Monday, November 06, 2006

Thai Viet, Collingwood

Everyone seems to have their own local Thai place that they love and that they recommend to friends - mine is Thai Viet. On Smith St, just near Johnston, is this fantastic place that is so cheap - you wonder how they manage to make any profit at all. The restaurant itself, is glowing with barely lit neon lights and asian inspired artwork hangs from the walls, which looks like it was purchased back in the 80's. Specials are stuck up on the walls, handwritten on paper and most are spelt incorrectly. I've never been to Thailand, but Thai Viet is exactly the type of restaurant I imagine to find in the main streets, only filled with people. For some reason on a few locals seem to have cottoned on to the fantastic food that comes out of this kitchen and the super cheap prices they charge for it.

If you decide to visit Thai Viet, I recommend getting the banquet meal. 8 courses for $16! That's the price for two people, but the more people that you bring, the cheaper the price for the banquet - I think 4 people is $12.

First up is the Tom Yum soup. You have a choice of prawn or chicken. I love it when you get Tom Yum and you can see the oil and the chilli floating and shimmering in the light on the surface of the soup. You just know it's going to have that kick to it. The soup does have a bit of heat to it, but only enough to warm your lips and give you a bit of a tickle in the back of your throat. The fresh lime juice in the soup kind of helps to balance this out. The crunch of the fresh Coriander and Bean Shoots, adds that little bit of freshness to each mouthful; perfect.

The next courses are served together - Satay Skewers and Spring Rolls. Everything at here at Thai Viet appears to be homemade, from the curry pastes to the satay sauce. The chicken satay isn't like I've had at other restaurants, it's a little more dry and less creamy, but so much more tasty. The satay sticks are threaded with barbequed Carrots, Onions and your choice of Beef or Chicken. On this same plate comes the home made spring rolls which admittedly are similar to those I've had at other asian restaurants and unfortunately aren't served with lettuce cups or Vietnamese mint. As the Spring Rolls are part of the banquet though, these extras aren't really needed - just the sweet / sour dipping sauce served on the side.

Next is the Thai Salad. This is without a doubt, the best Thai Salad I've ever tasted. It is the definition of what I've learnt Thai cooking to be. It's the perfect balance of sweet, sour, hot and salty. This crunchy salad is more like a coleslaw, scattered with chopped peanuts. It's so fresh with carrot, red onions, fresh coriander, thai basil, vietnamese mint, shredded chicken and bean shoots. I'm determined to attempt to copy this salad at home myself. It shouldn't be too hard, the ingredients are quite simple, however getting that dressing just right, might be a challenge.

Next course was the Beef Stir fry, with sesame seeds. A good stir-fry needs fresh vegies, tender meat and a tasty sauce. This dish has them all. It's quite a basic stir fry, but is done quite well, finished with a good sprinkling of Sesame Seeds.

Our final course, is my favourite of them all. The Thai Yellow Curry. I'd never tasted Yellow Curry before I had visited Thai Viet, but after tasting this deliciously spicy treat, it's now one of my favourite meals! The bright yellow sauce, the tender cooked chicken thighs, the almost chewy fried potatoes - which have the best texture and the zig zag cut carrots, can only be described as fantastic. Whenever I get this banquet I tend to make sure I save room for the Yellow Curry.

Now, you may have noticed that I only mentioned 6 courses here, out of the 8 course banquet. Well, it seems that steamed rice is actually counted as a course. Fair enough I guess seeing the food is so cheap. The final course is actually supposed to be a fruit platter with tea or coffee. I have had this banquet many times and not once has the fruit platter been brought out. Even after waiting around for about 20 minutes after the final plates have been taken away. Admittedly, I've never actually asked where the platter was and why we weren't offered it, simply because most times I've been too full to even bother!

The service at Thai Viet is interesting to say the least. Often the waitress will wait at your table while you decide and you actually have to ask them to give you a few minutes to look at the menu. Occasionally, I've seen the owner's kids skate boarding or rollerblading around the restaurant. But hey, it's all part of the atmosphere - like I said - exactly the type of place I imagine to find in Thailand itself.

It might be worth mentioning also, that the beer and alcohol here is SO cheap! I think a stubby of VB (or similar) was about $2.50 (I dont drink, so can't remember exactly). Apparently it's retail prices. You drinkers would have to love that!

Overall, Thai Viet is fantastic for what it is - a cheap, good value, tasty, local Thai joint, worth visiting - especially if you're hungry enough to order the banquet! I'd like to hear about other people's favourite local Thai places if anyone has any. And if you happen to visit or have been to Thai Viet and had the banquet - let me know if you have got that Fruit Platter!

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