Bangpop Thai – Popping Flavours

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I work around the Docklands / South Wharf area and we needed a place for a farewell lunch. I had heard about the newly opened Bangpop Thai and with such an interesting name and a cuisine that most people love I thought I couldn’t go wrong. The name comes from the Thai word for village – BANG and POP represents the bold  flavours, and vibrant colours.

Bangpop Thai is located in what used to be The Sharing House (and it still has the presence of the old venue in the form of the Lego bar) and the next venture by Paul Mathis. The atmosphere that has been created is reminiscent of the Bangkok hawker style street. The main attraction is the collection of bikes that are lined up outside the dining area – the bikes are named Venus and Mars and are in colourful colours of red and orange. The place as a whole is vibrant and welcoming.

There are mostly communal tables which match the menu of shared dishes. These tables serve well if you have a large group of people. There is also seating along the bar on high stools if you wish. The menu is separated out into 7 different sections – small plates, larger plates, noodles, rice, spicy salads and desserts – and has been devised by Karn McManamey in consultation with Yaigum – who is a Thai street food stall-holder with more than 40 years experience and has an extensive knowledge about Isaan cuisne (North-Eastern Thailand). In staying true to the Thai style dishes are centred on the spiciness and tang of lime/lemon along with the gingery and garlic flavours – YUM!

The aim of the restaurant is to create an affordable, casual and authentic menu and I really do believe they achieve this.

As we were on our work lunch break and there were about 13 of us, we had called up ahead and pre-ordered our dishes. We were also informed of the Lunch Specials menu where you would get a dish and a drink (beer, wine or soft drink) all for $15. Value for money indeed! When our dishes arrived, we were also presented with  four different condiments and were told that these were there to adjust the balance of flavours for our menu. The waitress explained each condiment was – I don’t have a picture of these but there was Sugar, two different types of Chilli and some spices.

I ordered the Thai Green Curry which came with Vegetables, Tofu, Thai Basil, Beanshoots and Chilli. The curry was delicious and had the flavours were great. I love my chilli so I did add extra chilli from the condiments that were given to us, but I am pretty sure that most people wouldn’t need to do that. The sauce was thick and the coconut flavour was fresh, paired with the basil. The tofu and vegetables were cooked perfectly as well. One thing to note was that the people that ordered the Lunch Special – the consensus was that the dishes were on the small side and it didn’t fill them up completely. T had the Yum Nua which is marinated beef sirloin salad and she said the Beef was tender and tangy and the dish as a whole was refreshing and tasted great.

A friend and I decided to share a dessert and went for the Saku Song Kreuang – Tapioca Pandan Pudding with Mango Sorbet. This is one of my new favourite desserts. I am a huge fan of tapioca pudding and mango is one of my favourite fruits – so to have them paired together in a dessert was bliss! I am not a huge fan of roasted coconut which was added on top of the pudding (and yes I know this is quite common in Thai desserts) – so I could have done without this addition. But overall the dessert was super tasty and had three different textures going on – the pop and jellyness of the tapioca pudding, the smooth coolness of the mango sorbet and the crunch of the coconut. The pandan flavour is quite light through the pudding as well and wasn’t too strong at all. A definite must try!

They also have an extensive drinks menu and whilst we were waiting for the rest of the team to arrive we saw the bar tender making some exciting looking cocktails. There are ingredients such as Kaffir lime leaves, ginger, chilli that are added to these cocktails for a Thai flavour. The beers also compromise of the traditional Thai beers as well as other craft beers.

The service at Bangpop was excellent – the staff was very helpful and friendly. A fellow colleague needed a vegetarian dish (and he didn’t like tofu) so a staff member was helpful in assisting him in finding a dish as there wasn’t really anything on the menu to have and consulted the chefs. Bangpop during the lunch hour filled up its large airy space and the atmosphere was vibrant yet not too loud. They are a very reasonably priced restaurant and a great addition to the South Wharf area.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Menu that is split into 7 different sections – view the menu at http://www.bangpop.com.au/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Vibrant, Electric and Fun. Really colourful and it does remind you of a busy street in Bangkok – hawker style!
Standout Dish: Saku Song Kreuang – Tapioca Pandan Pudding with Mango Sorbet
Service: Fantastic and Attentive, Friendly and very Helpful
Online Booking: Bangpop doesnt take bookings – just walk in!
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.bangpop.com.au/
35 South Wharf Promenande, South Wharf
Tel No: 9245 9800

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday
Lunch: 12pm – 3pm
Dinner: 6pm – 10:30pm

BangPop on Urbanspoon

Ayatana – Authentic Thai with a Modern Twist

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I was invited to try out the food at Ayatana – a restaurant and wine bar located at Chapel Street in Windsor. The restaurant is a small, modern and stylish Thai restaurant which offers a very authentic menu with fragrant flavours. Ayatana is owned by the chef himself Piyawut Rungpradit, nicknamed Tony.

