A mere couple of weeks after eating at Cookie’s younger child, Colonel Tan’s in Prahran, a long, tiresome stroll through Melbourne’s CBD in search of the perfect meal concluded at Cookie. Fuelling Melbourne with spicy Thai food and satisfying the everlasting crave for cocktails, beers and wine, Cookie has been fulfilling all these demands for some time now. To my surprise, this well-established hotspot was still bustling though you rarely hear about it in the media. With the music as loud as ever, no space in the main dining room, customers pouring in and out the entire evening, the buzz and vibe were as strong, if not stronger than I ever remembered.
Cookie can be found on the first level in the famous, multi-level complex Curtin House which is located on Swanston Street in Melbourne’s lovely city. The menu is presented on large wooden boards, divided into three distinct columns; small, medium and large dishes. This, combined with the helpful staff enables you to order an appropriate amount of dishes for the number of eaters- a skill that many readers will tell that I lack in. I have noted the size of the dish next to the price. Many readers will know that I like to order most of the menu. At Cookie this did not occur, 5/90 dishes – I ordered around 6% haha.
Steamed tapioca dumplings filled with pickled turnip, pork and peanuts ($13.50 – small dish). If your first reaction was that tapioca sounds gross, then your not alone, we thought the same. How lucky we were that we came to our senses to try something different. These parcels of yum delicousness were incredible. A sticky outer skin, combined with the warm pork and vegetables inside with the light crunch of the nuts made for a special experience. One small issue: 3 people, 4 dumplings, an intense game of paper-scissors-rock was the only solution. Order these.
Pork spare ribs marinated with roasted chilli and soy ($23.50 – large dish). A generous helping of ribs always goes down as a fun but messy hands on experience. These bones weren’t overloaded with lots of porky meat, but they weren’t overly expensive either – so we were content. What I must say is once you dress these sticks in the runny hot chilli sauce provided, this can become a very spicy experience.
Cured kingfish, sweet mango, chilli and mint salad ($24.50 – medium dish). Even though this was classified as a salad, I expected the kingfish to be displayed as is commonly portrayed in Melbourne – similar to sashimi. This was an excellent surprise. Always good to see this ingredient presented differently. The above photograph didn’t capture the scattered pieces of fish throughout but take it from me that there were plenty inside. The use of fresh fruit (mango) in these types of dishes works so well to balance the savoury flavours - its a suprise fruit does not get used more often. Fresh, light side course - good for sharing with two or three others.
Stir fried chicken, enoki and oyster mushrooms, fresh coconut, kaffir lime and lemongrass ($19.50 – medium dish). The chicken pieces were moist and soaked up lots of the dressing it was presented in. Meanwhile, the strong flavours of kaffir, coriander and dried chilli were not for the faint hearted.
Penang lamb and eggplant curry ($25.50 – large dish). Ridiculously good curry. The three of us that dined at Cookie on this occasion all agreed that this was a fabulous, most definitely one of the best we have ever eaten (and drunk). The lamb pieces were tender and eggplant is always great but the sauce, the rich, creamy, buttery sauce was amazing. This is a must order - we were tempted to get another. It comes with one serving of rice, an additional serving (which was necessary) was $3.00.
This place will be in my upcoming ‘must do’ Melbourne restaurants list, due to be released when I get around to it. This document will detail many of my favourite places to hit up and the special restaurants that I would add to any food lovers repertoire. For now, if you want to take it from me, Cookie is a great place for a night out in town. Hoora, you can book, so get dialing boys and girls and preferably don’t drive in so you can let loose a little. This Cookie is as groovy, delicious and happening as ever.
The Important Details…
Noise: Bangin’ music and lots of chatter
Bookings: Yes for main dining room only
Suitable for: 18+ crowd
Dress: Casual – slightly hipster
Price: $35 – $40 per human
My View: Go go
Address: 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9663 7660
If you are looking for a great place for Thai north of the Yarra, Easy Tiger is an excellent choice. I was lucky enough to dine here in January 2012. Bookings can be made via your telephone or an online system; we used this knowledge and made a reservation well in advance of the date. I would highly recommend booking early to ensure your evening here. The Tiger isn’t huge and it gets booked out very quickly.
