Address: 415 Riversdale Road Hawthorn East, VIC 3123
Phone: (03) 9882 5995
Hours: Seven days, 5pm until 10.30pm
Bangkok Terrace is plonked in the somewhat rejected part of Riversdale Road in Hawthorn, the part that’s just a little too far from Camberwell junction to attract passing traffic. Even so people are making an effort to visit, so they’re doing something right. The place is constantly buzzing, booking is highly recommended. We visited with a large group and sampled a pretty decent selection of the menu as a result.
The first thing that caught our eye as we walked in the front door was a giant fireball that erupted Independence Day-style from a wok in the open kitchen. We realized the restaurant wasn’t on fire as we were greeted with cheer from the quaint waitresses who constantly but genially giggled like school girls. The service fluctuated between very efficient and completely inattentive throughout the night. Although best not to mention that to owner Ben Kunchairattana, (ex chef at Sydney's Sailors Thai in The Rocks) — his partner Kim is the manager.
The room is spacious but manages to remain cozy, courtesy of an abundance of red lanterns that emit a warm glow, which reflects subtly off the dark timber finishes. Matching red cushions make the wicker chairs bearable and pots of flowers, some real and some fake, dot the dining area. If we are being finicky, much of the crockery we received was chipped and the menus were pretty grubby.
But enough of all of that, you want to know about the food! Some dishes were certainly better than others. All of it was incredibly tasty, but probably a touch too sweet for most. The following dishes are listed in order of appearance.
Salt and pepper calamari, deep-fried and tender, served with a thick, chilli sauce.
Plump, juicy prawns resting on betel leaves and punctuated with orange jewels of flying fish roe that popped in the mouth. Roasted shreds of coconut and crushed peanuts added some crunch.
The spring rolls were better than your average. Crisp, light and not too oily, the airy pastry shell encased rice vermicelli noodles and veggies. Perfect with the sweet plum sauce on the side.
A single Tom Yum traditional Thai soup was ordered. By the time everyone had enjoyed a ‘taste’ the bowl was half empty. It had a decent kick of chilli, not for the faint hearted. The broth was beautifully flavoured with lemongrass and kaffir lime. Two king prawns jutted from the square bowl, crowned with coriander.
The glutinous Pad See Ewe is the kind of dish you keep eating even after you’re full. It is totally inoffensive and unchallenging, but you simply can’t go wrong by ordering it. This version of the stir-fried flat rice noodle dish was served with chicken, egg and baby bok choy.
A harmony of sweet, sour and spice arrived next, the steak Laos. It consisted of marinated Wagyu rump cap cooked rare in the middle and char-grilled on the outside. It was pre-sliced and served with salad and traditional nam jim jaew dipping sauce made from ground rice, sugar, chillies and tomato. Be warned: if flavour isn’t enough for you and fatty meat turns you off, steer clear of this one.
One of the more outstanding dishes was the roasted duck salad. It came on a bed of salad with mint, coriander, eschallot and a “special dressing”. The duck was golden and crispy on top, the skin spotted with sesame seeds.
The marinated and BBQ chicken was nothing special, but it was a winner amongst the kids in our group. It too came with a mixed salad and a side of sweet chilli sauce.
Keeping with the chicken theme, the medium spiced green curry served with mixed vegetable and roti was a bit sloppy. The coconut flavour was desirable, but overall the dish was a bit sweet. It worked with a whole bowl of rice poured into it.
A beef dish was next, the meat marinated then stir-fried in oyster sauce and served in a bowl with a generous amount of vegetables, including mushrooms, broccolini, baby corn, red capsicum, snow peas, bamboo shoots, onion and shallot.
Saving the best until last, the whole deep fried rainbow trout was as impressive as it was flavorsome. The only criticism was that like any whole fish dish, it was a challenge to remove all the bones. The presentation was amazing, the trout contorted upside down with chunks of flesh bursting from its middle, begging to be eaten. The flesh was soft and flaky on the inside, coated by a thin, deep fried shell. Flavoured with kra chai, lime leaves, homemade spicy sauce and green peppercorns, we were all about the trout.
We couldn’t face dessert after gorging ourselves in the savory section. However the tapioca pudding with young coconut and coconut cream still tempted us, as did the sticky rice with egg custard. We didn’t entirely miss out on coconut, having enjoyed our fill of juice from a young coconut with the top hacked off.
While we delighted in our dinner at Bangkok Terrace, I can’t help but feel one’s experience here is completely determined by the dishes they order, especially because they are slightly pricier than your local Thai joint (think around $17-$24). Order well and you’ll feel like a king. Order poorly and you will have wasted a meal that you had been looking forward to. You’ll only have yourself to blame and consequently fall into a catatonic depression (does that happen to anyone else with food?). If you trust me enough, take my lead when ordering. Check out the comments on UrbanSpoon and don’t take risks.
Bangkok Terrace do home delivery if you’re near by (minimum order $30), but driving past my local (Thai Saffron) on the way home, I couldn’t help but compare the two. I would never sit in at Saffron like we did at Bangkok Terrace. But if someone held a ghost chilli to my throat, I’d choose Thai Saffron every time.
It takes a lot of courage to venture out and try a new Thai place. Everyone has their favourites! Where are yours?