Thaiger Rabbit

Yum sam grop with deep-fried fish skin and tamarind and chilli dressing.
Yum sam grop with deep-fried fish skin and tamarind and chilli dressing. Photo: Meredith O'Shea

391 Victoria St Abbotsford, VIC 3067

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Opening hours Daily 11am-10pm
Features Cheap Eats, BYO, Bar, Vegetarian friendly, Outdoor seating
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Payments Cash Only
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.

Thaiger Rabbit features bird-cage light fittings and a striking mural.
Thaiger Rabbit features bird-cage light fittings and a striking mural. Photo: Meredith O'Shea

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.

Pandan-wrapped deep-fried chicken.
Pandan-wrapped deep-fried chicken. Photo: Meredith O'Shea

Rating: Three stars (out of five)