We visited the restaurant on a Wednesday night around 7:30pm and the place filled up quite quickly after this time – both inside and outside the restaurant. There are about 12-15 tables inside and  a couple of tables which look out onto Chapel Street itself. Having the restaurant almost filled up on a Wednesday says something about the place and about the taste and quality of food.

The décor is modern and inviting – the theme colours are white and grey, with dark wooden tables. Around the walls framed pictures of Thailand proudly hang and showcase a little bit of the Thai culture. There are rows of wine bottles in wooden shelves above the main wall as well as behind the main counter, which showcase their extensive wine list – which is a nice touch to the restaurant.

The menu is in a book style and the opening page gives you a background about Ayatana and what they aim to achieve in terms of your experience at the restaurant which I think is a nice touch. Hot, Sweet, Sour and Salty they say are the main 4 points of Thai cuisine and that is what they bring to all their dishes. The menu comprises of starters, entrée, mains, followed by a section for the vegetarians which compromises of entrees and mains. There are also a list of sides and desserts, coffee and tea which follow.

The menu is unique and doesn’t contain the usual dishes of pad thai and skewers with peanut sauce, but a large variety with dishes you don’t find in other Thai restaurants. This is what sets aside Ayatana from any of the other Thai Restaurants. There are items like Crispy Sardines, Barramundi cooked in different ways as well your choice of meat with Roasted Macadamia and Cashew Nuts.

For starters I ordered the Japanese Scallop which came with Bean Shoots, Basil, Mint, Corriander, Onion and Hot Homemade sauce which was topped with Yarra Valley Caviar. The caviar was a nice addition and touch – I have never had combination of caviar and scallop before. The flavours were creative and punchy. You could tell the ingredients were fresh and cooked to perfection. The scallop was well presented in a shell and sat atop the other components of the dish beautifully.

Next was the entrée course and the Crispy Tamarind Rice caught my eye as I wasn’t sure what to expect with this dish. The dish came out once again and was visually appealing.. It was in a triangular stack and consisted of Cashew Nuts, Green Apple, Bean Shoots, Mint, Coriander, Red Onion, Mixed Salad and topped with Crispy Noodles. The dish was tangy and sweet all at the same time and the texture of the nuts and the crispy noodles completed the dish.

It was so hard to pick what dish to order for the mains as they all looked really great. In the end we settled for Blue Swimmer Crab, Steamed Fresh Tofu & Mushroom and a Pork Belly dish. The Blue Swimmer Crab was the stand out dish of the night for me. The dish came with Tiger Prawns & NZ Calamari which was stir fried with Tom Yum sauce and had asparagus, mushroom, vegetables and kaffir lime leaves. The dish once again looked spectacular when it came out and looked like a lot of care went into how it was being presented. The crab was sitting on top and the other seafood and vegetables underneath. For any lovers of the Tom Yum flavour this is one dish to definitely check out. The flavours mixed together with the kaffir lime leaves are perfect and the crab and seafood were cooked perfectly.

The Steamed Fresh Tofu and Mushrooms was also a great dish with wild ginger and a light soy sauce. Having being used such bags of flavour from the other dishes, this dish didn’t have as much flavour. But in having said that, it did allow your taste buds a rest and showed that even simple flavours can taste just as good.

For dessert the menu consisted of Black Sticky Rice Pudding, Steamed Banana or Warm Coconut Tapioca Pearl. There is also a tasting platter which gives you a selection of each of the above together with mango sorbet. I was so full from my meal but couldn’t pass up on dessert so I ordered the Warm Coconut Tapioca Pearl. What interested me most in this dish was that I have never seen this dessert in any other Thai restaurant before, as well as the fact that there was sweet corn in the dish as well. The warm coconut tapioca pearl with sweet corn, palm sugar and fresh pieces of coconut came out in a glass in liquid form – which reminded me of bubble tea – with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on the side. The dessert was a very dish to anything I have had and was very sweet. I asked Tony about this dish and he said it was a traditional Thai dessert and they did a modern take on it.