The street frontage on bustling Smith Street in Collingwood is unassuming, a subtle hint of the treasure that lies inside. You will notice there is no Smith Street front dining, but there is an extremely good-looking (and surprisingly large) courtyard out back. Set out with communal timber tables and fairy lights hanging from the ceiling it provides for a great dim lit cosy space for a night out.
You’ll notice Mr monkey on your left as you step inside. I like to think he’s looking over the place, making sure everybody has a swell night. He wears a hat tilted to the side because he’s hip and wants to show the world that he’s not like all others.
A complimentary tea on arrival makes for a very welcoming feel. We sipped and enjoyed sitting in the lounge area at the front while our table was prepared for us to feast. I noticed that many of the customers were seated on this low lounge table for roughly 5-10 minutes when they arrived. This was cool because it allowed me to acclimatize to the ET vibe before venturing deeper into the jungle…
OK, maybe jungle isn’t the best way of describing this place, although the animal pictures do provide it with some kind of jungle-esque feel. The front dining room is a compact space where diners sit close to one another on the communal tables or have the option of sitting as a two along the right hand wall. This circa 30 seat room is looked over by the double horned unicorn/donkey displayed above the multi-coloured glass shelves.
We ordered the set menu @ $65 per person, which ET does on the condition that the entire table get’s involved. (However, for the convenience of your reading pleasure I have included the menu price for the individual dishes too). I am always a bit dubious about ordering set menus and banquets when I’m out for the dinner meal. Sometimes it can be highway robbery and leave you forking out some serious coin when the a la carte option would have been cheaper, and potentially more interesting. At ET I would say the banquet is a wise choice. A very wise choice. The dishes are made according to the amount of people to be served, which is a generous change from the common trend of one massive plate in the middle (desperately hoping that it will be enough for all).
These four little babies are the Ma Hor ($4.00 each) which are made up of prawn, pork and chicken mince cooked in palm sugar, perched on top of a 50 cent sized bed of watermelon. As you can imagine these were a very short lasting experience, but one you won’t forget. These little guys were absolutely scrumptious. The sweet, fresh watermelon was great.
Another miniature gastronomic delight which is eaten in one mouthful: the betel leaf with prawn, peanuts and fresh coconut ($5.00 each). So many amazing flavours and textures packed into a leaf sandwich – a killer second entree.
Next up was the classic Thai fish cakes with sweet chilli sauce ($12.00). Delicious, lightly fried cakes which don’t taste too fishy (for my humble tastes), and the sauce was a very befitting companion.
Chicken, shitake mushroom and water chestnut spring rolls ($6.00 each). Springers – you can’t go wrong, right?
Here’s the controversial one: sour orange curry of smoked trout with cherry tomatoes and Siamese watercress ($30.00). Strange, right? Could be wrong, could be oh-so-right. (I mean, what is ‘smoked trout’ and ‘curry’ even doing in the same sentence, let alone the same dish?). Personally, this wasn’t my favourite dish of the night. I found the curry slightly too sour for my liking. But that’s OK. It was a half/half split over this one, which suggests its an ambitious and interesting dish. The funny part was that the 2/4 of us that loved this dish weren’t huge fans of the wagyu beef. You know, sometimes it’s good to come across a dish that isn’t my favourite – the incinerator is human after all. And it makes ordering easier next time around. Meanwhile, I was on the team that preferred the beef. Make your own call and get back to me.
Green papaya salad ($8.00). Classic Thai staple and national dish that varies from region to region, though not always on the menu in local Aussie Thai eateries. This wasn’t one of the main events but it was nice and fresh, worked well as a side to the larger courses.
Oh yeah. Coconut braised blackmore wagyu beef shin with pickled cucumber ($30.00). Be still my beating heart. The plate was entirely spotless when my side of the table was done with it. The wagyu was exquisitely soft and melted in your mouth; the rice soaked up all the creamy coconut sauce that the beef was floating in. The robust garnish of coriander and spring onions added a good crispy, fresh vegie-herbie to the overall flavour and texture. Mos def my favourite dish of the night.
