Categories
Thai

Paste – Mittagong NSW Restaurant Review

Operated by celebrated chef Bee Satongun and her Mittagong local husband, Paste’s Southern Highlands venue follows Michelin-starred and otherwise successful ventures in Thailand and Laos. While I would argue that the vast majority of Asian restaurants in small rural towns in Australia are mostly visited by accident, Paste holds a distinction for being not merely an afterthought, but a destination.

The Tropical Pomelo Salad ($45) is an somewhat misleadingly named but delicious dish consisting of two slipper lobsters (I believe them to be Moreton Bay Bug) and a few wedges of pomelo in a deliciously rich citrusy sauce. While much of the promotional material for the overseas version of this dish shows the bugs deshelled, our bugs came split in half with shell on, somewhat hurting the appearance of this dish, but at the same time providing diners with the valuable choice of picking their own saucing coefficient. The protective layer of shell meant that the bugs could not possibly come oversauced, but that we were able to decide exactly how much of it we wanted – a touch we found very thoughtful. The de-albedod pomelo portions were fresh and mildly sweet, however they alone were not enough to make this a salad. Given the dominance of sauce in the dish we would consider this more of a regular main than a salad, and would recommend an order of rice to go along with it to soak up all the flavours. Ultimately though I longed for more bug meat at the end of this dish.

I’ve been on a bit of a duck hunt recently, and Paste’s Half Crispy Duck ($44) was my latest attempt at capturing a juicy, meaty duck with crispy skin. While not all of these criteria were fulfilled (I think I just need to go to a standard Cantonese BBQ restaurant), Paste’s duck was truly quite special in its own way. This half duck came bathed in a sweet, clear broth of herbs and aniseed, and while the broth itself soaked through what might have otherwise been quite crispy skin, the interesting and complex flavours imparted by it were more than worth it. The citrus flesh and rind were delightfully fresh, and I particularly enjoyed mouthfuls with them and the contrast they provided against the otherwise herby broth.

The Smoky Southern Crab Curry ($43) was again interesting and unexpected. Unlike the pomelo salad, the shellfish of this salad was completely deshelled, with Australian blue swimmer crab meat on show in the bowl, making it an ideal dish for people who are generally too lazy to excavate for their own crab meat. The placement of the crab meat was again surprisingly thoughtful, with it all lumped together so that not all of it was submerged in the sauce. Not only this, but the meat was even layered so that it was not lost in the sauce as flakes, but safely secured and edible in whole spoonfuls. Magic. Truth be told though I thought that they yellow curry sauce was pretty standard, no more than well-executed, but not so special. It was all in the construction.

Rice was rice but expensive.

The Tamarind Cheese Cake ($23) with jasmine cream was very good. The cheese cake itself was a densely packed bar, again with a lot of citrus flavour. The biscuit crumb was just a little bit salty, and the dessert overall was not too sweet. The jasmine cream, unbelievably light and delicate, contrasted well with the heavy cheesecake. Each spoonful of the jasmine cream was an absolute delight.

These chairs were something else entirely. Excellent comfort with a reclining feature.

THOUGHTS
I admit this was probably a bit rambly. I wrote it over the course of two night shifts, surrounded by pinging alarms and with inadequate rest. I haven’t proofread it, but if you take anything home from this review it should be that Paste’s food is not only very good, but thought and care goes into not only the cooking but also the plating every dish. Though their prices seem to have increased 30% since they opened six months ago, they remain worth a visit.

Paste Australia (Southern Highlands)
105 Main St, Mittagong NSW 2575
(02) 4872 2277

Categories
Thai

Silver Spoon Thai – Nowra NSW Restaurant Review

The first in a series of reviews of Nowra’s finest dining establishments is this brief piece about my visit to Silver Spoon Thai, the undisputed current second best in term of online rankings in all of Nowra. Accolades won by this establishment to date include being described as “comparable to Holy Basil of Parramatta” (Reyes, 2022), a comparison I could not personally verify having never eaten at Holy Basil despite having lived in the Paramatta area for over a decade.

First on the menu was the Thai Basil Stir Fry with Beef ($20). This was a pleasant dish, with adequate basilling and certainly not too spicy. My dining colleague made comment of the veleted beef, which was not the favourite texture of my teeth or tongue.

I actually quite enjoyed the Prik Khing Crispy Pork ($22.90). The crispy pork was of good quality and crispiness despite being cooked in sauce, and the sauce itself had a good flavour, if a bit strong to have without rice. No complaints here.

I am glad that when asked if we wanted our entree first or just the dishes as they became available we chose the latter option. The Chicken Satay ($10) I enjoyed, but my dining colleague DTC, fresh from his trip to South East Asia, did not think it was the best he’s had in recent times.

Ultimately I think you certainly do worse than Silver Spoon, but nothing about what we had was particularly special. Paste, on the other hand… now that’s special.

Silver Spoon Thai
55 Junction St, Nowra NSW 2541
(02) 4421 7679

Categories
Thai

Yod – Haymarket NSW Restaurant Review

I wish I could have written just a nice little paragraph about my meal at Yod amongst a number of other Thai restaurants in Haymarket, but unfortunately one little thing made the whole experience turn a bit sour.