The staff at Ayatana are very welcoming, attentive and friendly, they are happy to answer any of your questions and always have a smile on their faces. The restaurant itself is a very modern fit out with mood lighting and is great for any occasion – from a group gathering to a romantic dinner for two. The music sets the mood as well and the vibe is very relaxed and funky – a setting with a great ambience.

The dishes are wonderfully presented and have flavours which will make you feel like you are in Thailand. For me the Blue Swimmer Crab and the Japanese Scallop are winning dishes. The menu is vast and boasts so many dishes that I definitely have to come back and try out the other interesting dishes!

Thanks for the invite to try out your food Tony – it is one of the top rating restaurants in Melbourne.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – A la carte. You can view a sample of the Takeway Menu at http://www.ayatana.com.au/TAKE%20AWAY%20MENU.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Romantic, Cosy and Stylish. Modern interior mixed with a comfortable setting
Standout Dish: Blue Swimmer Crab, Tiger Prawns & NZ Calamari – Stir Fried with Tom Yum Sauce, Mushroom, Asparagus, Onion, Vegetables, Kaffir Lime Leaves
Service: Fantastic, Attentive and Friendly
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.ayatana.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.ayatana.com.au/
97 Chapel St, Windsor
Tel No: 9533 8813

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Thursday to Saturday: 12pm to 4L30pm
Dinner
Monday to Sunday: 5pm till late

Ayatana on Urbanspoon

Coda – European inspired food with Asian Influences

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I have previously been to Coda when it first opened and loved it. I remember the delicious crab dish which was quite decently sized and packed with flavour. This time around I was meeting a friend for lunch on a Friday just before the Christmas break. We were quite late in wanting a booking and was told that the place was booked out, however there would still be seating at the bar area available where you can order from their full menu. My friend J got there before 12pm to secure us a spot at the bar.

Coda is part owned by chef Adam D’Sylva alongside Kate Calder (ex-Taxi) and Mykal Bartholomew (ex-MoVida). Pastry chef Rebecca Creighton, (ex Pearl and Taxi), takes over for “The Sweet Stuff” and for the expertise in Wine it is the responsibility of Sommelier Travis Howe (ex-Taxi).

Coda was once a underground warehouse space, and has been renovated to fit into Melbourne laneways perfectly. The place has been renovated in tones of black and aluminium and is lit up by the massive bare windows and has a relaxing and chic atmosphere. The restaurant is split into two sections, the formal seating area and the seating at the bar. From the bar, you can look through to the kitchen as the chefs prepare your meals thru a mesh screen. An interesting feature are the light fittings ( I do seem to love interesting light decor) – at Coda they are metal meshing in the shape of a birdcage around a simple exposed lightbulb. It adds to the underground, quirky feel of the place.

The menu is split into 4 sections – Smaller Dishes (of which there are 19 different dishes to select from!), Larger Dishes (5 to choose from), Sides and of course The Sweet Stuff (Dessert!!) and encompasses mainly Asian style dishes, with a dash of European dishes strewn around the menu. J and I decided to order a couple of the smaller dishes and share these between us. We ordered  the following:
Fremantle Octopus, Green Mango and Cucumber Salad with Nahm Jim, Peanuts and Crispy Anchovies,
Spanner Crab, Galangal, Roasted Chilli and Lime Betel Leaf,
Sugar Cane Prawn with Sweet Chilli Sauce
Yellow Fin Tuna, Daikon, Green Apple Salad with Pinenuts, Ponzu and Fresh Wasabi.

We started off with the Spanner Crab in Betel Leaf which we were told to use our hands to eat – simply wrap the Betel leaf around the contents and eat away. There was also additional grapefruit pieces which added for an extra zang and burst of flavour (literally), together with the crab and chilli it was a memorable dish. We then had the Yellow Fin Tuna salad – the Tuna was cooked beautifully and had a really nice texture and mixed with the apple made for a really fresh tasting salad. Next we got the Sugar Cane Prawns and we were told to bite on the sugar cane to get the sugary goodness. This was a good looking and fun,but messy dish to eat. Inside the white squiggly noodle casing was prawn covered in ginger, coriander and lemongrass – it was flavoursome central! Definitely one of my favourite dishes. We ended the savoury part of the meal with the Octopus Salad (which I actually preferred over the other salad. J however liked the Yellow Fin Tuna Salad). I loved the freshness and sweetness that the green mango brought to the dish along with the crunch of peanuts and anchovies.

