Thursday 4 July 2013

Mr Nice Guy

Shop J, Little Lonsdale St. (Healeys Lane) Melbourne, VIC 3000
Mr. Nice Guy on Urbanspoon
This has been one of the most enjoyable dining experience I have had recently! Having anticipated this visit for a number of weeks, I was trying not to get my hopes up to high in case I started to expect too much. Well! I had nothing to fear. The atmosphere, service, and food were great and my only regret was I couldn't eat more. This is a licensed restaurant with contemporary Thai cuisine. If you are looking for classical Thai, you are barking up the wrong tree. If you are looking for something innovative dishes with Thai sensibility, this is the one for you. I can't wait to try the other dishes. So, in short, I will be back for more.  
The Place
The place has a funky vibe, supported by funky music. It has a great atmosphere and buzz. It is tastefully decorated with quirky lights and great colours, making the place look really bright and cheery without being tacky. It is well set up with just enough space between diners, and has pleasantly big tables.

It would also be a relatively child friendly space with enough room for prams. Parking is of course, a pain in this part of town especially during the day, but I suspect that day diners would already be in the city, and if you are coming in specially for dinner, there should be parks on Lonsdale most evenings.
Things to do Nearby: This is not far from Flagstaff Gardens, Southern Cross Shops and also Melbourne Central is only about 10 minutes away.   The Food The contemporary dishes here are really tasty with great balances of Thai flavours. The portion size are also pretty big and so, while it is more expensive than your suburban Thai, it is certainly worth it. The Mushroom Spring Rolls (pictured below) for entree was also a touch of genius because it is so flavoursome and unexpected. The crunchy spring rolls on the outside with moist mushrooms in the middle, served with thick sweet chilli sauce was a great start to the meal. It is served with a fresh bean shoots, cilantro salad with a chilli lime dressing.  
The highlight of my experience was definitely the Mr Nice Guy Famous Chicken (with Spicy Cauliflower, Leek and Jus), which was been poached in coconut juice and oven baked to perfect SEAsian tenderness. This means that the chicken is cooked just enough and might still be a bit red at the bone... come on! It's perfectly fine! Millions of SEAsians eat their chicken like this everyday and survive just fine. The spicy cauliflower had a great kick to it and the leek balances the crunchiness of the cauliflower nicely. Finally, the savoury jus provided just the perfect finishing touch, and I wanted to just drink it up!
Whole chicken with the jus on the side
The Som Tum here is of the variation that uses peanuts and relies on a balance of fresh flavours. The twist here is that they add a protein of your choice to it to make it more of a meal on its own. However, what it also does is to add another whole layer of flavour to the som tum... some yum!
Som Tum with Pork Belly, and Sticky Rice on the side
The Service Unfailingly friendly and attentive service, personable engagement with diners, and dishes that are served in a timely manner. There's really not anything I could complain about because even compared to the usual excellent polite and friendly service you would get at many Thai restaurants, this one still stands a head above. Well done and I hope it continues as the restaurant gets busier.    

I look forward to going again and really enjoyed my first outing. I would recommend it to all my friends. The only thing they probably need to work on a bit is the ventilation as the kitchen is in the same space as the dining area and like all places with that sort of set up, one might come out smelling like the kitchen if the ventilation is not quite right.    

Cultural Moment
Som Tum is your classic Green Papaya Salad which is one of the more famous Thai dishes around the globe. Not all som tums are created equal. Of course there are a number variations around Thailand but also in Laos and Cambodia. Some people are going to claim that the som tums you find in Melbourne are not authentic. That is strictly speaking, not true at all.   Back in Thailand, there are versions of som tum which are served with lashings of dried prawns and anchovies, or with brine preserved raw crab meat. Let's just say it does get pretty intense and it's not for everyone. These are also served with really hot bird's eye chillies. Even Mum who loves spicy food finds the raw crab meat in brine a bit too full on. Needless to say, I prefer the more tame balance of fresh flavours, typical of the som tums served around Melbourne.

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