18 Eastlake Parade Kingston, ACT 2604
|Opening hours||Tue-Sun noon-2pm; Tue-Thu 6pm-9.30pm; Fri-Sat 6pm-10pm,,|
|Features||Accepts bookings, Vegetarian friendly|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||02 6295 0112|
Of all the grand marinas of the world - Saint-Tropez, Capri, Portofino - the six-odd berths on ''the island'' just off the Kingston foreshore might not rate as a destination for Europe's rich and famous, and even the History Supreme might have trouble negotiating the upper Molonglo.
But there is something grand about dining near a harbour, a sense of expedition and high jinks on the rolling seas; all you need to do is step off that jetty.
Granted, this jetty leads only to the confines of Lake Burley Griffin, and the area is still very much a work in progress, with shopfronts still to be fitted out. But the early signs are of quite a nice destination, and this time of year having water around is a blessing.
It's always been one of the stranger city planning directions to have only limited use of the lake, so props to whoever got this development off and running. All it needs, like everywhere, is a few more carparks.
We find ourselves in the bottom floor of an apartment block, a space where they are playing some mighty fine music. You expect many things at a Thai restaurant - a floral theme, the smell of kapi (shrimp paste) and maybe a reclining Buddha. But hearing Jimi Hendrix ripping his upside-down Stratocaster isn't one of them. Crosstown Traffic is a fantastic tune, and poignant given that the team here has journeyed across town to set up on the quays of LBG.
At Morks (yes, I'm with you if you are of age; I immediately think of colourful baggy pants and Robin Williams) the fit-out is sleakish-black, simple and functional, with a window into the kitchen and a small counter with Asian movie posters adding a light-hearted theme.
If you have been to Morks' former home out in Florey - which, interestingly, is the road-rage capital of the world (at least in my experience) - it was a strange little place, packed with tables and chairs, BYO only, busy, and the food punching above its weight. In Kingston you get the same pretty exciting modern expression of Thai food and a decent wine list. It's well selected and respectful to the food heritage, so you won't have a big list of heavy, oaky reds to deal with, just a range of aromatic whites and light-to-medium reds.
We knock the top off a Von Buhl riesling from the Pfalz, and its balance of sweet and sour goes with Thai food like Mork goes with Mindy.
In a world where everything in the dining scene is about sharing, Morks hits us with a more formal three-course menu. You can, of course, share, but the dishes are apparently weighted to have on your own.
Crunchy sea scallops ($17) with a neat little hat of rolled pig's ear is something I'd order nine times out of 10. The three fat molluscs have a fresh but earthy flavour, cooked just right so there's a smidgen of rawness about the centre. The gelatinous beret is so soft, adding that mysterious denatured protein texture to the dish. Happily, they have had a good hair-removal treatment. Underneath, there's a paste of those old-school Thai ingredients: pepper, coriander root and garlic. It's a solid starter showing not a small amount of spunk in the kitchen.
Balls of blue swimmer crab and minced chicken ($16) on egg noodles with sweet soy and chilli, garnished with pickled ginger, is a decent-sized dish. The 14-year-old son is a little perplexed, not sure whether the crab is an anatomical noun or a geometrical adjective. While the flavour and taste balance is precise, the size is a little too much of a good thing. The boy doesn't mind - he'll eat everything in a maddening quest for protein, but a little more finesse might tempt us mere mortals.
For me, the best entree is a salad of crispy rice seasoned with red curry, with cured pork, herbs and roasted coconut ($16). The salad has this beautiful balance between salt and acid, sweetness and heat, plus it's very simple, food you'd have daily.
Mains come mostly as more substantial dishes, all with rice. Slow-cooked red curry duck with tomato and lychee is completed by crispy rice cake and fried basil leaves ($28). Quite a light dish in actuality, the red curry base is toned down, and quite sweet; it's enjoyable without knocking you over with complexity or intensity. A curry for the masses, perhaps.
''Mediterranean-caught'' red mullet with a salad of red onion, cucumber, herbs and tomato ($28), like the rice salad, is bang-on in elegance and balance, quite a good dish. But ''Mediterranean'' is a strange way of promoting the fish - does that mean it is frozen and sent here? I think we have red mullet here, or another local might suit.
The gun dish of the mains is the sweet caramelised pork ribs with braised round beans and mustard leaves ($27), which is very much in that Martin Boetz- Longrain unctuous, rich and sweet mould. So easy to eat, so moreish - you'd be a charlatan of the highest order to disrespect this dish.
You know what's coming - that awkward time when you take the dessert menu with no real enthusiasm for a series of green super-sweet Asian desserts. Well, fear not, my Western friends - Morks puts up three or four serious dishes that, while clinging to the heritage, pack in some interesting flavours.
Lime glory ($15) is like an Oriental tiramisu - delicate lime curd with crunchy honeycomb, strawberry and passionfruit coulis. It's a lavish affair, so rich and textural yet with that acidic backbone you expect from Thai food. Cracking good stuff. Likewise, the so-called ''Night garden'', a hedonistic and quite unexpected arrangement of a chocolate marquis-like cake with raspberries, chocolate soil and sour creme fraiche. An awesomely good dessert, worthy of anywhere.
What I like most about Morks is this sense of journey. It's taken the risk, moved from the presumably safe and predictable harbour in Belconnen to this untested and half-built area. In the words of the great man Jimi: ''And I got better things on the other side of town!''