Asian Flavours – St. Hotel

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By Ravenous Renee

The epitome of cool, the St. Hotel radiates an unprecedented sophistication that allures patrons from afar. Ultra-modern and fabulously chic, yet warm and inviting all at the same time, this multi-tiered and multi-faceted former heritage listed bank building, is a fresh take on the tired and worn out, much loved hotel venue that it was before.

A public bar and dining room downstairs and supper club and social club upstairs, this is basically your local pub adding more value, offering a smart casual entertaining space, for all occasions. Maintaining an aviary mixed industrial-like feel in the restaurant and bar area, with high glass ceilings and splashes of fernery decorating the interior, and exposed brick walls offsetting contemporary black steel beam fixtures to the contrary; and you’ve just entered the perfect relaxed and contemporary surroundings, to take in the delicious modern-Thai food and craft beers on offer.

With a menu designed to share, and having a seating for two, my dining partner and I began our evening off with the ‘Raw ocean trout, watermelon, green nahm jim, and coconut cream’ $14 from the ‘starters,’ with the ‘Som tum – pounded green papaya salad, cherry tomatoes, apple eggplant, dried shrimp, chilli, peanuts and crackling (N)’ $10, from the ‘salads,’ to follow.

The trout, served chilled in refined delectable morsels, was melt in your mouth fresh and with the slight kick given off by the light touch of green nahm jim (akin to a tamer version of wasabi) gracing its presence — mixed in with the creamy touch of coconut cream, sweet mini bursts of watermelon and the slight acidity of a few dainty slivers of red onion — was a superb palate cleanser and a delightfully fresh start to the evening.

The som yum salad also cleansed the palate well, with its clean and juicy shredded papaya and apple eggplant flavours (the shrimp, crackling and peanuts adding a refined crunch); but add the chilli and this dish gives off just enough of a bitey edge to allow the metabolism to get fired up on all cylinders – perfect to prepare the digestive tract for the heavier and more robust dishes to follow.

Then came the main dishes that we ordered, the ‘Hopkins river beef rump, with chilli and thai basil’ $21, alongside the ‘Yellow curry of Chatham Island blue cod with plantain’ $25; both excellent choices. The rump served in fine carved proportions and as a decent serving, was succulent and lightly pink tender on the inside, and maintained an almost smoky charcoal taste that with its crisp outer rim was divine.  A real earthy meat – the rump went exceptionally well with its satay look-alike sauce that was actually of a chilli-heated romesco concoction. Smoky flavours meet invigorating spice – and served with a decorative and crisp Asian side salad, what absolute perfection.

Then try the hearty yellow fish curry and your palate will be met with a coconut creamy oasis of mildly spicy-sweet flavours, which alongside succulent meaty fish chunks and soft, almost chewy slices of  plantain (that you’d be forgiven for thinking were slices of unripened banana), will have you extremely satisfied and in absolute gastronomic bliss. Add the fragrant and naturally sweet smell and taste of fresh basil and this will be one bowl you want to wipe clean. Bread please? Okay, maybe not. But it’s hard not to want to savour this dish for its opulent flavours and contrasting textures.

Finally, finishing the night off on a refreshing note — much like its beginnings, we tried the one and only Asian inspired ‘sweet’ on the menu: the ‘Coconut tapioca, fresh pomelo, mango puree with watermelon granita’ $10; and although not my usual pick of desserts, it was actually quite pleasing. Served chilled as a starchy and creamy coconut blend (its texture and presentation resembling that closest to rice pudding) and topped off with invigorating citrus mouthfuls and drizzles of exotic mango, plus the crunch of sugary and zesty watermelon crystals on top; and all boxes were ticked.

A delightful evening on all accounts, the food at the St. Hotel is as fresh, authentic and innovative as their new venue. A job well done to owners Paul Nguyen and Simon Blacher (the duo also behind Hanoi Hannah, Saigon Sally and Tokyo Tina), alongside their talented Head Chef, Sean Judd – to be commended; St. Hotel is an establishment we will be frequenting again.

St. Hotel

54 Fitzroy St, St Kilda

Opening hours: 12pm till late, 7 days a week

Phone: (03) 9534 2944

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