696 Mt Alexander Rd Moonee Ponds, VIC 3039
|Opening hours||Daily 5.30-10.30pm|
|Features||Family friendly, Licensed, Accepts bookings, Groups|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9372 9113|
When Khao San Road opened in 2009, chef Nuchsayarm Theeraratpairoj cooked the dishes exactly the way her father taught her.
Theeraratpairoj (known to friends and customers as "Bee") had opened the Moonee Ponds restaurant with her husband, Pravuth Limpichotiphong (nickname, "Red"), and the help of her father, a longtime restaurateur in Bangkok. "I cooked the food the way he taught me, the way Thai people like to eat it," Theeraratpairoj says. "But it was too much for the customers." So she toned down the recipes just enough, relying on a little less spice, and a little less funk.
Since then, Khao San Road has been a hit, albeit one that hasn't had much hype outside the neighbourhood.
Even with the modifications, the food at Khao San Road, named for the famous street in Bangkok, is more authentic than many Melbourne Thai restaurants. The curries are made from scratch. The selection of claypot dishes includes a pork hock cooked down to a sticky sweet mass of gloriously fatty caramelised meat, served with fluffy white rice.
Whole fish can be had steamed or fried, and there are a number of accompaniments to choose from. The customer favourite is a Thai apple salad, made with peanuts, fish sauce, shallots, chilli and coconut. When green mango is in season, Theeraratpairoj uses that sweet-sour fruit in place of the apple.
It is Theeraratpairoj's family recipes that form the menu at Khao San Road, but the restaurant is a true family project. Her brother moved from Thailandto help her in the kitchen. Her husband came up with the name of the place, and oversaw the appealing brick-walled design. He insisted on having an open kitchen, so customers could see the care being taken with the food.
Limpichotiphong had worked in a number of Thai restaurants, in St Kilda and the CBD, before embarking on this business with his wife. But he chose Moonee Ponds because of its proximity to so many residential neighbourhoods. From its perch on Mount Alexander Road, Khao San Road serves customers from Ascot Vale, Essendon, Maribyrnong, and Brunswick West.
But the food is worth seeking out, even from farther afield. And if you want that real Thai flavour, the kind Theeraratpairoj cooked in her first weeks at Khao San Road, you may just be able to convince her. "Sometimes we have Thai people who tell me ahead of time they want the real Thai food: spicy, more pungent," she says. "Then I can cook the way my father taught me."
Go-to Dish: Pork hock $24.90; whole fried fish $35.