I had this Grilled Chicken Thigh Fillet (Gai Ping (ไก่ปิ้ง)) ($12.90), which was pretty good. It was nicely grilled, with a mildly sweet marinade that was not too sweet, and a tangy and spicy dipping sauce. There was nothing to complain about of the food at all, but the odd experience came when paying.

The point of service payment system rang up with a price of $14.90, even though both the large format menu clearly displayed outside the restaurant, as well as the menu handed to me when I ordered both displayed a price of $12.90. The woman working the till told me that $12.90 was the old price, and that I must have seen an old menu, but this was clearly the price on the menu that they had handed me. She wouldn’t let it go, and even when we called her supervisor across even she said the same thing. I must have seen an old menu. I realise that $2 is just $2, but at this point it became a sticking point for the two of us. She flipped in disbelief through at least six or eight other copies of the menu at the front counter, all of which said $12.90, all the while maintaining that these were all just old copies of the menu.

There were no new menus showing the “new” price to speak of.

Ultimately with some fight they relented and charged only the advertised and clearly printed price. It would’ve been a lot more graceful for them to accept that they were wrong immediately – if literally all of the menus in your restaurant are “old”, then they are the menu.

Despite the good food this whole process felt dirty to me and I will make a wholehearted effort to never go back.

And before you ask, I have the photos and the metadata.

Yod
462/40-54 Campbell St, Haymarket NSW 2000
0466 554 642

Categories
Asian Fusion Dessert Thai

Mango Coco – Haymarket NSW Restaurant Review

One of our Asian friends had reached her mid thirties without ever having bingsoo, and it was our solemn duty as friends and colleagues to correct this. Mango Coco, located within a particularly Thai part of Pitt St, was the chosen destination for this Korean shaved ice dessert.

The Mango Bingsoo was pretty good, but not really a standout from other similar bingsoos. The addition of dry ice was pure superficial presentation, and no additional mastery demonstrated in the design or construction of the dish.

The Egg on Nest was really quite good. It consisted of black mochi balls filled with salted egg yolk filling, atop a bed of thinly julienned sweet potato strips and fruit. The mochi balls which were bursting with golden sweet and umami filling were the star of the show.

At my insistence the squad agreed to order the Matcha Churros Parfait. The matcha sauce was unsweetened and quite strong – great for us, though many may not be as appreciative. The ratio of churro to matcha dirt and sticky ice cream and matcha sauce was adequately matched so that no dirt remained unstuck and no churro undirted by the end of the meal.

VERDICT
Would I go back? Probably. Whilst our meal was dessert focused (our colleagues had already had dinner) there are quite a few Thai fusion savory dishes on their menu that I wouldn’t mind trying if I were in the area.

Categories
Café Thai

Keramic – Westmead NSW Restaurant Review

New to Westmead this year, Keramic is a religious café and restaurant situated within a 100 year old (1921) Uniting Church owned cottage, the result of a collaboration between the Kongfucius team across the road and the Parramatta Mission. Originally a family home and subsequently a church coffee shop, the café is nicely decorated with period appropriate furniture, ornaments, and photographs of dead people.

Though there is adequate outside seating with park benches, we chose to sit inside in a well appointed family dining room for our post nights breakfast. I want to draw particular attention to these nice candles that my partner would’ve liked to see. She recently spent $16 on a candle stick from some inner west concept store because she thought they would melt nicely. As the owners of cats I really don’t see when they will come into use. My cat set herself on fire on the stove as recently as last night. (She’s OK)

I ordered Hannah’s Favourite ($15) for my 8:30AM breakfast, a fully lunchy meal consisting of a chicken curry of the day (massaman), sticky rice, and a fried egg. This was a very standard lunch meal that you could get from essentially any Thai restaurant. There was nothing particularly remarkable about this dish – just chicken breast in massaman curry sauce, a cylinder of well proportioned sticky rice, and a moist well-fried egg – though I guess you could say it is remarkable to have such a cultural lunch dish amongst Keramic’s otherwise mostly Western menu.

Late 2023 Update
The late 2023 update is that Keramic has clearly established itself in my mind as the best local source for coffee, far surpassing every Zouki-esque establishment within the grounds of the local health faciltiy, as well as local chain competitor Leaf. I normally call or text through my order and by the time I get there the coffee is ready for pickup, giving myself a chance to get in a little walk as well as skipping a long queue for closer coffees generally thought to be less good. The guy who runs the place is also an absolute hero and I’ve been the blessèd beneficiary of a free piece of day old croissant brought for the staff of the emergency department during a call-in for a NIHSS.

The (breakfast) menu has become more Western over the years, although they still run a Thai menu for lunch. The Prawn Star ($25.90) was the most interesting thing available when we visited for a post-nights breakfast in November 2023, featuring some unexciting buttered bread, some nicely fluffy and creamy scrambled eggs, and excellently cooked prawns without a hint of overcook. While good and somewhat wholesome, it suffered by reminding me of the superior chilli prawn scramble from Il Locale, a distant and unfair benchmark from Berry NSW.

Keramic Cafe and Restaurant
43 Queens Rd, Westmead NSW 2145
0451 231 921