Son in law eggs ($4.00 each – These are boiled then lightly fried eggs often served in/with a sweet sauce). To be honest, I was holding out for these for the entire meal. I have had them before at both Longrain and Gingerboy, both hip Thai-Fusion joints in the city. So I did know what I was in for when they arrived. I like to think of them as small explosions in the mouth as is the course of action when you chom. They are best consumed whole to avoid slopping and for full eating pleasure. Definitely order if you haven’t tried these or, if you have tried them and really like them.
I didn’t think there was room for the desert. Bullshit. I always make room for desert. White sticky rice served with banana fritter and salted peanuts. This was just the perfect size to end the feast. The sticky rice was an unusual and surprisingly great addition.Each person received their own little serve, (the regular serving costs $14.00 and is presumably larger.
The Tiges is an upmarket Thai restaurant – on the pricier side for this type of food in Melbourne, but you are paying for helpful, professional staff, clean and delicious food and a simple but funky fit out. The price is totally justified. I would recommend heading down there as a 2 or 4 person group to allow the sharing to work best and the conversation to flow like the rivers of the Mekong while you can still hear each other. ET is a beautiful spot. Definitely one to try, as it’s an excellent example of high-quality Melbourne dining.
The Important Details…
Noise: Loud but bearable
Bookings: Yes – by phone or website
Suitable for: 18 year +
Price: $65 banquet + alcohol
My View: Yet another fabulous Smith Street establishment well worth seeking out.
Address: 96 Smith Street, Collingwood
Phone: (03) 9417 2373
Staying in Pott’s Point during my short vacation to New South Wales, was a ripper of a decision. I’ll be honest I was very close to staying in the over populated, overpriced and ultra touristy Bondi. I used my instincts and asked a couple ‘in the know’ Sydney siders and made a decision – the right decision. The only issue that Pott’s Point presented my partner and I, was which one of the highly appealing restaurants would we dine at each night. Ms. G’s was chosen one evening. Another ‘ripper’ choice. If only I could pick Tatslotto numbers like that too..
The crowds arrive very early for this excellent place. To avoid standing and waiting the friendly staff offer a bar upstairs to sip on cocktails and relax and/or they will take your name and number and call you when your table is ready. (Note: stay close by, the streets of Potts Point are very relaxing and pleasant to stroll while waiting for your table)
The front cover of the menu that holds names of dishes that will keep me dreaming for the next few years.
Above is the Ms G’s grilled corn on the cob, parmesan and lime ($4.00) . These were charred to perfection and tasted delicious. One may suggest that these are featuring too commonly in many of the new ‘funkier’ eateries. I may agree with that, although if they are cooked as well as these are then I’ll chom them most times.
Mini bahn mi (small burgers @ $6.00 each) The outside two are crispy pork belly and the middle one is chicken katsu.I have a weakness for mini burgers, any catered function that these appear at I attempt to befriend all the staff to ensure a continual supply. I can’t make a negative comment about these little delights. They were incredible and a must order.
Possibly the best dish that I have eaten in 2011. These are Jow’s sweet and sour lamb ribs ($23.00). These literally fell off the bone and melted in your mouth. The portion size was also very generous. I need say no more. This is even a more must than the burgers. GET THESE RIBS. IF you don’t like them you are Loko!
Egg noodles with XO sauce, braised duck and a soft poached egg ($18.00). This too followed suit, and we were very impressed. The noodles were soft and the poached egg provided a nice consistency once it was shmushed and mixed into the dish.
The Important Details…
Cuisine: Asian – Thai/Vietnamese dominance
Noise: Loud, but fun
Bookings: Typically no. Possible for large groups and lunches.
Suitable for: 18+ crowd drawn
Price: $25 – $40 per head
My view: Incredible, delicious and a must try
Address: 155 Victoria Street, Potts Point, NSW 2011
Phone: (02) 8313 1000