Thai food has gotta be one of the most delicious cuisines around. And it’s a total crowd-pleaser. Sure, some people split hairs about how Thai food is cooked in Australia versus how Thai food is cooked in Thailand, but we say pipe down in the back there. As long as it’s not completely spice-neutered, we’re happy to wolf down plate after plate. Which brings us to Melbourne’s best Thai restaurants. From spicy salads to creamy curries, from cheapskate to top-end, these places give the best Bangkok for your buck.
Victoria Street institution Ying Thai recently moved 300 metres down the street and rebranded itself as Thaiger Rabbit. It’s still got the same spicy, authentic and budget-friendly menu, though. Feast on grilled satay skewers, salted crab papaya salad and tasty pandan leaf parcels of deep-fried chicken before tackling larger fare like red-hot duck curry soup and chilli-spiked stir fries with your choice of protein. There’s a small but serviceable menu of beer and wine, and corkage is just $2.90 per person.
The specialty at Middle Fish is traditional Thai breakfast dishes (served all day)—the signature dish being a crunchy mussel omelette with pickled bean shoots and house-made sriracha sauce. There’s also a BLT that comes with a son-in-law egg and French toast made with grilled banana and pandan coconut sauce. The lunch menu showcases big Thai flavours and textures in soups, curries and salads, and caters to meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans alike. The coffee is first-rate, and you can also cool down with crushed ices in pressed metal bowls.
Bucket cocktails, hologram Buddhas and good times abound at LadyBoy, even though Googling the name at work could land you in trouble. It’s an eclectic space with an astroturfed bar at the back, where you can order a Phuket Bucket if you have to wait for a table. The menu is packed with snack-y type things and larger dishes designed for sharing: try the pork hock smothered in fish caramel or the salted chicken Pad Thai. All of the dishes are gluten-free, and there’s a thrifty banquet option for the indecisive/hangry.
This warehouse-style space ticks a lot of boxes—first, it’s big enough that you’ll nearly always get a table. Second, it does lunch and dinner, with heaps of authentic hawker dishes on the menu as well as modern interpretations of classics (hello, larb gai salad with crispy chicken fillets). Third, it’s fully licensed with $6 beers and a modest wine selection. Lastly, Jinda Thai serves sweet Thai teas in glass jars and ‘boat noodles’ with pork crackling strips. Game over, this joint has it all.
Twelve years since its arrival transformed Melbourne’s understanding of high-end Thai cuisine, Cookie is still firing from all cylinders with its intensely flavour-fuelled food. Part European beer hall and part high-end cocktail bar, it’s kitted out with floral crockery, doily settings and old children’s Golden Books. The menu is designed for sharing—you might work your way through a plate of sticky tapioca dumplings before divvying up a duck jungle curry or devouring a rack of pork spare ribs. Yum.
Thai Tiki Hut
This inner-north, tiki-tastic Thai joint is a short stroll from Croxton station and has a cute fit-out complete with bamboo booths. Old favourites are executed with precision—the buttery curry puffs come with a light peanut sauce instead of the usual sweet chilli, and the fragrant green curry contains a decent whack of spice. The deep-fried mushrooms are a must-try and the grilled beef is incredibly tender. The atmosphere is chilled-out and service can be lax, but the booze is cheap and you can also BYO. You can’t go wrong.
Easy Tiger dishes up Thai food with a modern twist—and loads of chilli. The share-plate style menu is composed of small bites and larger ones: start with footy-shaped fish cakes or taro chips with chill salt, then move onto the sour orange fish curry with shards of winter melon or the massaman curry with sweet potato. Don’t leave without trying the chocolate-filled dumplings, which are dyed green with pandan leaves and served with salted coconut cream.
You can’t live in Melbourne and not know about Chin Chin—its infamous no-booking policy has attracted many a foodie’s ire, and yet we all return despite the high probability of a long wait for a table. Why? The adventurous, pan-Asian menu is exceptional—this is one of the best Thai restaurants in Melbourne. Loaded with little dishes (like son-in-law-eggs and suckling pig pancakes) as well as larger fare (like BBQ yellow fin tuna and caramelised sticky pork), it’s even packing a punch when it comes to dessert (get the palm sugar ice cream sundae and thank me later). Plus, you can just say ‘Feed Me’ and they’ll bring you a multi-course chef’s selection for $69 a head.
Melbourne is not generally fond of Sydney interlopers, but we make an exception for Longrain, which has the same no-booking policy as Chin Chin (for groups of four and under), but is serving up some of the best Thai in Melbourne. Luckily, there’s a big lively bar within the industrial-esque space so you can get stuck into a few lychee cocktails while you wait for a spot at one of the communal tables. Both the lunch and dinner menus feature Longrain’s signature dish of caramelised pork hock with five spice and chilli vinegar, as well as salt ‘n’ pepper silken tofu with fried eschalots. But you’ll have to go at night to get the twice-cooked duck with lotus root chips or the Instagram-worthy filled eggnet. The wine list is designed to work with the food, so don’t BYO, okay?
Magic Mountain Saloon
Ever since Magic Mountain opened last year, all we do is talk about it. Not only does it serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, it has a cocktail menu to go with all three and an ingenious concept of smashing Thai food up with American barbeque. Chicken wings are flavoured with soy and coriander, lamb handles come with hot mint peas, and eye fillet steak is served with cured pork belly and chill mushrooms. The salads are luxed up with herbs, nuts and citrus, and Boney is right next door if they night starts taking you in a rambunctious direction.
Want more of the best Thai restaurants in Melbourne? Search ‘Thai’ in The Directory!
Image credit: Cookie, Michelle Jarni for The Urban List