Isthmus of Kra

28 Oct

Isthmus of Kra
50 Park street, South Melbourne

This time it was Joan and Damo’s pick and they went with Isthmus of Kra, a Thai restaurant in South Melbourne.

We started off with drinks at Damo and Joan’s new apartment. They broke out some Bollinger for us, and it was fantastic – apparently the bready, almost savoury taste is classic Bollinger.

After drinks we walked to the restaurant. My heart sank a little when I saw the dim lighting inside cos I knew that was going to fuck with my photos. Also we were pretty much the only people there, which is a bit ominous for an inner-city restaurant on Saturday night.

We went with something called the Saffron banquet, which was $65 a head.

The first course to come out was the Tom Yum soup. I think my soup must have been from the bottom of the pot because it had a higher cabbage and lemongrass to soup ratio than everyone else’s. I should have taken a photo of another one because my soup is pretty ugly and didn’t reflect its tastiness. This Tom Yum seemed heavier on the sour and lighter on the hot than others I’ve had, and everyone seemed to really enjoy it.

The next three courses came out together. From the top going clockwise: Cassava Mushroom Pillows, Steamed Blue Dumplings, and Quail Secret.

The blue dumplings were definitely the most striking. I’ve never seen blue dumplings before, and I reckon these are a must-get just because they’re so unusual. They are filled with caramelized minced beef, but they’re really tiny so you don’t get much beef.

The mushroom pillows were fairly bland – I could taste the seaweed, beancurd, and a had a general impression of earthiness. Supposedly it came with a wasabi herbal salsa but I don’t remember it.

The Quail Secret was my favourite. I loved the sour pickles, and the quail was succulent.

The rest of the main courses arrived at once. This is the King Prawn Laksa.

We were keen to try the red roast duck curry, and although it wasn’t part of the banquet Isthmus Kra let us substitute it for the duck salad. It makes sense to substitute duck for duck, but in hindsight I think it would have worked better if we’d substituted for one of the curries. We had a lot of curries, and they kind of blended into each other, and I wouldn’t have minded a nice, light salad course somewhere in there.

No complains about the duck curry though, it was probably my favourite of the lot.

I loved the roti that came with it all. It was light, flaky and not too oily.

This is the Chicken Pad Horm – chicken wok-singed with anise basil, cashews and Asian greens, with a mild garlic basil paste. I remember enjoying this one at the time, but a week later and I can’t remember what it tasted like so it can’t have left that strong an impression.

The Beef Krabi was slow cooked rump beef in a mixed spice stock which was then braised in a coconut reduction. I liked the sauce but I wasn’t crazy about the texture of the meat – some parts I got were a bit stringy.

Thanks to Damo we managed to polish everything off. I was pretty surprised at how full I was feeling towards the end. Luckily I’d managed to save a bit of room for dessert. We got two desserts, the first of which was a Black Rice Mango Pudding. In general I’m not a fan of rice-based desserts, but this was OK.

The home-made ice creams were much better! Clockwise from left they were: chocolate ripple (like a cookies and cream), mango, and gingerbread. Everyone seemed to prefer the gingerbread, but after such a heavy meal the lightness of the mango really hit the spot for me.

We were given a choice of coffees and various teas to drink after dinner. I chose peppermint, which was soothing though not as nice as the Middle Eastern ones, which are now my benchmark for peppermint teas.

Thanks to Howie and Damo’s Entertainment Book we got a discount, and it came to $120 per couple. It was an enjoyable meal overall, but I think it was expensive for what we got. It was about twice as expensive as Ying Thai 2, and although the atmosphere and service were better I don’t think the food was.

Admittedly it’s a tricky price range to work in – not expensive enough to bring in exotic ingredients and get all arty with the food, but expensive enough that it needs to be something special to make it worth returning. And in my opinion, while there’s nothing wrong with the food, Isthmus of Kra just isn’t interesting enough for a return visit.
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