It’s always such a pleasure when you go out to dinner and the food is unexpectedly good.
Traditional Thai’s head chef John Verano learnt from Sydney Thai cuisine guru David Thompson, and the restaurant, which is located just next to Orient Express in Fletcher St, serves the unique, quality dishes that should be part of eating out in Byron.
John and his partner Marianna, who directs front of house, are a very personable couple who are passionate about their restaurant.
Each individual plate of food is separately prepared completely from scratch (so be prepared to share and have your food arrive when it’s ready; it’s worth it) and Marianna prepares all the cocktails herself to unique recipes that she has developed to complement the food.
From the first sip my wife declared that if nothing we subsequently ate was any good, that she’d still be coming back for the cocktails. I tested out John by ordering a side dish of wok-tossed morning glory, (the only dish I could afford at my favourite Adelaide Thai restaurant as a student), and amazingly John’s version ($12) with soft tofu and gai lan equalled my sentimental memory (which 25 years ago cost $10).
Although the dishes are not ‘mainstream’, this is not immediately apparent from the deliberately simple menu, so the casual website menu browser might think that my ‘vegan yellow curry of roasted pumpkin and okra’ ($24) could be ordinary.
It wasn’t. This dish surprised me with the freshness of its rich warm flavours.
And speaking of pleasant surprises, this was my first experience of the white Austrian wine gruner veltliner, grown since 2010 by Hahndorf Hill.
The 2012 vintage GRU from the restaurant wine list was voted the best example of the variety grown outside Austria; it’s a pure and minerally wine that is food friendly for vegetarians (such as I) and with Asian cuisine.
My wife ordered a whole flathead. Like all the fish, it was fresh and local; this one was also quite large and perfectly cooked. Her side dish of betel leaf with caramelised pork and prawn and toasted coconut ($4.50) compared favourably to a similar dish in a top-notch Melbourne restaurant recently.
At this stage, together with our excellent green papaya salad ($9.50) and fresh coconut rice ($4), we realised that we actually had over-ordered, something that has not happened to us for years.
The staff were happy to bundle up the remainder for us to take home, but not before I had sampled what’s described simply on the dessert menu as ‘sangkaya – coconut custard with shredded coconut’ ($9).
Another top-notch flavour surprise: coconut custard infused with pandanus leaf with a separate pandanus-infused sauce, coated with caramelised palm sugar, toasted sesame and turmeric – this was a really wonderfully light and fresh distinctive dessert to finish a meal of unique flavours made from quality local ingredients at a very reasonable price
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