To end the meal we had to try “The Sweet Stuff”. We settled on the Toasted Meringue, Vanilla Chiffon Cake, Passionfruit Curd, Coconut and Mango Sorbet. We asked our friendly waitress what this dessert was about and when it came out it looked like exactly what she had described. Have a look for the pic of this dessert above – it was a spectacular looking dish! You almost weren’t sure where to start eating. The Sorbet was beautifully made and was fresh and packed with flavour and very smooth! The Chiffon Cake was not as soft as I thought it would have been, but this somewhat added texture together with the smoothness of the sorbet and the passionfruit curd. Eating all the different parts together was like a sweet heaven party in your mouth. It sure is one not only good looking dish but great tasting as well.

Coda is a funky restaurant that is good for any occasion – be it casual or formal. The staff are experienced and enthusiastic and if you ask them anything about the menu they go that extra mile to explain things to you. You can tell why this place is popular and books out quite fast. In short the food is great and there is a huge variety of dishes to choose one – it would be quite hard to not find at least one dish you wouldn’t enjoy, the venue is enticing and has a sense of fun and the staff welcoming. Be sure to try this place out!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Selection of dishes from Smaller, Larger, Sides and Desserts – http://www.codarestaurant.com.au/pdf/coda_menu.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Urban, Chic, Funky and Fun – Great for all occasions!
Standout Dish: Sugar Cane Prawns and any of their Desserts
Service: Fantastic, Enthusiastic and Knowledgeable. Very friendly as well!
Online Booking: No, Call them to make a reservation or for no bookings there is seating around the Bar
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.codarestaurant.com.au/
Basement
141 Flinders Lane (Cnr Oliver Lane)
Melbourne
Tel No: 9650 3155

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday
Lunch: 12pm to 3pm
Dinner: 6pm to 10:30pm

Coda on Urbanspoon

Pok Pok – A Lunch Favourite in Docklands

Pok Pok is a Thai restaurant newly opened in July this year and is located in Docklands and is soon becoming a fast lunch favourite. Pok Pok is styled in tones of pink and blue, and has both communal tables for large groups or the smaller tables for more personal dining. Fresh flowers provide the centrepiece on the tables which add a nice homely touch.

Pok Pok  gets its names from the Thai term to describe the sounds of a pestle hitting spices in a granite mortar, which is reminiscent of the background noises in the streets of eateries in the streets of Bangkok. Pok Pok’s aim is to bring authentic and fresh Thai street food to streets of Melbourne, using the freshest of ingredients – and this they do achieve.

My first trip to Pok Pok was a Friday lunchtime and we had our work team head over. We sat on the communal tables and were promptly given our menus. The menu is filled with a variety of dishes – ranging from something to small, quick and light to something to warm the belly and ending with the finishing touches. There are curries, things from the Wok as well as rice and noodle dishes. I had the Spicy Stir Fried Rockling with “Pad Cha” Chilli. The rockling was fresh and cooked perfectly and came mixed with Pad Cha which consisted of garlic paste, basil and of course chilli. Most of the table had the Massaman Lamb Curry with Crisp Roti Bread, which everyone that had it raved about. The Lamb was soft and tender and literally melted off the bone and the Roti Bread crispy and buttery. I also had the Cabbage, Chives and Shitake Mushroom Pan Fried Dumplings. This is a very different combination of flavours in a dumpling, but they not only looked good,but tasted great. The combination of those ingredients had a somewhat nutty flavour. The dumplings were juicy and flavoursome. There are two other combinations to try as well – Taro and water chestnut and Chicken and sweet corn.

Another Thai touch, is that water is given out to you in tiny little silver cups that you cup in your hands to drink out of. The only thing is that they are quite small that you could almost run out of water in one gulp.

The next time I went to Pok Pok was again at lunchtime and this time around I ordered the Grilled King Fish and King Prawn Curry – Grilled in a Red Coconut Curry and Wrapped in Banana Leaf flavoured with Kaffir Leaves and Basil. When I ordered this dish, the waiter asked me if I didn’t mind that some of the dish is a bit raw. I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by this but when the dish came out, both the fish and the prawn were cooked and tasted delicious. The fish did have towards the end have an overly fishy taste and I guess this is where the “rawness” came into it – afterall it had been wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled. The mixture of the red coconut, basil and kaffir leaves was authentic, spicy and provided a burstful of flavour in your mouth.

