LIVING IN MODERATION
Last week I had an opportunity to visit another rather popular upscale restaurant in the CBD as part of work function. I must admit that I never heard of it before, but one of my foodie friends said that it’s on her list to try and she has heard good things about it so it must be quite well-known.
Red Spice Road is located just off Bourke street on McKilop street, which seems more like a lane to me. From the outside, I can tell that it is a pretty fancy place.
Our group had a private function room, but I sneaked out to take a photo of their public seating area. This restaurant certainly has great atmosphere and wow decor. The massive painting of Asian beauty on the back wall and their giant red lantern mysteriously captured my eyes.
While everyone was mingling and socializing, I studied the menu (and took photos, of course!) and got excited as it’s quite obvious that their dishes are heavily influenced by Thai cuisine (and a hint of Vietnamese). I love Thai food and I take pride in my Thai cooking so whenever I come across restaurants that offer Thai-fused dishes, I’m very keen to see how they do it, as I know it can be tricky to stay true to Thai taste when catering for western tongues.
We had banquet-style dinner. Three entrees, four mains, a dessert.
The entrees were quite nice. My favourite was the scallops as they were fresh and refreshing and got a hint of spice. The betel leaf topping was far from the usual ingredients they use in Thailand for ‘Miang Kum’, however, I assumed that it was more intended to be Thai chicken larb, served miang kum style. Lamb rib was nice too.
Rice was served to accompany all the mains. I’ve been told that their pork belly dish was pretty popular. I agree. Out of the four mains, the pork belly was quite sensational. It was deep-fried to crispy on the outside but very tender. The chicken salad was refreshing, although it could do with a bit more spice to make it more interesting. Beef rib, in my opinion, was overshadowed by the pork belly. It didn’t have much taste to it. Also, by then we had already eaten two deep-fried dishes so it was a bit too oily in the mouth. They seemed to have this idea of serving everything in sweet tamarind-based sauce as well.
I must admit that I was quite surprised to see ‘prawn in orange curry’ on the menu. In Thai, it’s ‘gang som goong’. It isn’t a ‘typical’ dish you find in every Thai restaurant like green chicken curry or pad thai. I wondered how they would present it. A good bowl of gang som should be quite intense in flavours, especially the sourness and sweetness. It also leaves your tongue tingling but nothing overpowering. You also serve it HOT. If you order this dish in Thailand, it usually comes in a clay pot sitting on top of a burner so it stays hot.
I was quite disappointed by this last dish that came out. It was served cold and the soup had no taste in it. Nothing like the orange curry I know at all. I wondered if it was just me being critical since I know what it’s supposed to taste like, but from the feedback around the table, I could tell that even my Aussie colleagues didn’t rate it very high either.
Anyway, dessert was nice enough.
All in all, the Red Spice Road is 10 out of 10 for the atmosphere. The bar looks pretty nice too and I’ve heard they got great cocktails. Food-wise, from a Thai perspective, I feel that I can cook ‘better’ Thai dishes at home (although I’m not cocky enough to say that I could cook that pork belly). I’ve got a feeling that my foodie Vietnamese friend would find the food not-so-Vietnamese either. I’ve been to another restaurant called COOKIE and I was a lot more impressed by how they were daring and presenting many not-so-typical Thai dishes on their menu while preserving the authentic tastes of Thai. Review is coming soon.