92-94 Johnston Street
Collingwood 3066 Vic
Ph: 9495 6694
Previously, if I wanted great cheap Thai food, the first thought turned to Ying Thai on Victoria Street. However, now there is a serious challenger, Thai Taste on Johnston Street.
Kin recommended Thai Taste as he had been there previously. He kept raving about the pork hock. I was thinking it didn't sound very traditionally Thai and that the food probably won't be so good. How wrong I was to be.
Thai Taste is a rather non-descript restaurant hiding away on the Collingwood end of Johnston Street. It was actually rather hard to find it as they did themselves no favour by having the wrong restaurant name displayed on upper most street signage. Once we did find it, we were greeted by a rather dark and dungy rectangular space separated by a wall into two areas. We saw everyone had a pitcher of Thai milk tea on their table so we got that too while deciding on our orders.
The menu, a tacky (physically and metaphorically) plastic double side lamented sheet provided a wealth of choice, some items displayed with photos. We actually decided to go with a lot of the house specials that had rather enticing photos that made our mouths water. It's strange that only cheaper Asian restaurants tend to have photos of the food. I wonder why it's not done in fine dining establishments for some items. It would help to ease the disappointment that sometimes comes with just reading a description. Anyway, I digress.
So we started with an amazingly fiery and tangy Green Papaya Salad. Thai food is so great with their salads. A combination of crunchy vegetables melded with even crunchier condiments like peanut and dried shrimp, lavished in the most addictively acidic spicy sauce you can imagine. This had us all gasping and grasping for more water, and then more salad. Thoroughly addictive and enjoyable.
The Soft Shell Crab in Sour Soup was also a house special and seen on almost every table. Beautiful golden pieces of battered soft shell crab was served in a metal pot bubbling over a flame. The sour soup housed an assortment of vegetables such as kang kung, carrots and onion. This dish worked very well with the contrasting flavours and really helped to whet the appetite.
The Fried Barramundi with Apple was again a great display of combining sweet, salty and spicy. The crisp barra skin housed the juicy soft flesh of the fish. The tart green apple combined with the salty spicy sauce to draw out so much flavour from the fish.
Finally, the masterpiece we had been hanging out for. The Fried Pork Hock was a heart attack waiting to happen but boy was it good. The extremely crispy skin was not hard to the point you couldn't chew it, and the gloriously gelatinous and unctuos fat inside the hock was insanely good. There was large amounts of fat with some meat. There was a dipping sauce but it tasted better just as is. Definitely a dish to share and not consume by yourself.
The only dish that wasn't a spectacular highlight like all the others was the Red Curry Chicken. We had wanted the red curry duck but there was no duck left. So instead, we settled on the chicken. It was clear this was the least favourable dish as it was too sweet in flavour and left till last by everyone.
Dessert was just simply durian served with stick rice, a perfect way to end a great meal.
Service, was typical of many cheaper Asian restaurants, serviceable without being good. The waitresses fulfilled our requests and were friendly enough but many things should have been done without asking.
The ambience was a buzz all night. The full restaurant had patrons happily chatting away. I really wished they would turn the lights brighter, but that's my personal pet peeve. There was some live music right at the end of the night playing in the background. The singer was doing very original covers of Western Pop music and was so good we thought it was a cd.
Overall, a fantastic restaurant serving delicious Thai food at a great price.
Overall Rating: 15/20, Food is excellent and great value for money.
Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20:Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.