The dishes are decently sized and you are left with a warm feeling in your tummy that comes not only from the spiciness but the fullness. The ingredients are fresh and the flavours authentic. Service is quite good as well, but the wait staff are kept quite busy and are bustling about to service all the tables. Check it out.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – A la Carte Menu – refer to picture above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Lunchtimes are very busy and you do feel like you are in the busy streets of Bangkok
Standout Dish: Massaman Lamb Curry with Crisp Roti Bread and Spicy Stir Fried Rockling with “Pad Cha” Chilli
Service:
Online Booking: No, but if you are to go during lunch time and have a large group it is best advised to book.
Restaurant Details and Location:
https://www.facebook.com/POKPOKMELB
801-803 Bouke St, Docklands
Tel No: 9620 4580

Opening Hours:
Monday to Wednesday: 7am to 4pm
Thursday to Friday: 7am to 10pm
Saturday: 6pm t0 10pm

Pok Pok on Urbanspoon

Nine Elephants – Taking Spicy to an all new level!


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Nine Elephants is an authentic Thai restaurant that is tucked away in the streets of Docklands. As I work around the area, I found this restaurant when I was looking up places around the area for a Team lunch. We made a booking for a table and as they have been known to be busy, so we asked them if we could put in a pre-order so that it wouldn’t take a long time (due to our lunch break time restrictions). They were more than happy to do.

The restaurant is small (seats only 60 people) with high ceilings and completed with wooden tables and a theme of blue and gold. Despite the surrounding area being somewhat quiet, the atmosphere inside the restaurant is lively and vibrant you almost forget where you are. The wait staff are friendly and welcoming and it somewhat does feel like you are in a little town in the heart of Thailand.

The menu has a huge variety and when you look at it, you are left wanting to try everything. There are traditional curries, stir fries and rice / noodle dishes. There are many vegetarian and seafood options, as well some gluten free dishes. Nine Elephants offers 4 different levels of spiciness, from Medium right up to Very spicy (which is really really spicy!).

The dishes came out with meticulous timing and were so vibrantly coloured on the white plates. All the ingredients used were fresh and full of flavour. I ordered the Green Curry with Seafood Extra Spicy. The moment it was placed on the table, the strong flavoursome aroma just hits you, and you cant wait to dig into the dish. The seafood was perfectly cooked and consisted of calamari, prawns and mussels. The extra spicy level at Nine Elephants, is exactly that! It is one of the spiciest food I have tasted and it does really get taste buds tingling. The spiciness however, didn’t detract from the authentic flavours of the dish, just gave you a warmth all over. We also ordered the Roti Bread which was crispy and delicious served with a thickened satay sauce – one of the best Roti’s I have tasted.

Nine Elephants is a definite stand out for authentic Thai cuisine, not only in the Docklands area but in Melbourne I would say! They have won an award for being Restaurant in the area of Docklands already. Nine Elephant definitely produce high quality dishes that are bursting with flavour. A definite top Thai Restaurant in Melbourne.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – A la Carte – can be found at http://nineelephants.com.au/?page_id=23
You can also order online at http://nineelephants.com.au/?page_id=110
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Lively and Vibrant
Standout Dish: Green Curry
Service: Fantastic, Friendly and Attentive, as well as being Warm and Cosy at the same time.
Online Booking: Yes via http://nineelephants.com.au/?page_id=38
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://nineelephants.com.au/?page_id=46
67 Village Street, Docklands
Tel No: 9670 9909

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Monday to Saturday: 11:30am – 2:30pm
Dinner
Monday to Saturday: 5:30pm -10pm
Sunday: CLOSED

Nine Elephants on Urbanspoon

Lunch at Gingerboy

Lunch at Gingerboy

From Left to Right on each Row:
– Steamed Prawn & Garlic Chive Sui Mai with Red Vinegar Dressing
– Grilled Wagyu in La Lot Leaves with Coriander and Mint Relish
– Sweet and Sour Chicken, Chilli Peanuts, Sweet Tomato and Thai Basil
– Green Curry of Sea Bream, Garlic Shoots and Baby Corn
– Coconut Chocolate Splice with Candied Chilli and Water Chestnut
– Caramelized Banana and Tapioca Salad with Pandan Ice Cream

Summary
Rating: 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu: A la Carte and Banquet Menu – can be found at http://www.gingerboy.com.au/food-wine/menu
Fullness Factor: 75%
Atmosphere / Ambience: On a Friday night, there are drinks at Gingerboy Upstairs which is fantastic. The restaurant itself is red themed and quite comfortable and relaxing. Great for group dinners or date night.
Standout Dish: Whole fried baby snapper, roast chilli, lime dressing, hot and sour salad
Service: Attentive and had helpful information when asked about the menu
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.gingerboy.com.au/reservations
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.gingerboy.com.au
27-29 Crossley Street, Melbourne
Tel No: +61 396624200

Gingerboy on Urbanspoon