I’m sorry, Melbourne. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know by now how regularly I mourn the dearth of good Thai restaurants in Melbourne. But now it seems that I owe Melbourne an apology – spoiler alert: my recent dinner at BangPop was as delicious as the memorable meal at Chat Thai in Sydney.
Popping up with a bang (see what I did there) some time last year where The Sharing House used to stand, BangPop is as effortlessly snazzy as the rest of South Wharf. It’s not what I expected of a street-food restaurant at all; the ceilings are high, the room is almost as airy as the al fresco seating, and there’s a bar made of – wait for it – LEGO.
With a menu written entirely in Thai and a bona fide spice warning, BangPop seems to genuinely want to fill the space in Melbourne where authentic Thai street food should be.
Our entree of Son in Law Tofu ($13.90) was very satisfying. The dish itself was fantastic – custard yellow blocks of silken tofu wobbled in its light batter, ready to be swished around the plate, gathering up the sticky sweet yet tangy tamarind sauce. The pieces of tofu were scattered with crunchy shallots and chilli, and a variety of herbs were strewn artfully on the plate for us to mix and match to our heart’s content. The only fault with the dish was the portion size, with only four pieces of tofu served up, it left me wanting more.
If you ask me, Thai salads contain some of the best things the culinary world has to offer. This delicious Num Tuk Moo ($16.90), aka pork neck salad, was everything I had ever wanted. Beautifully cooked meat with an abundance of fresh herbs, and no boring Mesclun or cherry tomatoes to be seen. Striped like a tiger from the grill marks, the succulent pieces of pork were juicy and flavoursome.
The rich smokiness of the meat was thrown into even starker contrast against the robe of fresh mint and coriander, and ample amounts of lime juice.and the resulting effect was a perfectly balanced salad that exploded with gusto on the tastebuds.
I had originally wanted to order the yellow fish curry but DAMN YOU CHRIS and your chilli intolerance! This turned out to be an unexpected mercy however; despite being the least spicy curry on the menu, the Gaeng Om Nua ($24.90) was still enough to bring a few tears to my eyes.
Nevertheless it was hard to stop myself from eating the curry, even as my mouth burned. The spice of the curry was mellowed out with coconut milk and sweetened with kaffir lime and lemongrass, and the resulting brew soaked into the unctuous chunks of beef, leaving them rich and aromatic.
It was unerringly delicious spooned over a bowl of sticky rice ($3.90).
I could not have been happier with our meal at BangPop. The flavours were right on the money, containing all the authentic herbs and spices I had been longing for, even if the portion sizes were a little smaller than I would have liked. Be that as it may, eating at BangPop, especially if you get the $49 per person banquet, is still a lot cheaper than flying to Sydney. Melbourne now officially has it all.