12 November, 2006

Thaila Thai

82 Lygon St, Brunswick East; 03 9387 0659

Busy, cheap, and very good, that’s Thaila Thai. A table here on a Friday night, even with outdoor seating, is no guarantee. We snagged the one by the kitchen, which meant probably about 400 people checked out our meals as they waited for takeaway or a coveted seat.

Why so popular? If you’re eating in, the Thaila Thai menu reads more like a sandwich deli. All main courses are available with any meat, each at a set price. You then pick the kind of seasoning for a stir fry (eg basil leaves and chilli, or oyster sauce), a type of curry (red, green, yellow, peanut), or noodles. Extras, rather than avocado or mayonnaise, include cashew nuts for 0.50, or prawns for 3.00. And the value spreads to both sides of the menu. Rice is $2.00 a serve, corkage 0.50c a person, and an entree of six satay skewers only $5.50.

We went for the mixed (chicken and beef) skewers. The peanut sauce was creamy, with a breath of heat, which unfortunately was more than could be said for our meat. We’d also waited about 15 minutes, and had to request a couple of times, for our BYO wine to be brought back to the table corked. All forgotten when the mains arrived. The green curry was incredible (as attested to by multiple people in the endless line waiting for tables!) The vegies reflected the colour of the curry - zucchini, green capsicum, bay leaves and, surprisingly, asparagus. The curry sauce hit with coconut creaminess first, with all the spice in your throat. In between was a mix of mint, sweet, and a definite lingering taste of the bay leaves. A lot of flavour for under $11.50, including the rice. In the spirit of make-your-own, SG went for pork with wide ribbon rice noodles with veg and blackbean sauce. The thinly sliced pork was tender, contrasting with crispy vegetables.

Starter, two mains bigger than we could finish off and corkage came to $29. It did take us almost 15 minutes of queuing just to be able to pay, given one person was handling take away orders and diners settling their bill (one per table, cash only). An upside was it gave us ample time to watch what must be one of the hottest kitchens in Melbourne, with every hob on the go boiling rice, flash frying veg and flaming sauces. The food is excellent, the price unbelievable, but go during the week, and hold out for a seat at the back.

07 November, 2006


55-57 Lygon St, Brunswick East; 03 9387 0066

Singhs is not an intimate eatery. It’s an expansive, tavern-style restaurant, brightly lit, with a large kitchen and bar in the middle. The menu is similarly extensive, covering all the Indian staple curries and side dishes. Their wine selection is of the bottle-shop variety, which means good prices by the glass, and some bottles for just $16.

SG is not a spice lover, and despite the option on the menu to tailor their dishes to your own level of spice, he neglected to ask and hence struggled a bit through his chicken masala (with onions, tomato and capsicum). My more accustomed tastebuds weren’t too assaulted, and found the spice lingered rather than attacked. My dish of choice was the eggplant pashwari - eggplant pieces in cashew nut paste and yoghurt sauce with garlic, ginger and spices. The yoghurt and cashew sauce was well balanced between acidity and nuttiness. The eggplant pieces were disappointing, adding little of their own flavour to the dish - perhaps over-salted or overripe?

Singhs has been around for 20 years, so their black clad waiters and fake flower arrangements make up parts of a tested formula. They deliver the quality of food that their pricing suggests - decent, spicy indian, without breaking any flavour boundaries.