96 Smith Street, Collingwood
Thai food in Australia has evolved in recent years due to the emergence of restaurants such as Longrain, Nam Thai and Ginger Boy which have taken the old Friday night takeaway or cheap and cheerful BYO to whole new levels of flavour, spice and texture. With Easy Tiger, the classics are still present; however they are now crafted with traditional spices and modern techniques that leave the diner wanting more. Easy Tiger certainly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the restaurants listed above and warrants its place at the forefront of Thai cuisine in Melbourne.
The restaurant itself is tiny, a narrow Smith Street shop front that has been turned into a sparse yet chic space, holding just 25 diners inside. Two long tables run down the centre of the room which is intended for sharing, along with three small tables of two along the wall and a couch area in the front window where diners can choose to eat or wait for a table with a glass of wine and something from the ‘Street Food’ menu. There is also a small court yard at the rear of the building but with the cold, piercing wind picking up and being a mid winter’s evening we happily opted for a seat inside.
Unbeknown to us on arrival we were told there is no à la carte menu on Sunday evenings and instead were presented with two banquet options; a three course menu for $65 ahead or a two course menu for $45 ahead. At first I was not thrilled with the idea of being unable to choose our dinner, especially as I am addicted to reading the menu online beforehand and had been dreaming of the yellow curry of roasted thirlmere duck with baby corn and salted pineapple, however I put this behind me and settled on the two course option and wow, we were not to be disappointed!
First out came freshly shucked pacific oysters with red chilli nahm jim and ma hor (prawn, pork & chicken mince cooked in palm sugar, served on fresh watermelon). The oysters were deliciously fresh and salty with a good hint of chilli and the ma hor, although not looking that appetising, the texture and taste were both very pleasing to the palette. Following these was our last entre, betel leaf with prawn, peanuts and fresh coconut. I cringed when the waiter happily explained the dish ending with the well used line of “they are like a little flavour explosion in your mouth” but after just one bite and the overwhelming sweet, sour and salty taste that accompanied it, I must admit it was an apt way to describe them.
Our second course consisted of tea smoked ocean trout with cucumber, lemongrass, peanuts and chilli jam, a green curry of organic beef shin with snow peas and winter melon and son in law eggs. The waiter suggested to us that the best way of eating these dishes was to add all three to our plate, crack the egg over a bed of steamed white rice and take a little of each on our fork. We duly followed his instructions and immediately we were hit with the intense and delicious flavours of the dishes. The beef shin had been slow cooked and it just fell apart with one touch of the fork, the mixture of ocean trout with the creamy lemongrass and peanuts was rich and powerful and together balanced the meal. The son in law eggs were cooked slightly too long and didn’t have the same tangy chill jam that had accompanied them at Ginger Boy but were still very pleasing. Overall the meal was again, cringe, a sensory overload!
With satisfied tummies and our taste buds in a tingle we left the restaurant which was the perfect cure for the Sunday night blues.
Bill: $45 per person; Wine: cheapest bottle $45
Rating: 16.5 O’s out of 20