Asian Flavours – September

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St Kilda Bites presents a new regular feature in search of the ‘tastiest’ Asian Restaurant in the St Kilda Area, the Food Dude and his Bites Team’s new critic ‘Charlie Balaclava’ are in constant search mode to unearth quintessential Asian cuisine for all those locals that have an addiction to ‘spicy’ or ‘sweet and sour’! This issue, our Asian Cuisine fanatic Charlie just had to feature his favourite in ChapelStreet…

‘Misnomers!’ They are everywhere, think of the last time you actually used a laptop in your lap.

In the age of bloated and misleading marketing, resistance is futile… and Thai Food To Go is no different – they embody the idea, however, in the most beautiful way.

With an abundance of Thai restaurants surviving their pandemic proliferation in the early 2000s, there are few Thai places that deliver consistent flavours in an effortlessly confident way like Thai Food To Go.

Eking out existences in back streets across Melbourne, lack-love Thai restaurants are all too familiar for those chasing the ultimate Massaman.

Thai food has, in some cases, become the epitome of its antithesis; dull, polluted flavours with sub-standard, over-cooked fare, that no self-respecting Thai would ever associate themselves with.

This is where Thai Food To Go shines as an unpretentious jewel in the Windsor precinct of Chapel St.

With a restaurant in every other shop front, Windsorians are spoilt for choice and, let’s be honest, competition is definitively fierce. Despite this, it’ll be a hot, sunny day in July before you see these guys standing around twiddling their thumbs.

The locals love it here and there could be no higher indicator of their love-ability, which brings me back to the aforementioned misnomer.

While they do take away brilliantly, Thai Food To Go, despite the name, is all about the kitsch dine-in experience.

Wall to wall with old 50s-style melamine table tops and completely mismatched chairs, the dining room resembles a hodgepodge of disestablishmentarianism and the Caucasian colonialism of south-east Asia as the extremes of taste from the East and West intermingled like the raging Ying to the calming Yang.

Think dusty lampshades made of dyed and starched doyleys akin to the kind your grandma perched atop her credenza with care.

Intermingled with clashing colours that haven’t been expertly matched by the hottest Interior Designer, stepping into Thai Food To Go is like stepping into the past – a perfect time when fit-outs were naff (original, authentic naff not the fakery of the ever popular conspired naff), the food was fast and fresh and friends conversed over their cheap and cheerful bottle of BYO plonk.

All your Thai favourites are represented here in a role call of familiarity ranging from uplifting curries to crisp stir-fries and fresh salads.
We started with vegetarian curry puffs, spring rolls and the ever-elusive Betel Leaf.

The curry puffs were served with bottled sweet chilli sauce and could have been one of the most satisfying curry puffs I’ve had in a long while. With the exact folding perfection that only comes with commercially brought products, I must confess, once I tried them, I didn’t care. Delicious and satisfying are the buzzwords to use.

While the spring rolls weren’t as knock out flavour wise as the curry puffs, in fairness, they were crunchy and weren’t the worst example I’ve ever devoured.

The real stand out, however, was the flavour-bomb Betel leaves wrapped around a medley of ingredients including dried shrimp and crunchy fried shallots.

A word to the wise though, NEVER visit just for the Betel Leaves, while they are indeed worth it, they are more often off the menu than on; despite their prime real-estate on the menu’s front page.

They are more like a nice surprising highlight to a meal rather than a destination dish in itself, but always worth asking for.

Our mains arrived a matter of minutes after our starters arrived haphazardly at our table, but this once again is part of the charm – it’s about good food and great friends, not stroking Neil Perry’s ego over a perfectly executed and timed Assiette.

Speaking of our mains, there was not a scrap left – much to our over filled bellies dismay.

We devoured one of the best Gado Gado salads I’ve ever had the pleasure of demolishing with crisp lettuce, cucumber, red onions, segmented tomato, golden-fried tofu, boiled egg and a heavily-spiced, voluptuous peanut sauce.

Along with a refreshing peanut salad, we ordered the Beef Massaman curry which was completely addictive and perfectly balanced. The beef resembled slivers of velvet wading in swathes of creamy sauce that rounded out the spicy finish.

To accompany the peanut, beef and potato symphony in a bowl, we went the perennial favourite of any Thai restaurant; Tofu Cashew Nut Stir-Fry.

Crunchy seasonal vegetables wok-flashed to perfection with tofu and crispy cashew nuts coated in a sweet, salty sauce that hits all the points on the palate like a yakuza-style street gang, as all good Thai food should.

With no room left for desserts, we paid our modest bill and contently waddled out not even tempted by the conveniently placed Ben and Jerry’s Ice-Cream Parlour only a couple of doors down.

While Thai Food To Go represents the ultimate in misnomers, I am reticent to divulge this, as I am too fond of our regular street-side table that will consequently be permanently occupied by the new wave of Thai Food To Go lovers.

With some of the best cheap and cheerful Thai I have ever had in Melbourne, Thai Food To Go is that charming go-to Thai spot in Windsor, if not south of the river, and if there is any word of advice I could give; eat well and eat quick, because I loathe waiting for tables.

 

 

Thai Food To Go

141 Chapel Street, Windsor

Open 7 days, 5.30pm – 10pm

Ph: 9510 2112

www.thaifoodtogo.com.au

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