391 Victoria St Abbotsford, VIC 3067
|Opening hours||Daily 11am-10pm|
|Features||Cheap Eats, BYO, Bar, Vegetarian friendly, Outdoor seating|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Phone||03 9077 5891|
Victoria Street mainstay Ying Thai has been serving fish cakes and red curry in a clattery shopfront since 1996. In June, Ying and her family upped sticks, moved their restaurant 300 metres eastwards and refashioned it as the cool, fun Thaiger Rabbit, complete with a dad-joke pun for a name. I like the place, even though the radio was almost tuned to Smooth FM while I was there, so we had to listen to Spandau Ballet static while eating fragrant pandan-wrapped chicken morsels, and distorted Adele accompanied the stir-fry. Even so, the flavours won through.
The menu is long and exuberant. A parade of well-wrought hits is boosted by lesser seen dishes, including the gorgeous yum sam grop, a salad starring dramatic shards of fried fish skin stacked by a bowl of tangy tamarind and chilli dressing. This dish is usually made with small fried fish; using cod shards catapults the dish into 2015 but also makes it fairly fishy. There's a pork crackling alternative if a face full of seafood doesn't sound fabulous.
Stir-fries include ka-nar moo grob, gleaming Chinese broccoli tumbled with crisp chunks of pork belly in an exceedingly well-judged juxtaposition of healthy, crunchy greens and sweet, juicy fat.
Desserts are better than most of Melbourne's Thai offerings; the khanom tuoyare steamed coconut puddings with a delicious sweet custard layer and delicate savoury cream topping.
Thaiger Rabbit is fresh and colourful with an upbeat blend of Buddha chic, bird-cage light fittings and kooky figurines in the toilets. The upstairs dining room would be great for group dining.
Victoria Street has long been a destination for cheap, good Asian food but it's been feeling tired lately; Thaiger Rabbit is one of a handful of restaurants forging on with the next optimistic chapter in the strip's story.
Rating: Three stars (out of five)