food with all the usual suspects but there are some highlights for me here that are not usually available in the most Melbourne Thai restaurants. Of course, they have the usual Pad Thai, range of Thai Curries, Fresh but Intense Salads, various Thai Stir Fries, and Fish Cakes. However, what I want to highlight here are the more unusual dishes which I really like.
Kao Pud Nam (That Fried Rice with Pickled Pork) - I like sour things and the Thai pickled pork bits in this dish is perfect for me. If you like sour and chilli together, this is like fried rice from heaven.
Kai Jeow Poo (Omelette with Crab) - Here's one for the crab lovers. This is really tasty and goes really well with rice. However, sometimes, it is a bit dry though mostly, it's just full of yummy goodness. They do a version with minced meat too (Moo Sub) which is tasty as well.
Guoy Teow Nuer (Beef Rice Noodles - pictured above) - Yummy peppery beef soup with flat rice noodles and tender beef as well as liver. I love this dish which is a traditional road side dish in many parts of Thailand. I wish more Thai restaurants in Melbourne served this.
Sai Oua ( Northern Thai Pork Sausage) - If you like pork and kaffir lime, you will like this sausage. It's probably a bit dry for Western sensibilities but should be dipped in Thai Sweet Chilli sauce to round off a really tasty entree.
The service is really casual and harried. They always seem to be under staffed or a bit disorganised, even during the quieter periods. However, they do get the job done but don't expect great service. I have to say that most Thai restaurants in Melbourne provide great polite service which makes this place a stand out for the wrong reason.
It's a bit of a student joint which is perhaps why it is so casual. However, they do serve some great dishes that I can't get anywhere else and their dishes have the level of intensity I expect from authentic Thai restaurants. Some might not be used to such flavours, being more used to the more watered down flavours of the many Thai Take-aways around town. One thing though, and as many other reviewers of Urbanspoon seem to agree, this place used to be a much stronger performer (and what's with the use of crab sticks fish extenders?).
There are many Thai Restaurants now in Melbourne and as I said at the start of the entry, many in Australia now like Thai food their way. I have been to my fair share of very popular Thai restaurants all over restaurants and many of them have somewhat different balance of flavours which might be characterised as follows;
Sweetness - where most dishes seem to be dominated by a sweetness of sugar, sweet chilli and even honey. There are some who do like these restaurants where the dishes are not too sour, not too hot and spicy and while the food still has a kick, it usually tampered by sweetness.
Minimised Spiciness - these places capitalise on really fresh salads and mild dishes that hint at Thai flavours without the intensity of most places you would find in Thailand. The highlights here tend to be more delicate flavours and the use of lime to replace fish sauce in some dishes. Many like these places for their freshness.
Intense Flavours - where the dishes are more unadulterated and might be too sour, too hot and spicy and too much fish sauce flavoured. However, this is how I have found many places in Thailand to be. Even the fresh salad like Som Tum can be intensely flavoured with hot chillies, fish sauce and lime juice. Nothing subtle about the dishes offered in these places.
So, take your pick - I do like all of them at one time or another, but my preference is for the intense flavours. What is great about Thai food is that the there are so many options now in Melbourne and whether it's salad or noodles or soups that you like, Thai cuisine probably has something for you.